EcoReps Launch Sustainable Clothing Initiatives

students mending clothes
Posted on May 1, 2018

by Ezra Austin '19

This semester, Princeton's EcoReps launched “Mend Monday,” a bi-weekly clothing repair initiative in Frist Campus Center. Cecilia Shang '18 and Nico Viglucci '17, the group's organizers, believe that Mend Mondays can bring greater exposure to sustainability while empowering students to take clothing repair matters into their own hands.

Shang said that in preparing for the initiative, a survey was sent out to students in order to gauge interest. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

“The only other option for if you damage [your clothes] is to go into town and spend a lot of money,” Shang said. “So there was a lot of expressed student demand.”

students sewing clothing A student mends an item of clothing at a Mend Monday event

Shang says the inspiration for the initiative came after attending a sustainability conference in upstate New York, where the subject of clothing was heavily discussed.

“I had never considered, as someone who buys clothes and likes shopping, the environmental impact of the fashion industry and textiles,” Shang said. “And also the lack of skills of knowing how to fix things.”

Shang, who had no prior clothing repair experience, says she has grown from her involvement in the initiative. “This project has been a learning experience which I’ve also really appreciated,” she said. “I have so many things that rip or that have buttons fall off, and I never knew what to do with them before.”

Shang and Viglucci said the purpose of Mend Mondays is not just to help fix clothing, but also to teach students skills so that they can adopt sustainable practices on their own.

“The idea of Mend is not necessarily that we fix it for you, but we work with you and teach you to fix it. Mend provides all the materials,” Shang said.

In addition to Mend Mondays, Shang and Viglucci also launched “Tie Dye Thursday” during Earth Month, with a similar focus on raising awareness for how clothing can be saved or repurposed.

students tie-dye Tie-dye Thursday - photo by Jenny Zhang '19

“The idea was to take old clothing that maybe people don’t want anymore because it’s a little bit worn out or ratty, and to tie dye it to give it a new life, so you can continue using it for a while before the fabric is actually spent,“ Viglucci said.

“I think for both mend Mondays and Tie Dye Thursday, it’s about getting people thinking and engaged in a way that’s fun, exciting, with friends, and doesn't feel like someone’s shaking their finger at you,” Shang added. “With Mend Mondays, it’s a life skill, and it’s kind of calming to sew. It’s about shifting a consumer culture.”

student tie-dyes shoes Students tie-dyed a number of items including shoes

Viglucci stressed how his experience has shown him the importance of creating a fun environment for the general public regarding sustainability.

“Whatever I end up doing after I graduate, I want it to be in line with sustainability, ideally renewable energy,” he said. “I’m an engineer, and engineering sustainability is very different from social influence sustainability.”

“I think both are important,” he added. “To get things implemented you need to understand the social side as well.”

The last Mend Monday of the semester will be on Monday, May 7 from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 pm. at the GreenSpace in Frist Campus Center.