The Lowdown on The Element Exchange Program

by The Daily Front Row

This past Saturday was National Secondhand Wardrobe Day (though any day you find time to clean out your closet warrants a holiday). To celebrate, Element Boston Seaport hotel, an eco-friendly bastion of luxury in Beantown, hosted a pop-up swap shop as part of its launch of The Element Exchange program. Fun fact—clothes are the items most frequently left behind at hotels. We talked to Marlon Whyte, brand leader for Element Hotels, about the upcycling concept. 

Where did the idea for the pop-up begin?
The Element Exchange concept originated with our passionate brand team members who are personally and professionally committed to making a positive impact on the environment. The brand is extremely committed to its sustainable and health-conscious mission and roots, and National Secondhand Wardrobe Day felt like the perfect opportunity for us to do our bit to tackle the growing issue of fashion waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 85 percent of all discarded textiles—13 million tons—are sent to U.S. landfills every year. In addition, it takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton t-shirt—that is enough for one person to stay hydrated for 900 days. Element Hotels want to raise awareness of this massive environmental impact.

Is it true clothes are the items most frequently left behind at hotels?
Before I became brand leader for Element Hotels, I worked in operations on-property as both a hotel manager and general manager. We’d often find items of clothing left behind in guest rooms, so I would work closely with our human resources and housekeeping teams to identify associates in need or charities to donate these unclaimed items to. There were so many items left behind that we had large storage rooms dedicated to keeping them in—at associate events we would often unveil those items as part of an associate fashion show!

What’s something in your wardrobe that you’re excited to upcycle?
A couple of suit jackets that were custom tailored, which can be worn with a great pair of jeans for the office, or with some slacks for a more dressed-up evening occasion.

What is the end goal for the Element Exchange Program?
Element Hotels are very committed to helping to reduce clothing waste while educating guests and locals alike on the effects of fast fashion on the environment. The donation bins that we will be setting up as part of the Element Exchange will remain in all of our North American hotels in perpetuity, giving guests and locals the opportunity to continue to dispose of their clothes in a sustainable manner after the event is finished. Ultimately, we want to be able to raise awareness around textile recycling and upcycling in communities where Element Hotels reside as well as around the nation!

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