Recycle Your Clothes? It’s Easier Than You Think.



Patagonia vest You’ve probably been recycling your clothes for years, though you may not think of it that way. But every time you donate your worn shoes, outdated dresses, and old blouses to the Salvation Army or Goodwill, each time you sell your used sweaters at a yard sale or give your kids’ too-small T-shirts and shorts to the toddlers next door, you’re extending the life of your attire and forestalling the need to manufacture anew, saving energy, water, and other resources.

Your effort is worthwhile. Clothes and shoes take up more space than any other nondurable goods in the solid waste stream because, says the U.S. EPA, only 16% of discarded clothes and shoes are recycled. Despite the best efforts of charities and thrift stores, millions of tons of clothing are wasted every year.

My rule of thumb? “Never throw clothes away unless they’ve been reduced to rags” (though that’s when I use them to dust the furniture). Charities like Salvation Army, Good Will and Purple Heart will gladly pick up your clothes on your doorstep and take them to their distribution centers, keeping them in circulation for perhaps many years more. Patagonia’s Common Threads Garment Recycling Program accepts worn out fleece, cotton t-shirts and some polyester, and transforms the old fibers into new fashions, like the fleece vest pictured above.

Other options?

Dress for Success – This international not-for-profit organization promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire along with job counseling. Each woman “dressed for success” receives one suit when she lands a job inerview; she can receive a second suit or outfit when she finds work. Since 1997, Dress for Success has served almost 300,000 women around the world. You can donate suits, blouses, pants, shoes, jewelry, briefcases, black tote bags, and other appropriate business apparel.

Soles4Souls - Providing free footwear to people in need around the world, this nonprofit organization startede after the Asian tsunami in December 2004, continued in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and today distributes shoes worldwide. It also partners with Dress for Success to provide career footwear.

One World Running – This Colorado-based non-profit organization ships donated running shoes, soccer gear, and baseball equipment to athletes in Central America, Haiti, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe – The program grinds up and recycles discarded shoe material to build playground mats, basketball courts, and running tracks. (BTW, don’t miss the great video!)

DIY Jeans Recycling – Here are 25 ways you can recycle your jeans.

It should go without saying that the other half of the recycling coin is to buy clothes made from recycled fabrcis. Find some fashions at Clothes Made From Scrap.

Want more ways to recycle just about everything? Check out this month’s Green Moms Carnival posts, hosted by RecycleYourDay.

 

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29 Responses to Recycle Your Clothes? It’s Easier Than You Think.

  1. Ellie November 16, 2009 at 3:25 am #

    I couldn’t agree more, with your post or with the person who commented before me. I always keep a pile of “to be donated” going in my closet.
    If I finish a book, it goes there. If my husband shrinks a shirt and I can no longer where it, it goes there (I’m truly buying a drying rack after work today!), If something has a hole that I cannot fix, it goes there.
    The folks at my local Goodwill can determine what’s worth fixing, selling.

  2. A. Simplicity November 16, 2009 at 12:07 pm #

    Great Post! thank you! donating unwanted clothes, shoes, toys, books, household goods and furniture to charity is such and easy thing we all can do to reduce waste and increase goodwill around the globe. I also try to buy all my clothes and all sorts of stuff from opportunity and charity shops, you never know what you might find : )

  3. Condo Blues November 17, 2009 at 12:35 pm #

    When I worked for an IT company where jeans and t-shirts were daily attire I organized a buisness suit/clothes donation at my company for a local chairity like Dress for Success that takes men’s clothes too.
    Some charity’s like Goodwill will sell clothes that are too worn to sell in their stores to paper companies. The paper companies use them to make paper. If you’ve ever purchased letterhead or resume paper marked 25% or 100% cotton rag it means that is the percentage of cotton rag (generally from old clothes) in the paper.

  4. Alden November 18, 2009 at 8:12 pm #

    Absolutely! And while you’re at it, get creative and hit up vintage stores, who do an excellent job of combing through castoffs and finding gems.
    The only thing… I have so many rags now, I don’t know what to do with them!

  5. Jessica November 21, 2009 at 6:40 am #

    This is a great list! I’ve been recycling clothing all of my life but we always referred to is as being frugal. I also like to buy most of my and my children’s clothing second hand and again all in the name of saving a buck. It’s only been recently that I’ve realized that my being frugal is also in a lot of ways being “green”
    Thanks for the post I look forward to reading more.

  6. Lynn from Organicmania.com November 28, 2009 at 5:47 am #

    Diane, thanks for putting together such a comprehensive post for the Green Moms Carnival on recycling! There are some great organizations listed that I was unaware of. I’ve donated clothes for ages, usually to those organizations that pick-up from my doorstep (Purple Heart, Disabled Veterans of America).

