When it comes to living the conscious life, buying new clothes isn’t exactly the kindest thing we can do for our planet. Every piece of new clothing (if not made sustainably) can be the product of countless chemicals, dyes, and the like, all of which can be harmful to the earth, air, groundwater – as well as the people making the clothing and even the people who try it on and then wear it. But clothes are something we all need and want, unless you’re living the truly au naturel life. And buying all fair-trade, eco-friendly, and/or organic clothing, which is of course better for people and the environment, can be expensive.

Then, there’s the stuff that goes to waste: while many people do take advantage of thrift stores and recycle their unwanted used clothing in this manner, there is still a significant amount of clothing that gets dumped in landfills every year.

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Now, for many of us conscious go-getters, we’ve taken the environmental and human impact into consideration when we think about our clothing-buying habits, meaning you, like me, do your fair share of second-hand shopping. Thrift stores, consignment stores, and the like are all good and well – but have you considered the awesomeness that is the clothing swap?

A clothing swap is, in its basic form, a meeting or party where people get together to swap clothing, accessories, and the like, all for the sake of getting rid of the stuff you won’t use – and giving it a new life with someone else – and then gaining some great new stuff for yourself, too.

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Clothing swaps are gaining popularity these days for many reasons, the first reason being, of course, that you get to get together with a bunch of friends and family members and swap things you’d otherwise dump at your local thrift store – and gain a whole new batch of gently-used stuff that’s now new-to-you. These swaps can be co-ed or single-sex: whatever you want! And you can do this amongst friends and make it a party, or put together something bigger as a Meetup with anyone in town you might want to join in.

Clothing swaps can of course save you money, too: if you’re getting “new” stuff, you have less of a need to go out and buy that new little black dress, right?

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At a basic level, throwing a clothing swap helps save the world because it’s an opportunity for all those clothes to be given at least one more round of life. Good deed done in itself.

But if you think even further, clothing swaps are also an opportunity for those of the activist mind frame to spread some great information. Many of those you invite to a clothing swap might be in it more for the new sweater or scarf – and that’s great on its own, but think about how much you could help by taking your next clothing swap one step further!

Consider having books like “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion,” which explains the human and environmental impact of our wear-once-and-dump fashion culture, or “Naked Fashion: The New Sustainable Fashion Revolution,” which is action-based and shows people how to get involved with a more sustainable fashion future, on hand and available for your clothing swap attendees to browse or borrow.

Or, you may want to consider asking for donations – or “charging” attendees a very small “charity fee” to attend the clothing swap with all proceeds going to a group that helps sweatshop and textile workers. If you choose this option, be sure to make the charity element prominent in the swap – so that attendees know the people they’re helping with their donation and the significance of this issue.

Then, as a parting gift to clothing swap attendees, consider a thank you note, either pre-printed or handwritten, explaining the impact that recycling and reusing clothing really has on our Earth and encouraging attendees to consider starting their own swaps and/or shopping second hand even more frequently.

By adding some of these next-step elements, you can take your next clothing swap from a really fun gathering where everyone gets some great new stuff to a truly impactful event that educates people about the true costs of their clothing. By spreading the message, you are taking a love of fashion to another level – one which breaks superficial barriers and makes your life so much more conscious – and can really have a meaningful effect when the message is spread.

If you’ve never held a clothing swap, you’ll find some great tips for setting up a clothing swap of your own here. Good luck, and thanks for spreading the word of conscious fashion choices!

Image source: Tomas Fano / Flickr