We all, in varying degrees, like to call ourselves environmentalists. It’s the right thing to do, no? But as any woman would tell you, that impulse sometimes doesn’t extend to our shopping habits. Who cares about the environment when that designer top is so cute and the material feels so nice! It’s magical. It’s also compulsive.

Dora Copperthite, owner of swap boutique give + take, realized this problem and wished to remedy it: “That was my one weakness – I recycle like crazy, I buy organic but you know what, I love to shop.”

Her solution? A permanent swap boutique where members can bring their clothes and swap for new duds, without spending money or creating more waste.

“We already bought it,” she offers. “Now we can trade it for what works.”

Raised in Port Orchard, Wash., Copperthite has lived various places in California for the last 15 years, including San Francisco and Santa Barbara (She attended UCSB.). Having worked for non-profits, upon her move to Los Angeles two years ago, she had to make a decision on how to continue her career in the field. She decided to open the boutique so that ladies all over town could have the opportunity to recycle their clothes. It doesn’t hurt that the shop is in a beautiful location in Playa del Rey, literally a block from the beach. While ladies swap, they can catch beautiful views and ocean breezes through the shop’s windows.

So how does it work? Members pay a monthly $25 fee, which keeps the doors open and allows ladies to swap as many times as they want. Members bring in clean, barely used clothes and receive points or a straight trade, depending on the price level of the item. Points are awarded for designer duds, equaling the value of the garment. Copperthite developed this system so that value of the garment is not lost like at other secondhand stores that buy merchandise from customers. When members bring in garments from lower-end boutiques like H&M and Gap, they can make a straight trade with an item from the same or similar boutique.

For those who have particularly sophisticated tastes, there is a couture section for trading high-end pieces. The store is rounded out with a free-for-all bin, for everything that doesn’t fit in the other sections. This bin can be picked through freely, and it is known to produce some great finds. So basically, everyone has an opportunity to participate with what clothes they have.

Copperthite got the idea for the boutique when she attended a swap party in San Francisco. For those not in the know (like this writer), a swap party is a gathering of friends who want to recycle their unused clothing. Everyone brings items from their overflowing closets to swap. There are many ways to organize the party, from random drawings to point systems. It’s a great idea for a fun get-together that’s free. The only problem is that when you’re trading with a small group of friends, the selection and variety of sizes can tend to be small.

As Copperthite says, “If all 10 of you aren’t bean poles or have hips [etc.], it doesn’t work.”

With give + take, that dilemma is solved. As the member base grows, so does the variety of cute, recycled pieces. The odds that someone out there is the same size as you, or bought something that doesn’t exactly suit her but fits you like a glove, are much better.

As Copperthite aptly states, “Now we’re all sharing.”

And although give + take is a one-woman operation and Copperthite could arguably have the temptation to just take all the cute stuff, the happiness of her members is her first priority: “The thing I like to see most is the excitement of the ladies when they see [the boutique] because there’s literally nothing like this. You can get a fancy dress, wear it to your occasion and bring it back.”

give + take is like a huge shared closet filled with those cute, unwanted clothes of your closest girlfriends and it’s all there to be shared. Because after all: We girls have to stick together, right?

For more information, call (310) 482-3398 or visit giveplustake.com.