Recap: Clothing Swap & RiverBlue Documentary Screening

Thank you to all those that attended our clothing swap and documentary screening of RiverBlue at the Notman House on Feb 22nd! It was a packed room, and I was thrilled to see so many faces that I'd met at artist's and farmer's markets. Read on to find links to tangible resources to change your shopping and garment disposal habits, right here in Montréal! (Filled with great ideas & takeaways for non-locals too!) 

1. The Documentary, RiverBlue

I was shocked after I watched RiverBlue. Before I began to research this issue, I knew nothing about the impact that the garment industry has on our planet, specifically on our freshwater. In the film, river conservationist Mark Angelo takes an in-depth look at the impact of textile and tannery industries in China, Bangladesh, and India. The footage is very revealing. Angelo finds that dumping from the textile and tannery industries makes up 20 percent of world's industrial-related freshwater pollution. In many countries, this dumping is unregulated, and even legal. The documentary interviews experts from different sectors who see this problem from a range of perspectives. They are human rights activists, factory owners, Greenpeace protesters, garment workers, scientists, and sustainability advocates. RiverBlue does a phenomenal job highlighting the urgency of the problem, while offering some optimistic evidence of success. Blue jean dying & distressing has transformed, with many high-tech opportunities to reduce pollution and increase sustainable, efficient production. Ultimately, RiverBlue implies that governments aren't properly regulating the environmental impact of fast fashion giants. This places the onus on consumers to demand better from large brands. You can start by asking "who made my clothes?"

2. The Clothing Swap

Clothing swaps are a great way to find something "new-to-you" while also getting rid of lightly used, unwanted garments. Organize one with a smaller group of friends to make sure you get the best stuff! Ours was large and fruitful! We donated seven big bags of clothing to Le Chainon, a thrift store that raises money for women who are facing homelessness, domestic abuse, and other difficulties. We gave one box of clothing to Dress for Success Montreal, which helps underprivileged women get suited up & generally prepared for interviews. And, we donated 6 large tote bags filled with winter coats, hats, scarves, boots, and gloves for emergency distribution to asylum seekers arriving at the YMCA residences here in Montréal. 

You've already organized a clothing swap, and you've checked your local thrift store, but you can't find that shade of jean that you're looking for? Fair. If you want new clothes (especially jeans) that are made ethically, here are some sites to check out: 

Where can I find ethical brands?

3. The Resources

This is an overwhelming issue. I didn't want the documentary to make attendees feel like the fixing the garment industry was a lost cause- because there ARE things that we can do as individuals to protest this broken system. So, until textile recycling pickup is offered by our municipalities, until technological advances make textile recycling more accessible, and until our government subsidizes local garment production... I wanted to offer tangible resources to the concerned consumer. 

My only cautionary advice is: ask questions! We called Renaissance (listed below) to ask what happens to the goods that they aren't able to sell. Here is the answer we received from their distribution center. If you'd like more info, you can give them a call at 514.904.2740. 

"We aim to integrate people who don't have work and are looking for work. 100% of donations go towards this mission. Whatever is not sold goes to another store, which is a liquidation centre [the remaining clothes] are sold by the pound. This store is open to the public. Once an item does not sell there, it comes here to the warehouse (5900 Rue Ferrier, Mont Royal H3P 1M7) and we sell it in the [larger second hand clothing] market. So we do not export it however some of our buyers do. Renaissance tells their customers that all donations are 100% recycled as it goes to the last possible consumer."  - Employee at Renaissance Distribution Centre. 

So, based on this response it looks like we have more searching to do. Who are the buyers in the larger second hand clothing market that Renaissance participates in? Where are the clothes being exported to? How are these unwanted garments ultimately laid to rest? We will keep you updated on this investigation, right here on the blog. 

Sustainability is a spectrum, and Rachael, Olivia, and I have done some research for you, in order to offer our readers solid options for textile recycling and donation in Montréal. The perfect answer for textile recycling doesn't really exist - that would be to make new clothes out of old clothes - and the technology just isn't there yet. But, here are some other good options...

    Where should I donate clothes in Montréal?

    Where can I recycle textiles in Montréal?

    Opportunities to Get Involved! 

    Want to get anywhere from $250 - $1500 to host your own event like this one? Apply for a microgrant here:

    Want to volunteer to help at the YMCA Residence here in Montréal? Do you have 3 hours a week to give? If you have questions contact, if you'd like to volunteer, contact Marine at marine.hardy@ymcaquebec.orgIf you'd like to drop off more winter clothing donations (coats, boots, hats, scarves, gloves) please do so at the YMCA Residence, located at 4039 Tupper Street, Westmount.


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