Purging Your Closet: Ethically Recycling, Donating, and Consigning

I’m a firm believer in purging your closet at the beginning of each season to get rid of all the things you don’t want, need, or wear. I always try to consign when possible, in order to make some money, but not everything is profitable and sometimes there are things with tears or stains that aren’t good enough quality to even donate, so then what?

There are an abundance of ways to get rid of your clothes no matter the condition, and it’s important that we know how to do this in order to keep fabric out of landfills and to positively impact the community with these great organizations.

If you have middle-tiered to high-end brand clothing in excellent condition (Think: Ann Taylor to Diane Von Furstenburg, not Forever 21), ThredUp is a great option for consigning. You receive a good percentage of the profits, depending on the item’s category and can also get paid up-front, depending on the item’s price. Another great thing about the company is that any items you send them that they won’t accept will be sold to third-party sellers who recycle or upcycle the items (you also have the option to pay a small fee to have any unaccepted items sent back to you instead.) The next best thing is to check out your local consignment shop and support a small business!

Donating is the easiest form of getting rid of your clothes as donation centers are so highly populated, including Goodwill, Savers, and the Salvation Army. Each of these thrift store companies are valuable and have a strong focus on different areas of growth. Goodwill prides itself on creating jobs; Savers supports community non-profits, like Big Brothers Big Sisters and The Epilepsy Foundation, by paying them for donating goods collected from the community; and the Salvation Army tackles numerous issues such as hunger relief, adult rehabilitation, and elderly services. Reading their mission statements and looking closely at their community partners can help you decide which company you want to donate to and therefore who you want to impact. If you have clothes small enough, Cradles to Crayons, a local organization here in Boston, is a fantastic way to donate clothes- among other things- to children in need, and they accept up to adult-sized mediums.

So you’ve organized your clothes into piles to be thrifted or donated, but you still have the mound of fabrics that are too roughed up or too ugly. That’s okay! There are two great fabric recycling companies in Massachusetts we should be utilizing.

You’re probably familiar with the big yellow bins, usually seen in parking lots, that belong to Planet Aid. The clothes donated here are repurposed or sent to developing countries, where the demand for used clothing is high, and proceeds go to numerous development projects, especially those focused around education. Bay State Textiles is the second initiative, which aims to educate students about textile waste. Donation boxes are placed at partnered public schools in Massachusetts and the school district is given a check monthly based on the weight of the donation. About half of these textiles are exported to other countries where economies thrive off of upcycling old clothes and reselling them, second grade textiles are used to make into cloths and towels, and the worst of the worst materials are used for things like insulation. Keep in mind that things like linens are acceptable to recycle as well- even old stuffed animals!

Every fiber can be used for something and you have the power to see it through. Educate yourself about where your old fabrics are headed and understand that even a small donation can make a big impact on an individual or the community.