By Henry Hoffman and Tiffany Verga
Climate change is an impossibly big problem. The more people learn about it, the more helpless and paralyzed they feel. Confronting climate change will require investment, cooperation, and fundamental social reorganization on a scale unprecedented in human history.
Where does that leave us, Wagner Climate Action? We are just one little student group at one little graduate school. Our group’s name (newly changed from the Alliance for Climate Engagement) suggests we have a mandate to tackle this big problem. Where do we begin?
We started by putting on new clothes: On November 9th, we held a clothing swap, offering students a chance to recycle their unwanted threads by trading them with each other. Wagner students, staff and friends brought in all different kinds of clothing while searching for new styles in our makeshift thrift store in Puck. Plenty of people walked away with spiffy new clothes, and we were also able to donate two bags of clothing to the Wagner Student Association Donation Drive.
This is a tiny step in the grand scheme of things, but these little events are important. Our aim as a group is to equip our members with information and actionable items to motivate them in the face of climate change. Therefore, for our first event, we aimed to initiate a conversation and prompt individuals to consider how they can actively incorporate climate change considerations into their decision-making process. We started thinking about sustainability—exploring resource utilization, contemplating life choices, and assessing our carbon footprint—and the idea for the event naturally emerged.
Mindful consumption and sustainable approaches to enjoying fashion are important. People in the United States throw away 34 billion pounds of textiles each year, straining our already-overburdened waste systems. Embracing reused clothing is a crucial component in minimizing one’s carbon footprint by discouraging fast fashion and trend-based purchases, but it also aligns with the principles of ethical and sustainable fashion. If we can encourage people to reconsider their choices, that’s a job well done.
Small events like this also serve an important purpose in keeping people engaged and motivated. Working on climate change requires striking a balance between honest, sober appraisals of the massive scope of the problem and a determination that direct action and good policy can still make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. Some argue that people are too pessimistic about climate, some argue that people are too optimistic. Wherever you land, keeping people engaged in the fight and aware of the issues is vital to make change. When the problem is so big, showing people that they have agency is key.
For those that were unable to attend our clothing swap, we encourage you to support local businesses, explore thrift stores, donate, and repair clothing you already own and engage in our events in the future. We see this swap as just the beginning of a series of exciting events that we have planned for the future. To stay in touch with Wagner Climate Action, follow our Instagram.
Climate change can be an extremely difficult subject to think and talk about, especially as we witness environmental deterioration and more severe weather on a global scale. Nevertheless, we believe amidst the changing climate, actions on an individual level can still make a tangible difference—one vintage tee at a time.
Henry Hoffman is a Master’s of Urban Planning student. Tiffany Verga is a Master’s of Public Administration student. They are the co-chairs of Wagner Climate Action.