April 29, 2019 at 7:59 pm

Sustainability | Where to Find Sustainable Clothing in Athens

By Katie Nolan

From student-led organizations to businesses on Court Street, Athens is full of opportunities to be sustainable. Clothing is a unique part of sustainability in a college town like Athens.

Ohio Vintage Co.

Olivia Gemarro and Autumn Murphy own Ohio Vintage Co., an online store dedicated to providing vintage clothing at modest prices to students at Ohio University. Previously using the website Depop to sell their clothing, Gemarro and Murphy now use Instagram for their online store. For them, this business did not start out as a way to provide sustainable clothing options. They discovered that benefit along the way.

“I’ll be honest, I didn’t realize the implications of sustainability that our little thrifting business would have,” Gemarro said. Through buying and selling garments, they have learned how to be sustainable through trial and error. “I’m still realizing things about sustainability.”

Gemarro and Murphy shop for wearable clothing at thrift stores that they think will sell, buy them for cheap, create sets to create an aesthetically pleasing online storefront, and keep those cheap prices for students while making a profit along the way. What started as a way to make extra money for their apartment has grown into something more meaningful for the pair. Sustainability has become one of their main goals.

They’ve upgraded their process to ensure that garments are never put into large packaging, and there are never filler plastics or Styrofoam involved in their shipping. More so, the pair prefers hand-delivery around campus, which involves no extra packaging remnants. “Everyone gets something from Amazon, like a tiny little thing, and it comes in a huge box with bubble wrap, and that’s really wasteful. That doesn’t make any sense,” she said. Their business strives to be the sustainable alternative.

Internet-based, trendy clothing can be expensive, not durable, and usually shipped from miles away. However, Gemarro notices the similarities between older, vintage styles found in thrift stores and the stylish pieces of today’s millennial market. Gemarro and Murphy have tapped into that market for their online store. Gemarro explains that this business combines buying trendy outfits and following sustainable clothing practices, “You don’t have to buy recreations of older styles; you can just buy the older styles. It’s simple.”

Athens Underground, with racks of clothing

Athens Underground, located at 90 N Court St.

Athens Underground

Among already-existing sustainability initiatives are efforts to improve as well. Barbara Stout, owner of vintage store Athens Underground would love to see improvement throughout the community and among clothing sustainability as a whole.

“Sustainability means for our own selves that we’re not pushing this market of cheap stuff coming out of other countries, out of places with substandard wages,” she said. Athens Underground specializes in vintage pieces of furniture, clothing, as well as other items, but Stout herself is passionate about how we can be sustainable in our daily lives.

“It takes a commitment to not buying more than what we need. We need to donate in the most respectful and thoughtful way we can,” she explains. The world of clothing donation is not as black and white as it may seem, and Stout has experienced the process firsthand throughout her career. It takes responsible donation practices for the process to be actually sustainable. Without this responsibility, thrift stores and clothing donations are at a loss. “It’s like recycling, if you don’t wash your recycling, it’s garbage,” she said.

“We shouldn’t collect so much stuff to begin with. Most of the stuff we go out and buy is just convenience or impulse,” she said. Stout’s message throughout her career has been to spread awareness that the cycle of over consumerism is damaging, “We live in a really, really, really poor county. There are people who need this stuff if it’s in good condition,” she explained.

Habitat for Humanity

During processes like MoveOUt, so many pieces of furniture and clothing are discarded by students moving between dorms and houses, apartments to other forms of housing. Organizations like Habitat for Humanity are working to make sure the moving process is as sustainable as possible for students at Ohio University.

The Athens community has pride for its strong foundation in sustainability. Students are beginning to step up their awareness to include sustainable practice in their daily lives, and sustainability programs are becoming more prevalent and relevant. However, there is still more to be done and more areas to grow in.


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