Thrift Day Offers Free Sustainable Fashion Finds

Thrift Day 1 Image by Brooke Coupal
Industrial engineering major Tal Nir takes interest in a light blue tank top.

By Brooke Coupal

“One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”

Tal Nir quoted this common saying as she browsed through a rack of clothing in University Crossing before a light blue tank top caught her attention.

The first-year industrial engineering major from Brookline, Massachusetts, was one of roughly 70 students, faculty, staff and community members who scored free, lightly worn clothes during Thrift Day, an event hosted by the Student Society for Sustainability (SSS).

“Thrift Day promotes sustainable shopping and lifestyle habits,” says William Lefebvre, a junior environmental science major from Lancaster, Massachusetts, and the SSS media coordinator.

In the days leading up to the event, members of the UMass Lowell community donated their unwanted clothes and other textiles, such as blankets and towels, to the student organization. Items in good condition were made available to the public on Thrift Day.

Abby Mastromonaco, a junior plastics engineering major from North Andover, Massachusetts, is one of the many students who made a donation.

“Seeing people walking away happy with my clothes makes me happy,” says Mastromonaco, the SSS vice president.

Thrift Day 2 Image by Brooke Coupal
From left, students Shane Cummings, Jessie Paxton, Christian O'Connell, Eddie Lacroix and Eftihia Malvers all score a bag full of clothes.

Sophomore computer science major Shane Cummings snagged a sequin jacket among other items after stopping by the event with a group of friends.

“It’s very cool to have this on campus,” he says. “I don’t really go thrifting a lot, but I need to start doing it more, because it’s very expensive to go out and buy new outfits.”

The floral sleeve of a multipatterned dress caught the attention of Nicole LaChapelle, mayor of Easthampton, Massachusetts, as she walked by a rack of clothes on her way to a separate event in University Crossing.

“As a college student, I would have loved this,” she says.

Those who attended Thrift Day could leave their wallets behind, as each item of clothing came with a $0 price tag.

“We don’t want price to be a barrier for anyone,” Mastromonaco says.

Global studies Ph.D. student Gloria Donkor was also on hand to help people mend their ripped or worn clothes at no charge. Donkor, who worked in the secondhand textile industry in her home country of Ghana, knows the importance of clothing repair.

Thrift Day 3 Image by Brooke Coupal
Computer science senior Ravi Patel, left, sews a button on his pants while global studies Ph.D. student Gloria Donkor gets ready to hem a skirt.
“In places like Ghana, secondhand clothing is imported, and some of that clothing goes straight to waste because of rips, tears and stains,” she says. “Fixing them now will help prevent waste problems in the future.”

Donkor is working to develop additional workshops at the university to go over resources for mending apparel and upcycling textiles. The project, which she calls Seamingly Sustainable, is being funded by the Rist Institute for Sustainability and Energy’s Sustainability Engagement and Enrichment Development Fund.

At the Thrift Day event, Donkor helped Ravi Patel sew a button back onto a pair of pants that he thrifted from Holy Grail Vintage in Lowell.

“This gets me more into the mindset of recycling and reusing,” says Patel, a senior computer science major from Burlington, Massachusetts.

All donated clothes left over from the event, along with the other textiles that SSS collected, are being sent to Bay State Textiles for recycling. Last year, Massachusetts banned textiles from disposal in the trash.

“Fast fashion is one of the biggest polluters on the planet,” says Riva Chatsman, a senior accounting major from North Andover, Massachusetts, and the SSS president. “The fewer people who buy new clothing, the better.”

Thrift Locally

Looking for more places to hunt for thrifted treasures and to continue sustainable shopping? Here are some local spots to try:

Angels Above Thrift Shop
99 Mammoth Road, Lowell

Holy Grail Vintage
17 Shattuck St, Lowell

Society of St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store
1488 Middlesex St., Lowell

St. Anne's Episcopal Church Thrift Shop
14 Treble Cove Road, North Billerica

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Lowell’s ReStore
100 Chelmsford Road, North Billerica