What to Do With Old Clothes

In honor of Earth Month, I am featuring 30 days of posts on my Instagram to raise awareness about sustainability, the environment and climate, and advocate for ways that we can take better care of ourselves and the planet.

Week 1 is all about our habit of consumption, or shall I say, overconsumption? Since the Industrial Revolution and the invention of plastic, we have gone down a slippery slope of shopping for everything under the sun!

This has led to a habit of treating objects meant to last as expendable and carefully thought-out advertising and marketing has made it so consumers feel the need to buy the latest technology or fashion trends.

With billions of people shopping for the newest clothes and tossing out the “obsolete” and “old”, we are left thinking about what to do with them. There a number of steps you can take to get them out of your sight and put to good use:

Repurpose your clothes.

If your clothes have holes in them or you just don’t want to wear them anymore, maybe you can find another use for them. There are so many DIY ideas for upcycling clothes, and I for one cut up a single shirt and was able to make face cloths and makeup wipe removers from the sleeves!

Donate your clothes.

There are so many charities that are willing to accept donations that include clothing. You can do your research and see if you want to donate to a charity that sends your clothes to a shelter, veterans’ families, a local thrift store that raises money for a cause you care about (like Housing Works, for example), just to name a few.

Thredup also accepts donations, or if you want to sell your clothes, you have the option to do so too. Their goal is to eliminate clothes from ending up in landfills (and I would say other countries, too) and giving them a second home.

GrowNYC is also a great organization with whom you can work to donate your clothes and textiles, and they do their best to make sure that as much of your donations can be used and not wasted.

I must caution behind donating clothes, even with the best of intentions. Because of overconsumption, we just have too much stuff. After the Marie Kondo special aired on Netflix, there was a spike of donations to local thrift stores that staff just didn’t know what to do with them! Only a fraction of donated clothes actually do get sold from thrift stores, and often times our “trash” gets sent to developing countries to deal with instead.

TL;DR – We have a shopping addiction, especially when it comes to clothes! We need to start questioning why we’re so eager to purchase items in fast fashion store windows, and begin to think about our clothes’ “ends of life”. When we start to treat our purchases more meaningfully and not like urges to satisfy, we can then address the clothes we have in our closets and consider ways we can divert them from landfills and put them to good use, whether in our homes or someone else’s.

Follow me for daily posts this month in honor of Earth Month, and join the community if you want tips for low impact living in cities. Looking forward to seeing you there!