Each season it’s important that we clean out our closets. Letting go of the items that don’t serve us anymore allows us to make room for some new seasonal newness to add some thrill into our wardrobes again.
This year, it’s time we take a more conscious look at how we clean out our closets. Let’s consider more thoughtful donation practices that are not only more sustainable, and help a person in need.
The environmental impact of the fashion industry
Want to hear some scary, eye opening statistics? Take a look at these numbers from RoadRunnerWm.com:
- The volume of clothing Americans throw away each year has doubled in the last 20 years, from 7 million to 14 million tons
- In 2018, 17 million tons of textile waste ended up in landfills, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency
- According to the World Resources Institute, it takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt.
- Textiles can take up to 200+ years to decompose in landfills
Mitigating the impact of climate change is a top priority, so it’s important we do our part to change these numbers. Because there is so much fast fashion, we are filling our closets as quickly as we are throwing things out. The waste that is created from this process is hurting our planet!
We can’t change the decomposition time of textiles, but we can reduce the amount of textiles that end up in landfills in the first place.
Here are some things to think about when getting rid of old clothes.
Consider where to donate
No more should we just throw all of our “goodbye” items into a single bag and send it off to Goodwill.
While it may seem like donating Goodwill will help a person in need find clothes at an affordable price, that often isn’t the case.
More often than not, items donated to Goodwill and larger clothing drive organizations end up in landfills, in our oceans, and on our shores. It’s absolutely devastating.
So, instead of tossing things to the curb at Goodwill, think about a few of these alternatives.
Stores like Goodwill collect thousands and thousands of items a day, but many of them go unsold because of that volume. Instead, donate to places that specialize in recycling certain pieces properly or directly recycling or repurposing them to people in need.
Dress For Success: You can donate old suits, blouses, heels, and business clothes to this business casual institution. They will then help women in need get dressed confidently for interviews and jobs!
Chrysalis–For my Angelenos out there, Chrysalis also accepts workwear. The organization helps men and women to find jobs and get on their feet again—including by providing them clothing.
Madewell: You can drop off your old worn denim, and Madewell will recycle them properly. You’ll also get a discount on your next denim you buy from the store. Good news, the denim can be from any brand!
Blue Jeans Go Green: This member of the Cotton Inc initiative is here to help make the art and practice of denim production and recycling more sustainable. They have partnered with stores as donation centers, allowing you to conveniently donate your old and worn denim!
Socks, bras, and underwear are some of the most notorious items to end up in the trash and then in the landfills. Fortunately, there are so many organizations that will take your gently worn pieces!
Support the Girls: This incredible organization will take your gently worn bras and redistribute them to homeless women, survivors of domestic violence, LGBTQ+ Agencies, and more!
Donate your Bra: This organization will take your bras, lingerie, and swimwear and donate them over to breast cancer survivors.
Knickey: I love this company! Knickey will take your gently worn underwear (yes! Your underwear!) to recycle properly, and will give you a free pair of their sustainable underwear with your next purchase!
Zkano: This American-made and manufactured brand believes in sustainability and soft socks! Their sock recycling program is exactly what we all need. Taking any brand of sock in any condition, they treat it and recycle it into something new!
If you are looking for other ways to get rid of socks, check out this great article.
Jackets & Coats
Local homeless shelters & missions—With the winter almost here, the jacket drives begin! Donating your jackets to your homeless shelters is a surefire way to help somebody in need this cold winter season—and to consciously let go of what you don’t need in your closet anymore.
This list is just a smattering of what’s out there to help you more sustainably get rid of what’s taking up space in your closet. For a more complete list, check out Terracycle.com. You can find out how to recycle ANYTHING you own here and this helps with clothes, housewares, beauty products, and more!
The bottom line here—from a fashion stylist who has regrettably contributed to the bigger machine that has caused so much waste and negative environmental impact—we can all do better. Especially as consumers! Our collective donation habits will help shift industry processes to meet our needs. The more we consume, the more companies will produce, and the more we have to waste. But by changing our habits, slowing down our own fashion or style process, putting a little extra time and thought into donation, adding a bit more effort and being more mindful in general can really make a difference! And together we can move mountains!
For more tips, check out my book! Available now!
Photo credit: Shelly Waldman