What started as a class-run sustainability initiative turned into a wildly successful collaboration between the University of Miami’s campus store and UThrift, the U’s beloved free popup thrift swap. The project empowered students across campus to sport free, unique and earth-friendly apparel.
This collaboration was launched by a group of UM students enrolled in Multidisciplinary Action Projects (BUS428), a business course that assigns students to communicate with international organizations and address and resolve their organizational challenges.
“We brought in the UM campus store as a client, and students identified where they could make improvements around sustainable merchandise,” said Daniel Hicks, a lecturer in the Miami Herbert Business School and professor of BUS428.
Initially, students sought to bring more eco-friendly fashion to the store or transform the existing clothing into sustainably-made wear. This idea catalyzed an increased need for the campus store to create a commitment to sustainability.
“Students began focusing on apparel and policy,” Hicks said.
The biggest challenge the campus store faced was finding an outlet to donate a large amount of unsold clothing for free. This propelled BUS428 students to reach out to UThrift, a student-run organization that encourages UM community members to take and exchange clothes at no cost.
According to UThrift President Anna Coon, Hicks’s students put UThrift in contact with the campus store manager, who was onboard to collaborate.
The campus store now provides UThrift with gently-worn clothing that was returned to the store by customers and/or cannot be sold. Some donated items have small holes and stains that UThrift includes in their upcycling workshops.
Coon said UThrift encourages shoppers to “DIY, sew, tie-dye or embroider” lightly damaged apparel at any of UThrift’s many demonstrations. “For a while, we’d been looking for new varieties of clothing to use, and the collaboration with the campus store definitely helped with that,” she added.
The partnership provided UThrift with orange and green gear that was previously scarce in their selection, like plus-size, men’s and children’s sizes. With this inclusion, UThrift can now serve the UM community at a greater capacity by attracting new demographics of people that the organization has wanted to reach since its founding in 2017.
Without a doubt, this project found high success in stealing students’ attention. According to Coon, the first donation from the store filled “an entire mail cart,” and passersby claimed every item “within only two hours” at a single UThrift event. Hopefully, this unified commitment to going green will prosper, thrive and surpass UM students’ expectations of what’s achievable when we work together.
words_anjuli sharpley photo_courtesy uthrift