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Reform Magazine | December 7, 2023

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Swapping clothes, changing the world

Swapping clothes, changing the world

Pre-loved school uniforms show love for the planet in an award-winning exchange project. Laurence Wareing reports

It began with a couple of old choir robe rails in the vestibule. Three years on and St Columba’s URC in Wolverhampton has given over one of its meeting rooms as a permanent home for its Swap Shop – and they’re looking to buy a shed for the overflow of stock they now hold.

Set up by Ros and Nick Shaw with the intention of providing free, pre-loved uniforms for the six schools in their local area, the initiative now serves 74 schools across the city and has a range of stock that covers all uniforms that fall under the definition of ‘educational activity’: everything from blazers, cricket whites and overcoats to ballet tutus and Brownie uniforms. Recently, 80 water bottles were donated from one school’s lost property store. These, too, have all gone to new owners, grateful for one less item they’ve got to fork out for this school year.

By any measure, the Swap Shop is a worthy recipient of a URC Community Project Award. Clothes arrive from schools themselves as well as from returning customers exchanging uniforms for the next size up. The Shop has become a vital service to city residents, including refugees and asylum seekers. With their children starting school in a new environment, having the right uniform goes a long way to building confidence and a sense of belonging…

St Columba’s Swap Shop was awarded £2,000 in the United Reformed Church Community Project Awards, sponsored by Congregational. To calculate the carbon release prevented by reusing donated clothes, Ros uses the Puma Carbon Footprint Report (2018)


This is an extract from an article published in the December 2022 / January 2023 edition of Reform

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