The Fordham Flea, Fordham's New Sustainable Thrift Store

Read time: 6 min.

By Kelsie O'Leary

Photography by Spencer Krell

When one thinks about factors harming the environment, the fashion industry does not immediately come to mind. Yet, the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. 20% of industrial water pollution comes from dyeing clothing, and 70% of China’s rivers are contaminated by waste from textile factories. Creating one cotton shirt consumes 2,700 liters of water- that’s enough drinking water to last one person two and half years.

Despite the vastness of these issues, there is a surprisingly simple solution to the problem- thrift shopping. This might not seem like an obvious answer, but shopping second-hand keeps clothing in circulation that would otherwise go to a landfill. Thrift shopping also cuts emissions from the production and distribution of new clothing. Now one organization at Fordham is making that solution available to all students. Gabby Perez, a freshman majoring in Environmental Studies, and her team on Students for Environmental Awareness and Justice (SEAJ), are starting the Fordham Flea.

SEAJ is a student club at Fordham focused on changing policies on campus and and advocating for environmental justice in the Bronx. The Bronx experiences significant environmental problems because of the Cross Bronx Expressway. The many diesel trucks driving through the borough make the air quality worse than Manhattan’s, and children in the Bronx suffer from higher rates of asthma due to the air pollution. Buildings in the Bronx are also not as updated and new as other areas in the city, causing huge amounts of energy consumption.

SEAJ plans to educate students in the Bronx community about these environmental issues and has already worked with organizations such as the Bronx is Blooming and the Green Bronx Machine. They also grow vegetables at St. Rose’s Garden on campus to donate to the community. Fordham students can look forward to their exciting events during Earth Week in April, including an art show and a panel with speakers from various environmental justice organizations. Additionally, Perez is involved in the USG Sustainability Committee, which aims to make Fordham more eco-friendly. They started the Ban the Bag initiative earlier this year, attempting to replace all plastic bags on campus with a biodegradable plastic alternative.

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Gabby Perez is leading the Fordham Flea Project with her teammates on SEAJ.

Amongst these many exciting projects, Perez is spearheading the thrift store, which opens this week. The pop-up store will happen in McGinley lobby on February 15th, and students will be able to shop from a wide selection of clothing, all collected from student donations.

SEAJ hopes that the Fordham Flea will promote fashion sustainability on campus and educate students on the negative environmental effects of the fashion industry. Perez says that the Flea will happen at least twice a semester, but the long-term goal is to create a permanent installment on campus, similar to Rodrigue’s Coffee Shop, with student workers running the store. Further, when a student donates an article of clothing to the Flea, they receive “in-store credit” for the thrift store. For every piece of clothing a student donates, they will earn the equivalent to one dollar for the store. Perez explains that this is “a good way to keep clothes cycling around campus.”

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The on-campus thrift store is doing more than just recycling clothing to promote environmental justice. The least-known harmful effect of the fashion industry is the enormous waste produced by clothing hangers. More than eight billion hangers are filling landfills every year. To combat this waste, the Flea will be using “Ditto Hangers”, a recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable hanger made from recycled paper and post consumer waste.

There are also simple ways students can be environmentally-conscious in their day-to-day actions:

  • Use cold water to wash clothes. This conserves 1600 tons of carbon dioxide per year and keeps the colors in your clothes.

  • Do not wash denim! Denim does not need to be washed. If there are no stains, put them in freezer for a few hours to kill odor-causing bacteria. This is the equivalent to washing them, and they’ll be like-new again.

  • Recycle your throw-away clothes. There are textile recycling companies that will actually recycle your clothes that are too worn for donations. You can take them to SEAJ and they will take it to clothing recycling places for you.

Consider donating your used clothing to the Fordham Flea or updating your wardrobe by shopping at the store on Thursday, February 15th!

“Remember, you’re part of the solution when you thrift.”

Fordham Flea Times and Locations

Donations Drop-off: February 12th-14th, 12pm-4pm in McGinley lobby.

Students can drop off donations and receive coupons.

Fordham Flea: February 15th from 11am-5pm in McGinley lobby.

If you want to volunteer to help with the store or have any questions, you can email Gabby Perez at

CampusSam Parker