What began as a University of Mississippi class project has evolved into a campus-wide initiative to keep discarded clothing out of landfills and into the hands of people who need it.
Through an Ignite Ole Miss crowdfunding campaign, UM senior Mia McKey is seeking financial support for her project, Re-Rebs, a campus-enrichment idea that became reality in the UM senior’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College public policy leadership course.
Re-Rebs, which places clothing-donation bins in residence halls, is already making a positive impact on Ole Miss and its surrounding communities.
“We hope the implementation of permanent bins will help divert the average 82 pounds of clothing waste the average American consumer throws away every year into the hands of those in need,” said McKey of Oxford, Mississippi.
Re-Rebs began with cardboard boxes placed around campus, but McKey hopes to raise $3,500 to install new $480 durable steel, anti-theft bins in Martin, Stockard, Crosby and Pittman residence halls and in the LuckyDay Residential College. Re-Rebs’ Ignite Ole Miss campaign has reached 61% of this goal, with $2,162 in gifts. Ultimately, the goal is to install donation bins in all 15 residence halls across campus.
The idea for Re-Rebs was born when McKey noticed large amounts of clothes being discarded by students in her sorority and was inspired to launch a project to place clothing donation bins in dormitories.
“I wanted to work with sorority houses to redirect this clothing not only from the landfill but away from national donation companies to local organizations to better support the Oxford-Lafayette-University community,” she said.
To determine whether such an initiative was needed, McKey conducted a campus-wide poll that revealed 50% of students or their friends threw away used clothes rather than donating them. Additionally, 96% of students responded they would be more likely to donate clothes if designated bins were accessible on campus.
Motivated by the compelling statistics, McKey said she was convinced the project would succeed. She placed boxes in residence halls and sorority houses, and students used them. McKey then collected the donated clothes and gave them to local organizations that would reuse them.
McKey appreciates the support she received throughout the process.
“First off, every student in the PPL course played an integral role in making this project a reality,” she said. “Ross Cohen has continued working on this project with me following the conclusion of the class. Joseph Holland, the professor of our course, has been a mentor and encourager throughout the process.
“Furthermore, the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Center for Community Engagement, Career Center and the Office of Sustainability have all offered their support and encouragement,” she continued. “Lastly, Brady Bramlett, Angela Atkins and many other people in University Development and with the Ignite Ole Miss program have ensured this project continues becoming a reality.”
Brady Bramlett, director of development for the Honors College said, “Working with Mia and Ross on such a meaningful project has meant the world to me! It’s evident how our Honors College prepares our students to be changemakers and to think critically about our world. Re-Rebs is the perfect example of an idea taking spark and becoming an initiative much bigger than a class project.”
Part of the initiative is to spread awareness of the environmental and ethical concerns of the fast-fashion industry. This industry churns out trendy clothing, often mass-produced and sold at low prices. Unfortunately, this has led to a culture of rapidly purchasing and discarding clothing, resulting in overflowing landfills packed with wearable items.
Research indicates that young adults are most likely to buy, wear and throw away fast-fashion clothing, so the problem is especially acute on a college campus.
“We hope Re-Rebs starts conversations and prompts consideration about where your clothes come from, where they go and what you can do to change the trajectory of the fashion industry,” said McKey, who plans to pursue a master’s degree in environmental management and development after earning her undergraduate degree in May 2024.
To support Re-Rebs, visit Ignite Ole Miss.
By Reagan Collins/UM Development