What do you do with your old clothes? There are lots of ways to make more space in your closet without throwing clothes in the trash. According to the Oregon DEQ, Americans throw away over 32 billion pounds of textiles a year, but over 90% of clothing and shoes are recyclable. Textile recovery is an important issue. So let’s keep those clothes out of the landfill and make sure they are used to their full potential!

Here is a list, in order of importance, about how to deal with your textiles:

  1. First, think about your clothing purchase to begin with. Do you really need that?
  2. Now, if you DO need it, think about HOW you’re buying it:
    • Can you get a used item rather than a new one?
      — Get it from a thriftstore like ReGroup or the Humane Society Thrift Store, to name a couple in Bend.
      — Shop a consignment store like GearFix or Bag Ladies.
      — You can shop for used clothes online, too, and some even have a personal stylist!
      The Renewal Workshop: a company that fixes and resells outdoor clothing
      And We Evolve: a personalized style company with secondhand clothes
      ThredUP: a consignment store where you can shop by item
    • Can’t find it used and really do need it? Think about the quality of the item you are buying. Textiles that are cheaply and poorly made don’t last as long on your body. Since making clothing is resource intensive (1,500 gallons of water to manufacture just one T-shirt and pair of jeans!), it’s best to get all you can out of every article of clothing.
    • The importance of sustainable clothing choices — something related to waste prevention, but not really discussed here — is also worth learning about. Check out this podcast from Big Closets, Small Planet: A Crash Course in Sustainable Fashion. In 13 minutes, learn a little bit about the environmental and social impacts of the apparel industry. You can stay up on all textile news with Ecotextile News and learn more about textile recovery from RRS.
  3. Take care of the clothes that you buy!
    • Only use the dryer when you have to. It is hard on clothes.
    • Wash your clothes inside out and in cold water.
    • Don’t wash them unless they actually need to be cleaned! You don’t need to wash your pants every time you wear them. Sniff test anyone?
    • Bring it to a Repair Cafe! There’s one coming up in Bend: April 2 at the Gear Fix.
  4. If you are actually done with some of the clothes in your closet — yeah I know! tastes and fashion changes — what can you do with them?
    • DONATE THEM! Are the items still good to wear? Not too many holes or stains? There are many thrift stores that accept donated clothes in town. This way, someone else can wear them. Plus, thrift stores are typically non-profits that earn money based on donations to help good causes. Find the thrift store whose cause you care about.
    • Is it a Patagonia product? Drop it off at the Patagonia store here in Bend!
      • If the item is usable, you can get credit for it because they will resell it online through Patagonia Worn Wear. They will fix what is broken (like a zipper or patchable hole) and make it usable again.
  5. Ok — sometimes clothes really are at the end of their life as a piece of clothing. But there are still things you can do with them.
    • Re-purpose it!
      • Change that old sweater into a hat from the good bits.
      • Holes in the knees of your jeans? Cut-offs are always in style. Don’t like cut-offs? Hem them up! Then, make a dog toy from the legs!
      • There are SO many blog posts for DIY upcycled sewing projects. Google it or check out Pinterest.
      • Have an old t-shirt you LOVE but it’s just time to go? Or an old hole-y flannel shirt? It’s winter outside, y’all: how about a handkerchief? Here’s a cool reversible one.
    • If it’s no longer usable, you can still recycle it.
      • Is it a Patagonia product? Take it to the Patagonia store!
        • If the item is no longer usable, Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative will recycle it: break it down and recycle it into new fiber or fabric or repurpose what can’t yet be recycled.
      • Turn old jeans into home insulation! Blue Jeans Go Green recently celebrated recycling over 1 million pieces of denim.
      • Do you have towels and blankets in decent condition? You can donate them to the Humane Society!
      • Some thrift stores may accept old unsellable clothing. Call ahead to double check.
      • Get a TerraCycle Box and recycle it through the mail.
      • Here are 10 household textiles you might not have known can be recycled (thanks to TerraCycle’s Make Garbage Great book):
        • Stuffed Animals
        • Entire bedding sets
        • Halloween costumes
        • Boots
        • Cloth napkins
        • Purses and handbags
        • Pillows
        • Curtains and drapes
        • Belts
        • Athletic jerseys
  6. The only time fabrics should head to the landfill is if you have already used them to clean off all the greasy bits from your bicycle chain or automobile. Last resort.

Take home: keep those textiles out of the landfill!

Want to learn more about the textile industry, the importance of preventing textile waste, and how to get involved? Check out these great resources from Resource Recycling Systems.

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