While at the Australian Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne a few weeks ago, I attended a discussion about sustainable fashion from some of the leaders in the industry in Australia. During the Q&A one audience member aptly asked what should she do with the clothes she wants to donate?
She had heard that charities dump clothes or they become part the second-hand market in third world countries, clothes that have been sent to third world countries to be resold. I have seen some of these markets while in Cambodia.These markets have destroyed local artisans and fashion markets, who wouldn’t want cheap western labels!? Besides the fact that a lot of these clothes are also quite dirty, like used underwear dirty.
She brought up a great point, there has to be another solution than just throwing out clothes or donating them. So one fashion junkie to another I thought of some other ways you can use and dispose of your unwanted clothes.
Of course, donating your clothes is always an awesome option but before you chuck bags at your local Salvation Army there are simple tricks that will reduce the amount of rubbish the Salvation Army has to throw out. Most importantly, WASH your clothes. So so simple but not my first thought when I go through my closet. They aren’t going to sell dirty clothes and no one wants to go through your smelly clothes. Otherwise please ensure that what you are donating is in a condition that you would buy it! If not there are a few other options….
There are some ways to get rid of clothing that you can get something out of it too, like selling or consigning your clothes that you are ready to part with! Sometimes it is easier said than done but there are apps and websites that have made it easier to do from your home. Carousell is a website perfect for selling your clothes quickly online, there are also Facebook groups and eBay as a backup! The RealReal and Vestiaire Collective are my favorites for consignment luxury pieces. They make it easy to buy and sell taking care of everything from authenticity to photoshoots.
If online is still a drag check out your local market or suitcase rummage to set up a stall and sell your clothes for quick cash! Or if even that is too much time, there are boutiques who will consign your clothes for you, in the US Buffalo Exchange is perfect and Recycle Boutique in Australia, they always have quality and clean pieces for sale. BUT a word of warning in selling and consigning clothes, be ready to not get all your money back.
Swap or Rent
If you’re not ready to part with your clothes, there are now some other options, like swapping or renting clothes. Global Fashion Exchange organizes clothing swaps around the world, if they aren’t going to be in a city near you anytime soon they can help you organize your own swap. Swaps have grown in popularity, check out if there are any happening locally with a google search, or start one of your own with your friends, you ‘borrow’ each other clothes anyway.
Renting clothes has become more and more popular with websites like, Rent the Runway, renting designer gowns but here are now sites helping you rent out your own closet! Sites like Lana Global or there are local Facebook groups, make it easy for you to earn some cash on clothes you barely wear. An amazing alternative to buying new dresses for weddings or throwing out something you just might, one day, wear again.
Donating clothes is fantastic, but sometimes they are too ruined to give away, like a wine stain from the weekend or a tear in your top, but you can reuse and upcycle your clothes! One way to reuse or upcycle is to turn your clothes into new pieces. You can cut strips from your clothes and turn them into quilts, bags or other clothes! Turn a maxi into a mini or jeans to shorts, or get more creative. It is an awesome way to look at becoming zero waste, some brands like Zero Waste Daniel build entire clothing brands from the idea.
Another way to reuse your clothes is to turn them into rags, it is quite literally what rags are made from. Use them to clean your house or your car. When there are too many rags to know what to do with, you can donate your clothes to places like the local animal shelter, who are always in need of towels or rags to line cages.
An awesome initiative in US and European cities is to encourage commercially recycling clothes! Finally, besides donating or making rags there is a way to recycle your clothes! It is not in every city so to find out more if it is offered near you, like USAgain in Denver. I can’t wait for Australia to start recycling their clothes...
If you buy natural fabrics like cotton, linen, bamboo, wool or hemp these fabrics can biodegrade. Cutting them into strips and burying them in soil or compost, the fabrics will start to break down. If you typically use fabric softener when you wash that will speed up the breakdown by a few months.
There are so many different ways to dispose of your clothes besides throwing them out or donating them. It just takes a little bit to think outside the box.