DC Climathon 2019: Could sustainable fashion be the future?

Oct. 25 was Global Climathon Day. The Climathon is a program held in 46 cities, spanning 6 countries, in which participating cities run a 24-hour "hackathon" for young innovators to collaborate and develop solutions to the most pressing issues of climate change. 

Washington, D.C., is one of the participating cities of the Climathon, and George Washington University hosted the D.C. hackathon. Students and professionals  from as far as North Carolina participated. Participants came from a wide variety of ages, backgrounds, and walks of life — from aspiring textile engineers to first-year undergraduate students. The theme of this year’s Climathon was “Closing the Loop on Textile Waste,” as textile waste and sustainable fashion are topics not discussed enough in the climate conversation. 

Perhaps the coolest thing about hackathons is that most participants enter solo, not necessarily already having a plan. It is during those 24 hours that participants form teams, brainstorm potential project ideas, and finally plan and present their idea(s) to the judges. Truly, a day packed with innovation, collaboration, and potential for some world-changing proposals to arise.

The final projects ranged from mobile apps to blankets made from textile waste to clothing sorting services — all of which were truly reasoned, innovative, and creative approaches to reduce textile waste and make sustainable clothing options more available and accessible to the D.C. community — and beyond. 

One project in particular that stood out for demonstrating considerable potential on GW’s campus was “Remix Your Loop” — a reimagined thrift store for GW students that makes a wide variety of clothes accessible to all students on campus. The idea was designed by some of the hackathon’s youngest participants: freshmen Iradukunda Claudine and Alise Ndacayisaba, and sophomore Brianna Reynolds.

Claudine finds that the root of the textile problem is that “we are always overconsuming in America, whether it’s food or supplies or clothes, and we get lost in this influx of nonsense.” Thus, this overwhelming issue fueled their passion to create a tangible, innovative project like Remix Your Loop.

When pitching their project, these young women emphasized the shocking statistic that GW donates 97,000 pounds of textiles per year, coming from clothing donation bins on campus. Oftentimes, these textiles are donated to companies that send the clothing abroad to developing countries, which creates more harm than intended as these clothing imports ultimately hurt local clothing businesses. Thus, they envisioned an idea that would not only put these (literal) tons of clothing to good use on campus, but also engage the GW community on the important conversations that we need to have about sustainable fashion, responsible consumption, and other related topics. When they took a glimpse of the kinds of clothes that were donated on campus, they found all sorts of quality pieces of clothing. Essentially, they thought to themselves: Why not put these quality clothes back in the hands of the students?

From this discovery, came the proposal of their thrifting hub, Remix Your Loop. The ladies explained the various perks and unique characteristics of their “reimagined thrift store”: it would provide students with far more affordable options to a wide variety of clothes, which is especially needed in an area where the majority of local clothing stores are high-end and expensive. The store would also provide students with a creative outlet. Remix plans to partner with fashion and art students to serve as makeshift “fashion designers” for the store, who would help customers interested in customizing or revamping clothing pieces they find to their own unique liking. 

Team member Ira Claudine finds potential in all clothing donations to be reused in some capacity, and this is where Remix Your Loop would serve as the creative middleman. 

Claudine said: “People always see an item as having use for one thing. But in actuality, you can easily turn an existing T-shirt into a tank top, instead of wasting your money and buying a new clothing item you may just wear once or twice.” 

The designers at Remix Your Loop would help customers with such a process. They even considered having classes open to the student body where students would be able to sew and redesign clothing items — fostering a creative outlet and community that the school currently lacks.

There are plenty of other much-needed functions that this thrift store would serve. For example, for a school with a huge internship and professional culture, students often find themselves needing several professional outfits for their wardrobe, but may not be able to afford them. Remix Your Loop would serve any students’ clothing or accessory needs for any occasion, simply using the existing supply of clothing donations from the GW community. 

Luckily, a concept that already sounds too good to be true may just turn into a reality. The Remix Your Loop Team won 2nd place in the competition. They will receive a $2,000 grant to kickstart their project, as well as guidance from mentors to support them through the execution process.

Interested in participating in this exciting event in the future? Climathon is an annual event and can be found in cities around the world. If you're local, GW has always been the host for the D.C. Climathon, and this school certainly does not fall short of innovative minds. Who knows? You may just be the mastermind behind the next big solution to climate change.

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