The National Association for Charitable Textile Recycling


A Best Practices Toolkit for
Community-Led Textile Reuse

What is it?

Clothing swaps are popular and versatile events that can be run in a living room with friends, at an events venue with hundreds of participants, or integrated into other community events. They are primarily run by nonprofits and community organizations, with a few examples of those led by, or in partnership with, municipalities.

Clothing swaps can help to divert textiles from landfill while optimising charitable benefits and shifting mindsets.

  • Environmental – Clothing swaps recirculate textiles that may otherwise end up in landfill through swapping and donation of leftover items to charitable organizations, diverting anywhere from 250 to over 1180 kgs (550 – 4,000 lbs) of textiles per event. They may slow the purchase of new clothing, thus reducing the purchase of new items and avoiding the use of virgin materials and carbon employed in production.   
  • Social – Clothing swaps provide a low-cost alternative to buying new clothing. They can support a range of charitable purposes when entry fees or leftover clothing are donated to charitable organisations. Some clothing swaps incorporate educational messaging around fast fashion and sustainable consumption to shift mindsets about clothing consumption.
  • Economic – Increases the profile and sales of local sustainable enterprises who may run a table at some clothing swaps.

Value Proposition

selective focus photography of hanged three gray tee shirts

How To Plan Your Own


Define Goals and Scope

  • The objectives of your clothing swap could include fostering community building and inclusivity, minimizing clothing waste by maintaining items in circulation rather than contributing to landfills, and providing participants with an affordable means to refresh their wardrobes, all while promoting a shift towards more responsible consumption habits.
  • Consider key metrics based on your goals. Metric could include: number of people attended, number of items swapped, weight of items swapped, how much textile was diverted from landfill, how many donations to charity were incurred, did attendees learn something new, etc.
  • To determine scope consider: How many people will attend the event? Will it be hosted to serve a school community? A neighborhood? Something else?


Understand the costs

  • Costs of a clothing swap might include: Rental/permit fees for the swap location, purchasing and/or rental of supplies, printing of promotional materials (e.g., posters), event day signage, paid advertising (social media, event listings, etc.), and staff time (if applicable).


Seek Municipal and/or other support

  • Contact a municipal representative to assess the possibility of municipal support. Support might include resource allocation, such as funding or venue support, event permits, or promotional assistance through municipal channels.
  • Do a little research to see if other similar events are happening in your area. Connect with the organizers and inquire about how you can get involved or partner with them to increase the reach of both events.


Plan the swap

  • Put a call out for volunteers and build a team.
  • Define roles. Roles might include: 2-3 sorters, 1 person to record attendees and number of items swapped (this is important for success metrics), 1 runner to place items on the swap floor, and a few others to keep things tidy.
  • Choose a date, a time, and a venue.
  • Gather your supplies: clothing racks, hangers, seating, toilets, wall dividers for fitting area, scales, tables, bins for accessories, music speakers, signage, pens, markers, tickets, mirrors, appropriate lighting, and sign in sheet for attendees’ contact information (optional).
  • Consider offering repair activities.


Connect with a NACTR member in advance for pick-up of left over items

  • Even a small clothing swap often results in numerous leftover garments, providing an excellent opportunity for donation to a charity collector. Contact a NACTR member in advance of the event to schedule a pickup of the remaining items, or locate the nearest NACTR member donation drop-off center and deliver the items during collection hours


Establish Guidelines and Health & Safety Measures

Options for guidelines are:

  • Place a limit on the number of items each participant can bring (recommendation = 10)
  • Restrict the types of items participants can bring.
  • Determine the system to be used. Will items be sorted in advance or on the day of, or both? Will participants get tickets for items donated or swap item to item? Will tickets be available for purchase for onlookers who did not bring donations?
  • Consider if you need to charge a small admission fee, i.e. $5, to offset costs.
  • Make it a fundraiser: Ask for donations at the door or charge for baked goods.


Some options for health and safety measures:

  • Communicate to swap attendees that all materials must be cleaned before bringing to swap.
  • Encourage attendees to clean their ‘new’ items before use.
  • Consider not accepting items that are more prone to pests, such as linens and upholstered furniture.
  • Thoroughly inspect items brought to the swap to make sure nothing is soiled or in unsuitable condition.



  • Community Partnerships: Foster collaborations with local businesses, artists, performers, and influencers to bring entertainers and increase event visibility.
  • Connect with municipal and charitable partners
  • Digital Promotion: Utilize social media, community websites, and email newsletters for digital promotion.
  • Advertise with posters in local community spaces, such as coffee shops and public libraries.


Finally: Host your swap!

  • Set up a Check-In station: This is where items can be sorted and where participants will receive their tickets.
  • Set up a Shop station: Layout tables/racks and establish areas with categories for where each type of item should go
  • Set up Fitting Rooms (optional)
  • Set up Check-Out station


Post-event: Take Down, Manage Leftovers, and Assess your Success.

  • Consider establishing a mechanism to gather feedback from attendees and documenting the event to provide a report to stakeholders (i.e. “We swapped 500 garments and donated 500lbs of clothing to NACTR members”.)


Learn from Experiences
  • The Great Halifax Clothing Swap, this biannual clothing swap is led by volunteers associated with Ensemble HFX in partnership with community sponsors. The swap charges a $15 to $25 entrance fee. Excess clothing is donated to Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Greater Halifax, while entrance fee proceeds go to Laing House. 350 people attended their spring 2023 event held on April 22 and there was 250 kgs (550 lbs) of leftover clothing, which was picked up for charitable donation by a NACTR member. The second event, held on September 23, 2023, welcomed 400 attendees and processed 1,911 kg (4,214 lbs) of textiles.
  • Threading Change Global Clothing Swaps Threading Change is a youth volunteer-led international charity that organizes clothing swaps in several Canadian cities and beyond. They have held swaps in 8 countries. A recent Vancouver event included a sustainable fashion workshop and featured local sustainable vendors as well as a DJ. The organization partners with various groups, including Aunt Leah’s Urban Thrift, the Downtown Vancouver Women’s Shelter, Drop Wish, BC Apparel and Gear Association, Northwest Skills Institute, Fresh – Plant Powered, Canada Service Corps, and #risingyouth.
  • Grande Prairie Drop & Swap, this clothing swap was organized by the City of Grande Prairie in partnership with Aquatera, a utility corporation, and Goodwill, a charitable member of NACTR. Members of the public can drop off lightly used clothing during a 2-day window, then return on the 3rd day to participate in the clothing swap. Leftover items are donated to Goodwill.


Clothing swaps are easily replicable! There are many resources, toolkits, and how-to guides available to support uptake by more nonprofits, community organisations and local governments across Canada.

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