Last week Enviro Girl went through her son’s closet to pull out all the clothes with holes in them. If you’ve ever met a 7-year-old boy, you probably have a good idea of how HARD a boy can be on knees (and elbows, wrists, cuffs, really anything made of fabric). Then she had her husband go through HIS closet. Enviro Girl regularly goes through her own, donating to a local charity (St. Vincent DePaul Thrift Shop) what she doesn’t wear, turning into rags what is too nasty to pass along to another human being for further use. Her efforts resulted in over TWO huge garbage bags FULL of clothes.
What does one do with old clothes? What’s the “greenest” way to dispose of old/unused clothing?
Not in a landfill, that’s for sure! So let’s explore the options:
1. Pass old clothes along to someone in need. Enviro Girl passes all her sons’ hand-me-downs to the son of friends. This little guy has two older sisters, so he doesn’t get ANY hand-me-downs. The family is thrilled to receive a bag of clothes and shoes every few months as Mr. G outgrows things in his closet.
2. Sell your old clothes — but this only works if you are a fashionista. Many consignment shops will take gently used, still stylish clothes off your hands for cash. Another way to sell your old clothes is through a rummage/yard/garage sale — but this works much better for kids’ clothes than for adult clothes.
3. Donate your old clothes to charity. But again, do NOT give to charity anything ratty, torn, ripped, stained or missing buttons/zippers. A charity should not be a dumping zone. Kindly sort through your old clothes and separate out the things that cannot be worn again. Enviro Girl did this, even sorting through a huge pile of her husband’s old dress socks, checking for worn out soles. Any sign of thin fabric and it got pulled. Enviro Girl prefers donating to charity — there are many local ones in her area, including Goodwill — she’s too lazy to hold a rummage sale to get rid of things!
4. Use your old clothes for rags — old t-shirts, socks, towels and blankets make excellent rags for cleaning any kind of mess. Enviro Girl quit buying paper towels about a year ago and opts for a drawer of cut-up towels to sop up spills and splatters.
5. Old clothes make great scarecrows. Enviro Girl and her sons have an old shirt and pants ready for this year’s garden scarecrow.
6. Clothes made of natural fibers are compostable. Sometimes Enviro Girl has too many clothes in her rag bin — she’ll toss old rags and old socks into the compost pile. Mother Nature will break those items down and amend the soil with them.
7. Crafters love old clothes — there is a group of women at a local church who make throw rugs out of old blue jeans, for example. Enviro Girl isn’t this clever, but she knows folks who are.
8. Enviro Girl will put a small bag of her sons’ ripped and torn clothes and her husband’s worn out dress socks into a big red U’SAgain bin. She realizes that U’SAgain is NOT a charity, and cautions others to not give this organization new clothes because they are a for-profit organization and not invested in your local community. However, they do recycle textiles, including old shoes, as a for-profit endeavor. They keep clothes and shoes out of landfills by selling bundles of clothes to other countries and turning the remaining clothes into rags.
9. Finally, the best solution to keeping clothes out of landfills is to not buy too many. Buy only what you’ll wear and resist the temptation to buy more than that. This way you’ll produce the most minimal waste and leave the least impact on our planet. Enviro Girl did not replace all the clothes pulled from her family’s closets this weekend, in fact, only a few items need replacing. The rest were, really, excess, a sad commentary on how wasteful Enviro Girl and her family are — even as Eco Warriors.