At the end of the pathway that curves down along the left side of the blue College of the Environment (COE) building at 284 High Street to the back door is WesThrift, where students can pick up a new outfit, a dorm accessory, or even a baseball cap at no cost.
Items are in very good condition and displayed as any thrift or consignment store would, on racks and shelves, sorted by dresses, blouses, shirts, sweaters, jeans/denim, fancier pants, purses, and hats. They also have shoes ranging from slippers to boots and dorm items.
According to Jen Kleindienst, Director of Sustainability, this project has been ten years in the making. The key to short and long-term success was to have a dedicated space, in this case, the basement of COE, and to have it exist beyond the semester or academic year it was started. Eco facilitators Annie Volker ’24 and Debbra Goh ’24 developed a solid plan for future students to maintain ownership and found an underutilized space that could permanently house it. Kleindienst described Volker and Goh as “Two of the most organized and thoughtful students … if anyone could do it, they would.”
WesThrift came together with help from sources ranging from COE staff, who helped consolidate storage to make the space available, to an award from the Green Fund, which helped purchase clothing racks for dresses, coats, and blouses, and tables for the clothing bins. In addition, a large bulk of donations came from The Resource Center and Open House, which donated gender-affirming clothing, including chest binders. Donations will be accepted on a rolling basis. “At the Grand Opening, I heard three students saying they would be able to bring clothes back from Fall break to donate,” Volker said.
The store is a simple solution to a complicated idea of sustainability and equity, an important consideration in Wesleyan’s long term planning. When students travel off campus to buy or donate, there is the added layer of pollution if they are using a car, but also waste, as large-scale donation locations often only resell portion of what is donated, according to a recent article in The Atlantic.
Having an option for getting and donating clothing on campus makes it more accessible to students, and appropriate donation pathways have been established for items that don’t find a home. Another difference from a donation center like Goodwill is that this is not a dump-your-junk spot. “Dorm items need to be in very good shape, and clothing, purses, and accessories need to be immediately wearable,” said Kleindienst.
Donations are accepted anytime in the designated container outside the door or during shop hours on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. Normal consignment rules apply – clothes should be in clean, wearable condition. No repairs or ironing will be done on-site, so you might mend any missing buttons before you drop them off.
As the season changes, WesThrift needs clothing donations for colder weather, including boots, coats, scarves, and hats from casual clothing to work wear for job interviews for all gender expressions and sizes. You can find out more information, and stay up to date on future events at their website.
They will hold events throughout the academic year, the first being October 8th. The Sustainable Market Event for Wesleyan students will explore different ways of interacting ethically with fashion. There will be students hired to repair clothing with sewing machines, free mini sewing kits, and students will be selling their recycled fashion pieces. To stay up to date, follow Wesleyan Sustainability on Instagram @sustainablewes or sign up for the Sustainability Office listserv.