It’s spring! The days are getting longer, and the time for sunrise runs and after-work rides without headlamps is here. With the freshness of spring, there’s no doubt that some spring cleaning is in order.
Let’s first take a quick step back. The American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) cites that the average American “consumes” approximately 65 garments of clothing annually. At the same time, on average, each American throws away 65 lbs of clothing each year. In the landfill, this clothing contributes to green-house gas methane emissions. Over 20 years, methane gas traps over 80 times as much heat as carbon dioxide and is a large contributor to climate change.
Before getting into how to recycle old clothes, it’s worth us all remembering that buying clothes that are durable, and take the environment and social responsibility into account is a must in today’s world of limited resources and pressing climate change challenges - and further, considering what we actually need is huge. In the 1930s, the average American owned 9 outfits; now they own over 30. The clothing consumption of Americans has increased drastically over the last century as marketing has increased, and poorer quality “fast fashion” has become an option. But- even if you buy clothes that last, eventually you may get to the point of them being “done”, so… when you clean out your closet this spring, what do you do with those really old clothes?
Here are 3 sustainability tips for what to do with old clothes…
1. Avoid “wishful donating.”
If you have tattered (and maybe, dare we say, perma-smelly?) clothes that have experienced so much adventure and so many workouts that they’re beyond use by you, it’s most likely that they are beyond use by anyone else. Many resources of Goodwill stores go into sorting and paying to ship out the “trash” that people drop off. If you have something that you wouldn’t feel comfortable giving to someone, then don’t expect a second-hand store to be comfortable selling it. Instead, look to clothing recycling and other options highlighted below.
2. Look for a clothing recycling center near you.
Clothing recycling drop bins and recycling programs take any old clothes and turn them into upcycled fabric and textiles for further use. From your socks with holes in them to that stretched out, sweat stained shirt, these recycle bins give your clothing new life and contribute to less virgin material being used to make new clothes. They can usually be found at large-scale department and retail stores and through your city or county. Asking these places if they have clothing recycling bins and an internet search are your best bets for finding the clothing recycling bins nearest to you. If you are looking to recycle any Recover clothing, we have a Closed Loop program in which you will receive 20% your next order for turning old clothes into our upcycling program, which gives Recover gear infinite life. Terracycle also offers zero waste boxes for all clothing. If you are looking to recycle old shoes, check out our How To Recycle Your Old Shoes (and why it's a no brainer) Sustainability Tips.
3. Explore creative ways to reuse your old clothes.
Do you need rags for cleaning? Could that favorite Recover race shirt of yours be turned into a grocery shopping bag with some simple sewing? From turning shirts into totes, to making old tee shirts into a quilt, there are countless ideas out there for how to upcycle old clothing if you are interested in taking the time. This can be especially fun to incorporate as projects for kids.
So, when you clean out your closet this spring, take the time to dispose of those really old clothes with recycling in mind, instead of just sending them to the landfill. Happy Spring and Happy spring cleaning!