ASF is a green school which continues to go greener every year. Our campus is home to a school-wide recycling program, has LEED-certified buildings, uses a rainwater collection system, promotes battery and electronics collection campaigns and hosts green events by using reusable plates, to name just a few of the sustainability efforts that take place on campus. The Sustainability Committee, conformed by members of each division is constantly looking for ways to take our commitment to the environment to the next level, and has recently managed to do so through a brand new initiative, the Uniform Reuse Circle Program.
The program was first suggested by an ASF mom, whose children previously attended a school in the U.S, where there was a uniform swap program at the beginning and middle of every school year, with the goal of exchanging sizes with other students as they grew. Not only was this a practical solution for families but it also helped them save money along the way.
As part of the Sustainability Committee at ASF, we thought this was a great idea taking into account that around three percent of the world’s pollution comes from clothes. We figured that since all our kids wear these uniforms which are virtually identical, creating the Uniform Reuse Circle Program was a viable solution which could reduce our negative impact on the environment, help the family budget, and support the school’s Endowment Fund for Financial Aid,” - Lili Curiel, PA Sustainability Coordinator.
At first, some parents were a bit skeptical about the fact that the uniforms were gently used, but the Parent Association figured that ASF a wide and diverse community, and whoever wanted to participate simply would, and whoever didn’t like the idea could simply purchase new uniforms from the Bear Cave. Despite the uncertainty of whether the program would work, the first edition was held in the Sundial Garden from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on January 10 and 11, 2019. Surprisingly, the number of parents who came to the stand and participated in the program exceeded their expectations. Lili shares, “I believe people are really becoming more aware of their impact on the planet and looking for environmentally friendly solutions; and besides, our kids wear the same sweatshirts, the same jogging pants, the same t-shirts… Why not buy them in good condition for a fraction of the price?”
A new uniform at ASF costs approximately $1500 pesos. “Through our program, we put all items up for sale for $50 pesos each, which means that the whole uniform would cost $150 pesos. We are not competing directly with the Bear Cave, but rather supporting them, as many parents who came to us had been to the Bear Cave first, but hadn’t found the size they were looking for, which is part of why our project was so well received,” explains Lili.
On the day of the sale, Lili observed the following, “I was setting up the stand early in the morning, and five parents showed up immediately to pick out what they needed as they helped me organize the uniforms, it was great to see the program really working!” All garments for the program were sourced from two places. The first batch of uniforms came from lost and found items on campus, in coordination with Ricardo Rosas, Health, Safety and Environment Coordinator. “Every couple of months, parents are called to pick up all lost and found items in the Operations area for several weeks. All clothes that are left over which are in good condition were usually donated, but this year, they became part of the program,” explains Lili.
“A big concern we had as a community was where old ASF uniforms ended up. Many parents have seen people outside our community wearing ASF uniforms, which have been donated by our families. This raises a very important safety concern. What if someone was to wear an ASF uniform and try to enter campus? How does this affect the school’s image? To prevent any dangerous situation, we suggest that uniforms in good condition enter the program and uniforms in bad condition get destroyed or repurposed,” expresses Lili.
The second source of uniforms was direct donations made by ASF parents. All uniforms must be handed in clean.
We tell parents the uniforms must be gently used and as a guideline of what this means, we tell them to send in any garments they would let their own kids wear. During our sale, we noticed that lots of the pants were ripped at the knees, but parents bought them anyway, saying that their kids made holes in their pants playing sports like football, and that they could simply patch them up like they did all the time anyway,” - Lili Curiel, PA Sustainability Coordinator.
The profit was a huge surprise! “In total, we sold $13,120 pesos or 262 different items to approximately 150 parents. All items were sold for $50 pesos. We only stopped there because we ran out of sizes. There was a great demand for sizes 8, 10, 12 and 14,” boasts Lili. After seeing what a great success the sale was, the PA would like to continue to host it three times per school year, at the beginning, in the middle, and towards the end or during Earth Week. The idea is also for more and more parents to jump on board and donate their old uniforms for the initiative to grow. “I was really surprised by the turnout. I thought we’d only have a few customers and didn’t expect so many parents to come by our stand. Many parents congratulated us for starting the program and will definitely come back in the future,” adds Lili.
For future editions, the PA would like to generate more promotion before the sale, using different media around the school to promote it among the community and asking for the support of our Homeroom Parents to help spread the word and recruit more customers and uniform donations.
The PA would also like the Uniform Reuse Program to become part of the Eco-School membership they are trying to pursue through the Sustainability Committee. For more than two decades, Eco-Schools has evolved from a European educational program implemented in four countries to one of the preferred global model programs of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) for environmental education, management, sustainability and certification on an international level. Today they reach more than 15 million students in 59 countries around the world, supporting environmental education and education for sustainable development in school curriculums.
Last but not least, this amazing initiative wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Sustainability Committee, led by Prof. José Carlos Alaníz, the Parent Association, and volunteers Lilian Curiel, PA Sustainability Coordinator, Lisa Deeb, PA Sustainability Committee Co-chair, Paulina Silva, Susana Reyo, Katia de Lasse, Angie Alemán, Ann Ebe, Beatriz Benítez, Joanna Falcón and Paulina Lebrija. We look forward to seeing the program grow!
“At ASF we take pride in educating global citizens for a changing world, and what better way for our children to apply this than by raising ecological awareness and taking care of our environment through positive action,” concludes Lili.