MSE's first ever Eco-MoneySaving charity clothes swap

Saving money and helping the environment by swapping clothes

As it's Second-hand September – where Oxfam is asking people pledge to buy nothing new all this month – I decided to organise our first ever clothes swap in the MSE office. No, we didn't all take our shirts off and switch like at a football match, we held an event where staff donated clothes, either for colleagues to take away or to help charity.

It wasn't too hard to organise, so you could maybe do the same thing where you work, or at home with friends and family. I'll take you through what I did, what we got and how much we raised for charity.

On Thursday 5th September, an idea I’d had for months finally crystallised into the first ever MSE clothes swap. Did you know, according to research from Oxfam, each week 11 million garments end up in landfill? Plus, the production of new clothes in one month is said to emit more greenhouse gases than flying around the globe 900 times? 

As there’s no ‘Planet B’, staff across three different floors at MSE Towers came together and donated well over 100 items of clothing, shoes, bags and more to the swap. Special thanks go to office manager Ellie and the Deals team, particularly MSE Oli and MSE Becky for not only helping to collect the donations from the Monday to Wednesday, but for donating a lot themselves as well.

How does a clothes swap work?

The rules were simple: if you brought in, say, five items you could take up to five items away ‘free’ - or more in exchange for a cash donation to charity. If you didn't bring anything to swap, you could take what you liked, again for a cash donation. Finally, even if you didn't want clothes you could donate to charity for one of my vegan mocha chocolate cupcakes!

Here's me looking awkward after rushing to put out half of the donations, before grabbing the other half!

How did it go?

The swap was well attended (the above photo being the calm before the storm), with many happy swappers finding clothes to give a new home – saving money as well as helping the environment. We also raised a further £30+ in donations for The Prince’s Trust, as well as delivering three large bags of clothes to three different charities so far. There’s still a box of clothes left which has yet to be donated, but I’m hopeful we can help at least six different charities, which is something to be proud of.

Not a bad return for sending a few emails to see if it would be possible, plus the slightly awkward task of bringing in a clothes rail on the train (then redistributing clothes left over). Usually in a swap, participants take clothes back that they've brought so the organiser doesn't have to work out where to take them - but I was happy to do this for our swap, being the kind of Eco-MoneySaver I think we should all strive to be.

Why set up the event?

As an avid recycler and 'charity shop connoisseur' myself, I'm no stranger to second-hand shopping, and I want other people to discover a passion for it too. I even shop second-hand on holiday – I have a favourite shop in Tokyo called Mode Off, where you can get clothing from 100 yen (about 80p). I was running a marathon there earlier this year and was able to pick up some last-minute kit for bad weather. See my blog on how I ran 42km for a Tiffany necklace in 2018, which I loved so much I went back again this year!

I started charity shopping simply because I couldn't afford brand-new clothes as a kid or a student, but now for me it's more about the environmental impacts of fast fashion. I'm still not rich, and I'm not perfect (flying to Japan to run a marathon isn't the most eco-friendly thing to do), but fashion is a leading contributor to global emissions, and there is nothing wrong with reducing, reusing and recycling before buying new. I just wish I could go back in time and tell my teenage self this!

How can I set up my own swap?

If you're looking to set up a clothes swap of your own, check sites such as Swishing, Get Swishing and Love Your Clothes for help and inspiration in how to set up a swap, or what to do with clothes you can't swap. Also, check our eBay selling guide for help with selling any unwanted or leftover clothes from your swap on eBay (giving the funds to charity, of course), as well as MSE Jenny's Charity Shop Tricks blog for more tips on buying second-hand.

Have you ever participated in a clothes swap? Are you going to try setting up a clothes swap? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter.