It is no secret that Americans love to shop, but what happens when our favorite sweater starts to unravel or our favorite leggings start to tear? Most people (myself included) just throw away their old clothes without thinking about it. In America alone, over 15 million pounds of textile waste ends up in landfills each year. When textiles break down, they release a chemical called methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas which is a significant contributor to climate change.
Here are some easy ways to reduce your textile waste by following the three R’s: Reduce, reuse and recycle (or if you’re Ilana Wexler, the four R’s).
- Reduce, reuse, recycle
Reducing the amount of new clothing you bring home is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint. Instead of going to the store to buy the newest item, look on Poshmark, thredUP or your local thrift store.
Quitting fast fashion is not easy, but luckily HC UMKC writers Samira and Mahreen have written articles about how to kick fast fashion to the curb. You can read those articles here and here. Although second hand shops are a great alternative to fast fashion, be careful when donating to thrift stores. Oftentimes, thrift stores can contribute significantly to global textile waste. A way to combat this cycle is to shop at buy the pound thrift stores or by hosting clothing swaps with your friends.
Upcycling your clothing into craft projects is a fun way to reuse your old clothes. I once made a t-shirt poster and I have a box of t-shirts from high school I’m saving to make into a t-shirt quilt. If your fabric isn’t craft worthy, used textiles can also be turned into cleaning rags.
As I mentioned earlier, I love thredUP. I prefer to donate my clothes to thredUP because I know they will be ethically disposed of if they do not meet the donation requirements. According to thredUP’s website, “all unaccepted items are reused or responsibly recycled.” When you donate through thredUP, they will give $5 to a reputable charity (currently you can choose between Feeding America and Girls Inc).
- Give Back
Give your clothes to those in need. Local charities such as Veronica’s Voice and Hope House help women and children in need and are always accepting donations. I also like to keep socks, hats, scarves and other essential items in my car and hand them out to homeless people while I’m at a red light. Another way to help the homeless is to give your old bras to I Support the Girls, a charity focused on helping homeless women meet their basic needs. If you have old bras you don’t know what to do with, send them here. If you have old rags and towels that have lost their luster, local animal shelters will happily take them off your hands.
Textile waste is a global problem that isn’t going away. Although not one person can fix this issue, following these steps can help you to achieve a more eco-friendly lifestyle while saving money.