Community clothes swap

This post is a slight deviation from my usual food themed blogging, but not completely unrelated. Like food, clothes can needlessly end up in landfill. The Leeds Community Clothes Swap helps prevent this by giving people the opportunity to come together and exchange their unwanted items of clothing for different ones. This video explains how the monthly clothes swapping event works.

As I found out in a Guardian article today, visitors to the clothes swap can also

donate spare credits into a pot for charities supporting vulnerable people such as a woman’s refuge or a centre for refugees

which is exactly like the idea behind suspended coffee.

A significant number of people who come to Southampton City Mission’s food bank are also given a voucher for our clothing bank, which operates in a different location. I had a long chat with a very sweet lady this week who said she was going there to look for a coat and shoes suitable for Winter, before it got too cold. She mentioned she’d recently taken some blouses that didn’t fit her anymore to a charity shop; a local clothes swap could potentially be a lifeline for people who can’t afford new clothes on their income.

There must already be many clothes swaps taking place in the UK, (including this one, at the university where I work) and I’m sure they will continue to grow in popularity with people from all walks of life. It’s one of those no brainer, win-win ideas that I love!

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Suspended coffee

If there’s one thing you can guarantee about university toilets, it’s that more often than not there will be a poster stuck on the back of the cubicle door. (Bear with me; I promise this is going somewhere). Usually the posters have titles like ‘Housemate Wanted!’ and advertise vacant rooms in six bedroom houses of students who profess to ‘enjoying nights out but also nights in’. I’m oddly grateful for something to peruse when in public toilets – regardless of how banal it is – but that’s probably just the compulsive reader in me. Whilst in a loo in a café in Oxford last year, however, I came across a poster that genuinely excited me.

The poster I’d seen explained that the café ran a suspended coffee scheme. I was vaguely aware of the concept as something that happened in France, but had never encountered it in England before. What’s a suspended coffee? This video sums it all up nicely.

Its sheer simplicity aside, two aspects of suspended coffees appeal to me. Firstly, I love that it’s a way of helping somebody who might live down the road from you. A person you could have walked past in the Tesco Express last week. Suspended coffees must generate a strong sense of belonging to a community, both for those donating coffees and those receiving them. I also like the anonymity of suspended coffee. Bar the people in the queue behind you, nobody really knows if you’ve bought an extra drink and nobody really knows if you’ve claimed one. Spending a few pounds on a stranger you’re never likely to meet has got to be altruism in its purest form.