If your favourite t-shirt gets stretched, do you throw it away?
You probably shouldn’t. According to the Council for Textile Recycling, 21 billion pounds of textile waste reaches America’s landfills each year. Most of this can be reused or recycled. By filling up these landfills with unwanted clothing, we’re doing some serious damage to the environment.
Fortunately, there are many ways to declutter your wardrobe without harming the environment. There are a number of things you can do with your unwanted clothing instead of simply throwing it away. These tips can help you reduce your impact on the environment.
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1. Try to mend your garments.
We often throw out items that aren’t unwanted but broken.
I go through black leggings really fast. Literally, my inner thighs rub together when I walk, causing little holes at the seams. While I always just want to throw them away, that would be awful for the environment – so instead, I try to sew them up.
Most of us want to throw items away as soon as we spot a hole, but mending clothes can save money and the environment.
If you’re not great at sewing, you can learn by watching some YouTube videos – seriously, it’s a skill that will help you after the zombie apocalypse. Otherwise, find a friend or family member that can sew, or hire a local seamstress or cobbler!
2. Upcycle your items – or use it in other ways.
Sometimes, things can’t be mended. Stains, for example, might tempt you to throw out a shirt. A stained T-shirt is a perfectly good pyjama top, and a large button-up shirt can protect your clothes when you paint or dye your hair.
You can also upcycle clothes to create other items. In my house, ripped clothes were always used as rags for cleaning. In high school, we all constantly lost our hairbands, and we often ripped the stockings we wore with our uniforms – so we cut the legs of our ripped stockings into strips, creating instant hair elastics that didn’t damage our hair. Pretty fabrics can be upcycled into hairbands, quilts, or rag rugs. Torn jeans can be transformed into bags or purses. Holey towels, scarves, blankets, and jerseys can make your pet’s bed cozier.
3. Recycle damaged clothing.
Sometimes, clothing is too damaged to fix or give away. What happens then?
Many people don’t realize this, but many materials are compostable or recyclable. For example, you can compost 100% cotton clothing. If it’s underwear, make sure to cut off the elasticated part before throwing it in the compost.
Not all fibers are biodegradable, but most of your clothes and accessories can be recycled and repurposed. Find out if there’s a textile recycling plant or drop-off point near you.
4. Donate your unwanted clothing.
Of course, giving your clothes away is always an option – especially if your clothes are in good condition. When it comes to donating clothes, you have a few different options:
Donate it to friends or family. This is often the most convenient option since you might know their size, taste, and the sorts of clothes they want and need.
Donate it to people looking for those specific items. I live in a relatively small town where people often use our town’s Facebook group to look for help. Often, people post asking for clothing for fundraisers, for safe houses, or for families who’ve lost their possessions. If you have a similar online community, ask if anyone could use your clothes. The jacket you outgrew could be perfect for an unemployed person going to a job interview, and your old prom dress could be donated to a high-school student who can’t afford to buy their own. It’s helpful here to specify the sizes and styles (casual, formal, pyjamas, activewear, etc.) so that it can reach people who really need it.
Donate it to a charity store. While many stores often welcome new stock, stores often receive more clothes than they can possibly sell. Most stores take stock that they can’t sell to a textile recycling plant where the items can be reused and repurposed. Either way, charity stores and thrift shops are great
5. Sell or swap your clothing.
If your unwanted clothing is in great condition and you could use the money, selling your clothing is always an option! You might want to try using Facebook buy/swap/sell groups or visiting a local second-hand store. If you have a lot of clothing, consider a garage sale or joining a local market for the day.
Another option is to have a clothes-swapping party with your friends, neighbors or community. Clothing exchanges are a great way to socialize while replacing your unwanted goods with new, exciting clothes. Create a Facebook group, tell everyone to bring their clothes, and set up little tables. Allow everyone to bargain and swap their items.
Whether you’re moving, clearing out your wardrobe, or changing your style, your unwanted clothing can be repurposed and reused. Decluttering responsibly is one of the many ways we can have a positive impact on the environment.