Sustainability. A word getting tossed around more and more in our everyday conversations. But what is its true meaning and how do we achieve it?

Gonzaga’s Environmental Organization, GEO, and their thrift shop department, aims to bring better education about these concepts, in addition to cozy sweaters and colorful shirts to GU students. 

GEO’s thrift shop is a subset of the larger umbrella club and is responsible for the “pop-up” thrift shops that occurs in the John J. Hemmingson Center, a few times each semester. Sophomore Anna Sanford is the coordinator for the thrift shops and with help from the rest of the team she is in charge of putting on these events.

This is Sanford’s second semester in the role as coordinator, but she has been a part of the club since the start of her freshman year. She stepped in to fill the position when the previous coordinator couldn’t be as involved in the club any longer and has held it ever since. 

Wondering where all the clothes come from? Sanford explained they pull exclusively from the GU community. 

“The clothes we use all come from GU students,” she said. “They’re either through clothing drives or individual donations.” 

This is part of what makes the thrift shop so unique. Every item is something that once belonged to one student and can now cycle back through campus and find a home with a different Zag. This ties back into the issue of sustainability, whereby choosing to limit the sources of clothing to places on campus, the carbon footprint is essentially eliminated, as there is no need to transport anything in or out of GU. 

After all the clothing for that pop-up has been collected, Sanford along with the rest of the team will sort through and try to pick out pieces they think will be the most popular among students. When it comes to pricing, the GEO thrift shop makes it simple. Everything is just one dollar. 

“Everything we sell is priced the same so we can promote shopping sustainably while on a college budget,” she said. “It helps to brings more awareness to students as well as makes thrifting that much more accessible.”

GEO's thrift shop partners with the Lands Council, a non-profit headquartered in Spokane, which focuses on preserving the land, water and wildlife of the inland Northwest. The money raised at each pop-up, on average between $40 to $60, goes directly to the Lands Council, to assist the local environment. 

At the end of each pop-up, the clothes that aren’t sold are brought back to the GEO office and will be stored until the following thrift shop. 

Paloma Whitworth is another student actively involved in the GEO thrift shop. Whitworth is a sophomore who joined GEO her freshman year, and this spring will be her third semester working with thrift shop. She joined GEO because of her passion for protecting the environment and educating herself and others on practices to help mitigate the damage being done to the planet. 

Whitworth tackles the complexity of sustainability by breaking it down into everyday choices anyone can make in their personal lives. To her, sustainability is about making a conscious effort to limit your carbon footprint, and to think more carefully about the environmental consequences your actions may have. 

“Simply put it’s about doing the most you can, with the least,” she said. “It’s not about trying to be perfect, that isn’t attainable. It’s just about finding what works for you and how you can make good ecological decisions, without completely changing your lifestyle.” 

The GEO thrift store fits in perfectly within this idea of making small manageable changes to your everyday life, in order to lead a more eco-friendly and eco-conscious lifestyle. Both Whitworth and Sanford have noted the positive “thrift culture” among GU students, and are hopeful that this will translate into other sustainable switches. 

Whitworth hopes that through further education and bringing more awareness to the simple choices you can make to create a more sustainable life, Zags can confidently go out into the world and encourage these positive changes in their own communities. 

Some sustainability tips and tricks that Whitworth and Sanford think are great ways students can start making a positive impact today are: take shorter and cooler showers, bring your own containers to restaurants for leftovers, investing in a reusable portable utensil set, always carrying a reusable bag with you and to try avoiding plastic and excess packaging as often as you can. 

Keep your eye out for GEO activities the week of April 16, as they celebrate their 30th anniversary in conjunction with Earth Day. And be sure to check your morning mail when students get back from Spring Break for the dates of the next thrift shop pop-up event. 

Audrey Measer is a staff writer.

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