Most of us love to clean out our closets. I've talked in previous articles about doing this. However, as I've said before (and will say again), it's really important when we do this to not carry and out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality.
The culture of fast fashion - through its prices and its accessibility - allows us to feel okay about buying a lot of stuff and then just donating it or getting rid of it when we're done with it. And somehow, we actually feel good about it because we think we're helping others by donating our old stuff. We imagine our five dollar H&M t-shirts ending up in the hands of someone less fortunate and then we just repeat the cycle.
Let me tell you: this is not how it works, nor is it how it should work. Clothing creates so much pollution every year, the people who make it are not treated fairly, and even when we donate it, it often ends up in either a landfill or in a community in the Global South to compete with local artisan entrepreneurs trying to sell their goods to lift themselves out of poverty.
None of these things are good. However, I'm not the type of person to present a problem without a solution, because that is not in any way helpful. Therefore, in today's article, I want to provide you with tips to divert your textile waste. Read on to find out more.
Still aren't convinced you shouldn't drop off your clothes to your nearest donation bin or secondhand store? Let me help with some handy facts from this article from Huffington Post by co-founders of WE, Craig and Mark Kielburger, and this article from Nylon by Taylor Bryant.
85%, or 10.5 million tonnes of clothing goes to landfills!
In 2015, the equivalent of $17.5 million USD was sent just to Kenya to be resold! This is so harmful for local economies, as I spoke about above.
These countries are so fed up that many of them are considering actually banning secondhand clothing imports.
Less than 20% of clothing you donate gets resold!
At the end of the day, going forward, we inherently know what the solution is: buying less. It's so obvious and although it's difficult in a society which constantly pressures us to be serial consumers, it's necessary if we want to see any change at all.
However, even when we make the decision to do this, there will still be items from our past that we have and don't know what to do with. In this case, I present a couple of solutions to you to get rid of them without contributing to the problem of textile waste.
sell your clothes online
There are a couple of ways to do this, and the benefit is that you directly ensure whose hands the item is ending up in. This is super important!
Facebook groups: chances are, your town, city, or university will have clothing swap/buy and sell groups that you can sell old clothes on.
Depop: this platform is incredible! Simply create an account, list your items for sale, and set a price for shipping. A bonus is that Depop has all kinds of gorgeous items for you to buy, too - check out my article here about how to use it effectively. Another tip: when you're setting shipping prices, your post company should have a price calculator online for you to use. Canada Post's (which I use) can be found here.
order a cleanout kit from thredUP
thredUP is self-acclaimed to be the largest online consignment shop, and it is amazing. If you're looking for designer items for cheap, it is the PLACE. They have a ton of sales and offer 20% off your first order. Trust me, if you haven't tried thredUP yet, you really need to.
Anyway, the way that thredUP gets what they sell is through donations from their customer community. If you have any items you think they'd want, order a Cleanout Kit from them here. They'll ship you a big bag with a return label with the promise that they'll return or responsibly recycle any items they can't sell. With part of the profits, you can choose to either earn the money or have it donated to charity.
Unfortunately, this service is only available in the states for now. :(
repurpose your items for something else
Old t-shirts can easily be cut up to make rags, and there are also all kinds of tutorials for other items - especially if you have a little bit of sewing knowledge.
Fabric Bowl Covers via Hearth and Vine - use instead of plastic wrap and reduce your waste!
This Hoodie Scarf made from an old sweater! This is so freakin cute! (via Instructables)
Beanies from recycled sweaters! (via Mother Earth Living)
Denim scraps? Try this Denim Clutch! (via Paper & Stitch)
As well, I use old t-shirts as reusable Swiffer pads (I just add water and Dr. Bronner's cleaner!) and I have been known to cut the toes out of socks to use as a mug cozy for mason jars of tea or coffee.
donate to a shelter/to someone directly
If you really want to give your items to someone in need (and actually ensure it goes to them), the best way is to pass from hand to hand. Reach out to your friends and family and see if they know of anyone or their children who could use what you have. Or, contact a local homeless or womens' shelter and ask them if they are in need of donations. Whatever you do, don't give it to them without their consent and present them with the problem of trying to get rid of it instead.
Another option is to hold a clothing swap with friends, or look and see if your university or community is having one. Usually this just means you have to bring a couple of your own items and then you get lots in return!
And last, recycling is an option. There are some items, such as socks or underwear, which can't really be donated but still should not end up in the landfill! For these, search up local textile recycling centers near you. They will make sure your items get as much use out of them as possible.
Thank you all for reading this extremely important article about getting rid of old clothes responsibly. It's something that I care very deeply about, yet something that not nearly enough people are aware of.
If you're looking for more information about this topic, I'd recommend watching The True Cost on Netflix, which is just all around a great documentary about the clothing industry that everyone needs to see.
With love and sustainability,