Costume sale combines sustainability with Halloween

By Stuart Foster

Amanda Creegan/Daily Collegian
(Amanda Creegan/Daily Collegian)

Last year, two students in the Master of Science in Sustainability Science program, Sumedha Rao and Courtney Angen, tried to develop a reused clothing sale during a class about creating convincing business plans.

After thinking about what time of year would motivate the most people to buy used attire, they decided one particular holiday had plenty of potential for a reused clothing sale.

“Halloween was a really good time because that’s when people buy things for just one use,” said Angen, who graduated from the program last year.

Last week, Angen and Rao turned this idea into a reality via the Sustainable Halloween Costume Sale, where used clothing was sold for students to reuse as part of their Halloween costumes, on Thursday and Friday in the Campus Center.

The costume sale featured used clothing and costume parts being resold, as well as a “Do It Yourself” section where students could decorate their purchases with flourishes such as fake blood.

The resale of clothing made the event environmentally friendly. Rao described how many Halloween costumes are only used once before being thrown away – as most people rarely resell costumes – and going to a landfill.

Angen characterized the advertising for the costume sale as “a lot of social media, posters and word of mouth,” adding that she and Rao had tabled in the Campus Center Concourse to spread awareness about the event.

Rao said that most of the clothing being sold at the costume sale was left over from the New2You tag sale at the beginning of the semester. Rao said that most of the customers at the New2You sale purchase furniture or other supplies for their living spaces rather than clothing, resulting in a lot of leftover apparel.

“We want to make it easier for people to repurpose clothing,” she said. “We hope people think of it not just as a costume sale,” she added, saying that the event had a strong message promoting sustainability on campus.

The sale was funded by the Sustainability, Engagement and Innovation fund, which was created to incentivize environmentally friendly practices on campus. Rao said that the money made would go back into the fund to help other projects.

The Sustainable Costume Sale was assisted by volunteers from the Eco-Rep program, an academic course open to all students which focuses on environmental issues.

“I think it’s a really good idea because a lot of kids don’t want to spend a lot of money on costumes,” said Matt Noke, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry who volunteered at the Sale after being encouraged to as part of his Eco-Rep class.

The University of Massachusetts Administration, which helped advertise for the event on Facebook, and Auxiliary Services also assisted some parts of the Costume Sale.

Students buying clothes at the Halloween sale saw it as a good opportunity to buy costume accessories at a lowered price, and appreciated the environmental component of the event.

“I think reuse is really important,” said Madison Burke, a graduate student studying regional planning and sustainability sciences, who was looking for accessories at the sale. “The more we can eliminate waste, the better.”

The costume sale was developed by Rao and Angen’s organization, Phoenix Lifestyle, which works to promote sustainable business practices and spread knowledge about the consumerism of clothing.

Looking forward, Angen and Rao listed a Career Services Fashion Sale with used professional clothing as an event they were hoping to work on in the future.

Angen also mentioned that Phoenix Lifestyle hoped to get one of the co-founders from Threads for Thought, a sustainable clothing brand, to speak at UMass Amherst.

“We’re working with the University Store to bring more sustainable clothing brands,” added Rao.

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster