Conscious Living

Best Ways to Recycle Your Clothes

Since sustainability is so important to us, we explored ways that we can recycle clothes that we’re no longer wearing. We were shocked to learn that about 80% of the clothes we purchase eventually end up in the landfill. Whether you’re doing a big closet cleanout or just have a few pieces that are looking too worn out to wear in public there are many ways to give these old items new life. 
May 2021
Best Ways to Recycle Your Clothes
Best Ways to Recycle Your Clothes

At Printfresh, sustainability is important to us. Our sleepwear is hand-screen printed and sewn by highly skilled artisans. We use organic cotton and we’re very transparent about our commitment to sustainability. We want our pajamas and robes to last. But what about when you clean out your closet? How do you ensure you are recycling or reusing your old clothes so they don’t end up in the landfill? We looked at some popular (and not so popular) methods of recycling and the pros and cons to each:

GreenDrop

Pros:

GreenDrop will come to your home and pick up unwanted clothing or other household items. They use these items to support the American Red Cross, Military Order of the Purple Heart, National Federation of the Blind, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Philadelphia.

Cons

As a for-profit company, GreenDrop is not transparent about how much money they send to their charitable partners.

Parking Lot Drop Boxes

Pros

These boxes can be a convenient way to shed unwanted items while you’re out and about. Especially if they are in popular parking lots like near a grocery store, gas station, or bank. 

Cons

Not only might your donation not be headed to a charity, but many of these items are sold overseas, creating a lot of waste in developing nations landfills. Another thing to watch out for is some of these boxes may also be illegally placed. You’re better off driving a little out of your way to drop your clothing at a Goodwill location.

Thrift Stores

Pros

Many local thrift stores (in Philadelphia, we have Philly AIDS Thrift and Bryn Mawr Hospital’s thrift shop) will resell old clothes to make money to support AIDS various charities. As a shopper, you never know what you might find. From vintage Halloween costumes to Chanel accessories that someone needed to get rid of. 

Cons

Unlike a consignment shop you won’t be paid for your donation, but you might be able to get a receipt for tax purposes.

Consignment Shops

Pros

For in-demand items, you can be paid up to 30 -50% of the resale value. This makes consignment ideal for higher-end designer items that you want to part with including dresses, suiting, designer jeans, shoes, handbags, and jewelry. Buffalo Exchange and Beacon’s Closet may be a bit of a dying breed, but if you live close to one it can be a great place to get paid for popular brands or unique items that might otherwise be donated. If you have some designer clothing you’re looking to get rid of, try The Real Real

Cons

It can take some time to get paid. Shops may require you to wait for the items to sell and if your items don’t sell you may be required to come pick them up and find another way to recycle them.

Returning Clothes to an In-Store Recycling Program

Pros

Some stores and designers like Doen, H&M and Eileen Fisher will take back used clothes. This can be a convenient way to recycle your clothing. As a bonus, some retailers will provide a discount or gift card to use for future purchases. It may even be as high as 15-20%. 

Cons

If you are using the discount to re-fill your closet you’re still making waste from the energy and materials needed to make the new clothes. While recycling is better than going to the landfill, you’re still enabling the production of fast fashion in many cases. If the clothes you are buying are made from recycled materials, this con might not apply to you as much. 

Facebook Buy Nothing Groups

Pros

These groups can be a great way to find new homes for old clothes if you don’t want to go through the trouble of reselling your clothes at a consignment store or through an online app like Poshmark. If you sell online through an app, you may have to ship your items far away, but with a local group not only will your clothes find a new home, but you will also be reducing your carbon footprint by keeping it in the neighborhood. 

Cons

You won’t get paid for your clothes like you would if you resold them and coordinating pickup or drop off can take some time. 

Clothing Swaps

Pros

A clothing swap can be a great way to trade out items that just aren’t working for you anymore. No longer working in a business formal environment and have some gorgeous suits? Did you buy a dress for a wedding that scaled back to something more casual? If any of these sound familiar, bringing these pieces to a clothing swap and trading them for something that works better in your closet can be a great solution. 

Cons

If the organizers of the swap aren’t intentional about providing direction you can end up in a situation where people aren’t bringing quality items or there are too many pieces to sift through. The Conscious Closet offers guidance on how to ensure attendees bring quality clothes and limit the number of items per person.

Repurposing Clothing

Pros

You can get some extra life out of clothing that you love or that has sentimental value. An old blazer that looks dated can be altered or a long gown can be shortened to enjoy a second life as a short cocktail dress. You can express your personality and personal style by adding details to your clothes to make them uniquely yours. For some inspiration, check out this article from Well and Good or try Pinterest for some new takes on old trends. 

Cons

This can be expensive if you have to get a professional tailor involved or need to buy additional fabric, buttons, or new zippers. The supply and labor costs can add up quickly.

With so many ways to reuse and recycle, it’s easier than ever to breathe new life into old textiles. If you are planning a closet cleanout in the near future, how will you recycle or reuse the clothes you are no longer wearing? Share your best tips and tricks in the comments! 


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