March 11, 2022 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Avery Colborn | Photos by Sydney Morris

Though brand new on campus, the Office of Sustainability’s new program — Swap Space — embodies the age-old principle of repurposing: one person’s trash is another’s treasure. Or in this case, a new addition to their closet.

Underneath Colorado College’s Worner Center, the old mail center room has been revived into the Office of Sustainability’s most recent project, a burgeoning market of reusable goods.

The Swap Space is essentially a thrift store where students can donate and exchange clothes, art supplies, outdoor gear, or anything that they no longer use. Unlike a thrift store, however, everything in the Swap Space is entirely free of cost.

“Anything that can be reused, we want to find another home for,” said Annabelle Sparks ’24, the manager of the Swap Space.

The original project began a few years ago as a pop-up shop, with locations and hours changing every block, but died out after campus closed during the onset of the pandemic. This year, however, the Swap Space is being given a new life, which has revamped the program to be a permanent installation.

Unaware of the previous Swap Space, Sparks became interested in creating a program on campus when she noticed the amount of quality items simply being tossed away when students were done with them. Knowing there was a better way to repurpose items, she reached out to see if she could organize a program on campus and found the opportunity through the Office of Sustainability.

“It’s actually a pretty cool thing,” Sparks said. “I am really excited about the space because I am very excited about…reusing things that don’t need to be thrown away. It was really energizing for me to find a place on campus to help people have access to something so easily, where they can bring things that they don’t need anymore.”

The Swap Space accepts any items in good condition including clothes, household items, outdoor gear, art supplies, used textbooks and more.

In addition to accepting donations for students to shop, the Swap Space also redistributes relevant items to organizations across campus that could find them useful, such as Arts and Crafts and Outdoor Education.

The global fashion and textile industry is a major contributor to environmental degradation; according to several different reports, the industry used 21 trillion gallons of water in 2015, and the apparel and footwear industries accounted for 8% of global carbon emissions in 2016. According to the report, Americans alone sent over 9,070 tons of clothing and textiles into landfills in 2018.

Extending the lives of clothes, shoes, or other textiles by as little as three more months of active use can lead to a 5 to 10% reduction in the item’s carbon, water, and waste footprints. When taking into consideration a population like CC’s, choosing to repurpose items instead of buying new can have a major reduction on a community’s environmental impact.

The Swap Space provides CC students and community members with an opportunity to reduce their impact, both by donating and choosing to repurpose items instead of buying new.

“Come and check it out even if you aren’t looking for something, because everything is free. You might find… something that you’re excited about and you didn’t even know that you wanted,” Sparks said. “It’s a place to find things to give a second home to and get excited about repurposing items and clothes. If you need to get rid of anything, we’re happy to take it.”

The Swap Space is open in the lower level of Worner Center every Thursday from 2-4 p.m.

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