Young Climate Leader's Impactful Clothing Swap in Virginia
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Young Climate Leader's Impactful Clothing Swap in Virginia

The Climate Leaders Fellowship guides high school students in researching climate change effects within their own communities and finding solutions they can implement locally. Students partner with local organizations to launch their projects and collaborate with other students around the world to achieve their goals.

The fellowship is offered as a collaboration between the Stanford University Deliberative Democracy Lab and the Rustic Pathways Foundation.

Read Kathryn experience below!

Kathryn Boerckel
Age 17
Washington-Liberty High School
Arlington, Virginia

My name is Kathryn Boerckel and I am a 17 year old student in Arlington, Virginia, a suburb right outside of Washington D.C. As a young activist for climate change, racial justice, gender equality, and preventing gun-violence, I value community engagement and youth changemaking. My goal is not only to be a youth changemaker myself for the issues I care about but to encourage and motivate other youth in my community and around the world to become active changemakers.

In my valuable experience as a climate leader in the 2023 Climate Leaders Fellowship, I got the amazing ability to engage with youth in my own community and around the world to tackle issues faced by our climate in an effort to make a positive environmental impact across the globe.

I worked with fellow Arlington students to address the issue of clothing waste. This global issue is incredibly harmful to the environment; in the US, 66% of all unwanted clothes and textiles are landfilled and less than 15% are recycled.

With the fast-fashion industry expanding vastly each year, the textile industry is increasingly wasteful and poses a threat to our environment by contributing to textile landfill waste, often taking over 200+ years to decompose. In fact, Americans throw away a whopping 14 million tons of clothing annually which is double the annual sum of 7 million tons of clothing disposed of two decades ago.

After researching this clothing waste “catastrophe”, my classmates and I were motivated to tackle the issue of clothing waste in the Arlington community, even on a smaller scale. We worked to organize and plan a clothing swap and drive for students and members of the community in the spring season.

The idea of this event was to motivate citizens who, in the midst of spring cleaning, had unwanted clothing items in usable condition that they wanted to recycle. At the clothing swap, which took place at two local high schools (providing easy access to students and family members) one could drop off their unwanted clothing items and swap them out for new ones (donated by others). This way, one could get rid of their old clothes without submitting to landfill disposal, and get something new in return!

As some citizens didn’t want to take any new clothes, there were many donations leftover which were donated to Clothesline, a local organization that provides clothing to students. This project was very successful in the effort of reducing clothing waste.

Although not many individuals participated in the swap itself, we received 7 large bags of clothing donations that were provided to Clothesline Arlington for students in need. This made our team feel very good as we knew that those pounds of clothes would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.

Our team gained a sense of leadership and connection to the community as we were able to develop and carry out this successful project within a few weeks that brought together a community to reduce waste and promote a healthier and sustainable environment.

I plan to continue working with students in my community in the upcoming 2023-24 school year as a climate fellow on a new project that will work to improve our climate, whether it be a clothing swap or something new, I am eager and motivated to bring light to the issue of climate change, motivate other changemakers, and most importantly, make change around the world to promote the health of the climate.

About the Author

Kayla Anzalone

Kayla joined Rustic Pathways in 2020 as the Director of Special Projects. She has nearly a decade of experience in communications and marketing. At Rustic Pathways, Kayla is dedicated to helping high school students discover their passion for exploring the world through summer travel programs. She drives impactful initiatives to empower students through meaningful travel experiences worldwide. Based in San Jose, California, Kayla loves the outdoors, live music and travel.