Revitalize to Rewear: Student project saves clothing from the landfill

Revitalize to Rewear: Student project saves clothing from the landfill

Students prepare for Rummage Rampage event with Revitalize to Rewear bags

Diverting waste from landfills certainly isn’t glamorous work, but one group of UNI students is doing it in style through their endeavor Revitalize to Rewear, saving more than 500 pounds of clothing from landfills. It was the result of many months of brainstorming, researching and sourcing clothing donations from the community, ending with a thrifted clothing sale on campus. The group is a collaborative effort involving students from UNI Business & Community ServicesIowa Waste Reduction Center and UNI John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center

“I was so scared we were going to have 10 people,” said Kendall Lienemann, Revitalize to Rewear’s leader who is a senior majoring in biology with a business minor. “I would have been happy with 10 people if I'm being honest. So when 10 people walked in five minutes before it started, I was freaking out. It was so exciting.”

Lienemann’s journey to starting Revitalize to Rewear began at the Iowa Waste Reduction Center where she is an environmental intern. The IWRC, housed in Business & Community Services, helps businesses reduce waste. While Lienemann interned, the staff was supportive of her doing what she was interested in. Lienemann has always had a love of thrifting and vintage clothing. Fueled by her passion, she started a website where she sold secondhand apparel, and it was successful.

“The people who work with me, they saw that and they're like, ‘Yeah, this is an awesome project, but how can we gear this toward waste reduction?’” she said. “They knew I was passionate about it, so they really wanted to expand on that. We brainstormed different things we could do, and that’s how this whole event came to be.”

Lienemann took to the IWRC’s blog and began a series titled “The New Fashion Police” where she educated readers about the pitfalls of fast fashion and how they can make more sustainable fashion choices. She eventually decided to take on a bigger challenge that would educate the UNI campus on clothing waste while helping a good cause. 

When talking to her supervisor about similar events that had taken place on campus in the past, Lienemann realized she needed effective marketing to get the word out. As a result, she partnered with three other interns working within Business & Community Services: Paige German, Kate McAlister and Haley Hamm. McAlister came up with the Revitalize to Rewear name, and the group collectively worked on increasing awareness for their cause through flyers, social media and video content. They also tabled in Maucker Union and began collecting donations in the Business & Community Services building as well as the Rod Library.

“As an intern, this has been a great experience starting and finishing a big project that took about six months,” said McAlister, who is majoring in marketing: advertising and digital media. “This will help as a resume builder and add to my portfolio.”

Lienemann found an empty office in the IWRC where they stored the hundreds of articles of donated clothing. Because the majority of the donations was women’s clothing, the group came up with the idea of donating any leftover clothing to House of Hope, a Waterloo nonprofit helping single mothers and young women who age out of foster care. Patrick Luensmann, director of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, advocated for donating proceeds from the event to Cedar Valley Angels, which supports children and families in foster care. 

During the event, Revitalize to Rewear sold the thrifted items for $5 a bag. They ended up raising almost $500 for Cedar Valley Angels.

“There was a line outside to get in!” said Hamm, a communications/public relations: special events major with a marketing minor. “It brought a smile to my face seeing people find items they loved, walk out with bags overflowing and share their hauls with their friends in the Maucker Union. It was so cool to be a part of change, and one for the better.”

Student browses clothing rack at Rummage Rampage event

The group also took the opportunity to educate their peers about sustainable clothing choices by spreading facts about fast fashion on the tables. 

While there are no official plans to hold another thrifting event, the success of their “Rummage Rampage” certainly has the group thinking about it.

“After witnessing the overwhelming interest at our Rummage Rampage event, I knew all of our effort was worth it and fulfilled a need on campus,” said German, who is majoring in interactive digital studies. “Despite inevitable graduations creeping up on our wonder woman team, I would like nothing more than to make Revitalize to Rewear's Rummage Rampage a reoccurring event for UNI students and community members to look forward to for years to come.”

Lienemann said that no matter what happens she will continue to advocate for secondhand clothing.

“We know that people are willing to learn about fashion waste and go to events that support this,” she said. “It makes them more mindful of what they're putting on their backs. And that’s very rewarding.”