The LU Swap Shop has moved to Instagram this semester as a way to bring free clothing to people who need it. In previous years the Swap Shop operated in person. (Courtesy of @luswapshop)

LU Swap Shop shifts to Instagram to continue sustainability efforts

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The LU Swap Shopa campus initiative developed last year by the Office of Sustainability, the Eco House Residential Community and the Pride Center allowing students to to donate and claim clothing itemshas expanded onto Instagram in order to remain active throughout the pandemic.

The Swap Shop was started last year by Sophia Mayone, ‘21, Maria Aguado Lira, ‘21, and Haley Robb, ‘21. At the time of its conception, prior to COVID-19, the project consisted of  physical pop-up shops around campus where students could find new clothes for free. 

“There are two underlying missions to the Swap Shop,” Aguado Lira said. “One of them obviously being to mitigate student waste from reaching landfills and making it more sustainable. The other one is to help low-income students that may not have the resources who this might be an economic relief for.” 

Mayone said the initiative is especially useful for certain events, such as career fairs. 

“We want to help around career fairs trying to have enough inventory for people who typically feel pressured to have a nice outfit in order to get hired,” Mayone said. 

Due to limitations on gatherings, the shop has shifted to managing its operations through an Instagram account run by Emma Ferguson, ‘21. 

“I wanted a fun, meaningful project so I joined the Office of Sustainability and they gave it to me and were like ‘here make an Instagram and kind of run with it and try to make something within COVID that’s virtual,’” Ferguson said. 

Each day Ferguson schedules a post for around 4:30 p.m. and within seconds she said she will receive direct messages claiming the items. Monitoring the direct messages, Ferguson makes sure to give the clothing to the first person who claims it. 

Ferguson said to ensure the safety of all involved, the donated clothes sit untouched for two days to minimize any risk of germs spreading. The clothes are typically dropped off at either the Office of Sustainability or at Ferguson’s off-campus house. Further, Ferguson said that all those participating in clothing drop-offs and pick-ups must wear masks and remain socially distanced.

Typically, Ferguson said two people donate clothing each week, however, she said those who donate typically bring large bags filled with items. 

“The general idea of the Swap Shop is you get something for free and you maybe give a few items, but it’s a loose concept,” Ferguson said. “We just want to encourage donations generally.” 

Additionally, Ferguson does all of the photography and design for the Instagram posts. 

“I wanted to make it colorful and engaging because I follow a decent amount of Instagram thrift stores and thought it would be fun to make it all colorful,” Ferguson said. “I also wanted to photograph Lehigh students so that it would make it more engaging for students to see their friends on the page.” 

A new part of the Instagram page that Ferguson has added is an IGTV series called “The Sustainability Standard,” which highlights one participating student each month who works in sustainable fashion or is involved in the Swap Shop. 

The first video of the series is available for viewing @luswapshop.

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