  7. NShore December 2, 2009 at 5:36 am #

    I love recycling clothes. But what do I LOVE even more? When I’m the one who continues the cycle of use by wearing used items. Thrift store shopping has been a favorite since college.
    But did you know that we have more clothing and used goods of this nature than organizations can handle or turn around to repurpose? I’ve heard that places like the Goodwill and Salvation Army store items, ship them to China and even often throw it out after all simply because there’s too much.
    So the best thing that we can do? Consume less, not be fashionistas so that we appreciate our clothes for longer and purchase quality so that it lasts. And be sure that when you are donating clothing, that the items are in decent wearable condition. If they are indeed rag worthy, no on else is going to want them either.
    (Apologies, I did try to find an article to shed more light on this, but in a quick search couldn’t find anything.)

  8. Diane MacEachern December 8, 2009 at 2:37 am #

    If you do come across this info, please let me know. I would hate to recommend people use the Salvation Army, if the clothes are just being thrown away. You’re right. Recycle as close to home as possible!

  9. Sherry Lynch January 31, 2010 at 3:51 pm #

    I was fortunate enough to inherit my grandmothers rug loom. Clothes that I can’t donate, I cut into rag strips and make rugs. I give these to friends and relatives or I donate them to my charities like my church’s annual rummage sale.

  10. Diane MacEachern February 2, 2010 at 6:50 am #

    Sherry, the rugs sounds absolutely wonderful. Thanks for sharing your ingenuity with us!

  11. ECC February 2, 2010 at 4:39 pm #

    What great info! Thank You so much.. I have always given away or donated clothing I didn’t want/that didn’t fit.. But this sheds a new light on some other ways to do deal with this.

  12. Diane MacEachern March 17, 2010 at 6:28 pm #

    You are welcome to reference my blog posts and link back to them, but not to reprint them in their entirety, as they are copyrighted. Thanks.

  13. Diane MacEachern April 12, 2010 at 3:28 am #

    Thanks for the feedback!

  14. leonard April 18, 2010 at 8:20 am #

    Is there an organization that accepts men’s suits for people entering the job market?

  15. ROBERT "MR. BASEBALL" WAUGH August 23, 2010 at 9:55 am #

    It is just too easy to discard used baseball equipment like bats, balls, gloves, shoes and uniforms.Three factors drive this action. First, new baseball equipment is always more attractive just because it’s new. Second, old baseball equipment is worn and may be damaged. And third, new baseball equipment is relatively inexpensive to replenish. So, before throwing out all that old baseball equipment consider donating to some worthwhile charity. They can repair it, if needed, and then give it to needy players in the US or abroad. In this way its use is extended dramatically!

  16. augmentin 1000 mg October 14, 2010 at 7:28 am #

    Dress for Success – This international not-for-profit organization promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire along with job counseling. Each woman “dressed for success” receives one suit when she lands a job inerview; she can receive a second suit or outfit when she finds work. Since 1997, Dress for Success has served almost 300,000 women around the world. You can donate suits, blouses, pants, shoes, jewelry, briefcases, black tote bags, and other appropriate business apparel.
    Soles4Souls – Providing free footwear to people in need around the world, this nonprofit organization startede after the Asian tsunami in December 2004, continued in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and today distributes shoes worldwide. It also partners with Dress for Success to provide career footwear.
    http://www.sundrugstore.com/augmentin-c-23_141.html

  17. california vehicle donation February 20, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

    True! It is easy to recycle your old clothes and give it to charitable organization to help people in need.

  18. ClubPenguinCheats May 26, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    Clothes that I can’t donate, I cut into rag strips and make rugs.

  19. Diane MacEachern May 31, 2011 at 6:29 am #

    Good idea on converting clothes to rugs!

  20. coach factory outlet July 8, 2011 at 2:34 am #

    Second, old baseball equipment is worn and may be damaged. And third, new baseball equipment is relatively inexpensive to replenish. So, before throwing out all that old baseball equipment consider donating to some worthwhile charity

  21. coach outlet online July 13, 2011 at 11:01 pm #

    Providing free footwear to people in need around the world, this nonprofit organization startede after the Asian tsunami in December 2004, continued in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and today distributes shoes worldwide. It also partners with Dress for Success to provide career footwear.

  22. Diane MacEachern July 14, 2011 at 5:29 am #

    Yes, Dress for Success is another terrific organization. Thanks for the reminder.

  23. lily October 22, 2011 at 8:33 am #

    good

  24. Online Pharmacy May 16, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    Never throw clothes away unless they’ve been reduced to rags” (though that’s when I use them to dust the furniture).

  25. Tim September 20, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    I love this post. It is so wonderful I think

  26. Chinareisen November 2, 2012 at 2:06 am #

    Thanks for sharing such useful information.

  27. Dave Bratcher December 8, 2012 at 4:45 am #

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  28. clothes donation December 9, 2012 at 7:55 am #

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  29. Leadership Development February 9, 2013 at 6:21 am #

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