First ONEshirt drive succeeds at UAA

Modern times give us more and more ways to reach out to others. For some, it’s as easy as making a call on a cellphone.  To a group of dedicated students and staff at UAA, when it comes to helping others, it’s as easy as giving them the shirt off your back.

Last week, in the small conference room at the University Lake building, a group of around twenty people from UAA gathered.  In attendance was a mix of students, instructors and even Chancellor Ulmer. A brief video was screened, telling of the damaging effects that traditional clothing manufacturing has on the environment.  The group is partially comprised of members of campus organizations, such as the Recycling and Sociology clubs, was about to participate in the first annual “One Shirt National Collegiate Clothing Drive.”

The drive was headed by SustainU, an American clothing company which produces goods through domestic labor and recycled textiles for the collegiate communities nationwide. UAA, and in effect Alaska, was one of the 35 states which signed on to participate this year, with 3000 volunteers across the country giving time and effort to make it possible. The scope of the drive had these workers doling out informative door-hangers which told of the poverty plight and current status of clothing production domestically and world-wide, including the grim facts involving child labor and outsourced production facilities in foreign countries. The door hangers asked people to donate bags of gently-used clothing in bags on their doorstep for collection last Wednesday morning.

Locally the UAA group was responsible for hanging the door posts and collecting the donations, which will ultimately be given to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Anchorage to process. Kent Spiers is a student at UAA and the Administrative Assistant in the Office of Sustainability. He helped head the campus-push for involvement in the drive and spoke on how UAA became involved.

“Paula Williams, the director of Sustainability forwarded an email from Chancellor Ulmer saying would we be interested in this. So Paula asked me if it would be something that we would be interested in participating in and if we could do it. So I looked on their website and saw what their goals and mission were, I thought this is definitely something that UAA should participate in. When I reached out to SustainU, the major sponsor of the event, they said Alaska would be the farthest reaching campus participating, so that was pretty cool,” Spiers said.

A wide array of students and groups were represented at the Monday meeting, including the entire executive panel for the Sociology Club. The club’s President Sarah Schroeder explained why they were there to chip in.

“Kent Spiers is putting on the project and he’s a really good friend of mine. He asked us as the Sociology club to come help out with the project because it’s something that has a huge sociological impact. Like he explained during the meeting that it’s not just environment impacts, but also child labor, resource consumption and a wide array of other sociological aspects. So I felt that it was an important cause for the club,” Schroeder said.

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A small contingent from the ever-present UAA recycling club was in attendance, and one of its members Alex Strobel helped tally the donations.

“Kent Spiers brought the whole sustainability group together and talked about this ONE shirt campaign and he had a little presentation which alerted us to the fact that recycling clothing is definitely helpful,” Strobel said.  “What I just did was stood on a scale and weighed the clothing, it came out to around 860 something, that’s definitely achieving a lot.”

The first annual ONEshirt collegiate clothing drive was a success, at least locally. Overall, 860 pounds of donated clothing, packed in over 35 garbage bags were yielded. While there is no feedback available on the nationwide effort, UAA’s participants were met with promising results and plan to attempt the drive again next year.