CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Student Activities Boards as one of the partnering organizations. It is actually the Student Involvement Office. (April 12, 2023)

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Groups at the University of Kentucky are attempting to help their classmates while cutting back on waste. Students hosted a pop-up thrift store on campus this week.

What You Need To Know

  • A student thrift store takes over the university’s Cat’s Den for free shopping

  • Donations collected by peers bring in 700 pounds of clothing

  • The EPA says that creating a new product can cause greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate challenges on a global scale

Thrifting has made its comeback in the last decade, and the University of Kentucky’s recycling group and others say it protects both the environment and students’ pockets.

UK’s waste reduction specialist, Ryan Lark, says it starts with remembering a simple order to an old motto.

“With the ‘reduce and reuse’ model it often gets thought of last, even though ‘recycle’ is the last one in the motto—’reduce reuse and recycle,’ so we want to hit home ‘reduce and reuse,’” said Lark.

The pop-up shop is back for its fifth year. Students seem to enjoy the perks, as Lark said nearly 200 students came out this year. Groups like the Student Involvement Office and the Wildcat Wardrobe, a free professional resource, partnered to help this year.

UK recycling experts Ryan Lark and Shaun Lavin assisted with the event. (Spectrum News 1/Sabriel Metcalf)

The team put out the call and bins around campus, asking for donations, with a special focus on formal attire. They collected nearly 700 pounds of clothes. 

Lark says students transitioning into the workforce need inexpensive options. 

“It can be a bit costly for students to purchase professional attire, especially when they’re going out for their first interviews and getting their first jobs,” Lark explained.

The Environmental Protection Agency says reusing items lessens waste that will need to be disposed of or possibly even recycled.

The University of Kentucky has taken a pledge to protect its campus. “We have a goal as a university by 2030. We want to be a zero-waste campus,” Lark explained. 

Lark says the resource-sustaining effort has grown yearly, with more students coming out and that all the items will be given away. 

“We’re excited to see what exactly it weighed and what was reused because everything that we don’t give out is going to be donated,” He said. 

They say they hope to make even more of an impact on their community’s wardrobes and environment in the years to come.