Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Downsizing Your Wardrobe

Thanks to fast fashion, the average American now discards 68 pounds of clothing a year, wasting energy, water and landfill space. Find out the best ways to dispose of your old clothes without resorting to the trash.
From nrdc.org

First, there was fast food. Then came fast fashion—clothes so cheap and appealing, they make our wardrobes obese.

With fast fashion, the latest styles are always available because the manufacturing process is so, well, fast. From the time a new look appears on a celeb to the time an affordable version appears at the mall is hardly the blink of an eye.

Keeping up demands that we shop more than ever, leading to seriously overstuffed wardrobes. We can't accommodate the excess so we throw it away—an average of 68 pounds' worth per person annually.

Let's put aside the question of how not to buy so much in the first place and address the predicament we're already in: 68 pounds to discard this year.

Forget the garbage. Textiles already comprise four percent of the nation's solid waste stream, and the absolute amount is growing. Landfill space is expensive and hard to find.

Besides, the clothing can be used again in one form or another. Discarding would be a waste, not just of the material itself, but of the water and energy that went into the manufacturing. No minor thing, that. Fresh water is a dwindling resource and energy use contributes to global warming, the biggest environmental problem of our times.

Instead, let's get the full benefit of these resources by using the fabrics to death. Here's how to play your part:

Resell. If your old clothes are stylish and in top condition, sell them at your neighborhood vintage shop or Buffalo Exchange, a national used clothing chain in more than 10 states. Find out what experiences others have had with different shops on Yelp. You can also resell on eBay.

Swap. Bring your duds to a public "clothes swap" and pick up good stuff from someone else. Most swaps are free or charge just a nominal fee. Find a swap in your area or organize one of your own just for friends.

Donate. Give your cast-offs to a good cause. Some organizations make it exceptionally easy. For instance, the Vietnam Veterans of America does pick-ups in 30 states. Visit the organization's website to look up the phone number (different for each location) or schedule a pick-up online.

The Salvation Army also has a pick-up service, though asks that you consider drop-off to one of its more than 2,300 centers if possible. Call 1-800-SA-TRUCK to schedule the pick-up or find the nearest drop-off location on the group's website.

Coincidentally, Goodwill also has some 2,300 drop-off locations.

Soles4Souls accepts shoes by mail and at drop-off centers around the country.

Dress for Success accepts women's professional attire at affiliate locations around the country and world. To make a donation, find your local affiliate on the Dress for Success website.

When you donate, be sure to find out first what condition the clothing must be in. Assume at a minimum it should be clean.

By the way, you can take a tax deduction for the donation. Generally, you assess the value yourself and the organization provides a receipt confirming that the contribution was made. For guidance on how much donations of clothing and accessories are worth, see the Salvation Army or Goodwill valuation guide.

Hand down. Use the tried-and-true method for getting rid of outgrown children's clothing: hand it down to younger kids.

Make freely available. Sign up with freecycle (for free of course) and list the clothes you're interested in unloading. If someone wants them, they'll let you know.

Recycle. If your clothes are really past their prime, see if there's a textile recycler in your area who will take them. In New York City, where textiles make up nearly six percent of the waste stream, there is a terrific company called Wearable Collections that collects clothing in bins it puts in your apartment building and drop-off booths at many of the city's greenmarkets. Stains are ok, but clothes need to be clean. Once collected, the garments are sorted and those with a second life in them are sent to secondhand markets in Latin America and Eastern Europe. Others are sent to facilities where they become polishing cloths and rags. Clothes that can't even make it as rags go to facilities that turn them into fibers for other products.

Take your pick, but one way or the other, try to keep your old clothes in circulation.

From http://www.nrdc.org/thisgreenlife/


  1. Great ideas.

    My gf Susan and all her friends regularly throw Naked Lady Parties to swap clothing.

    More info at www.getcrafty.com/home_nakedlady.php

  2. I was shocked by your statistic; The average American throws away 68 lbs of clothing a year. Whew! That is so uneccessary and wasteful as you make clear. You have some wonderful ideas about good things to do with your old or unwanted clothes.