Last Updated on 22nd January 2021

Once you realize that your current wardrobe needs a facelift, the next step isn’t to go out and buy new clothes. Yep, you heard us right. Before you can invest in classic button-down shirts or perfectly-cut chinos to elevate your style, you first need to figure out what you’re going to do with your old clothes.

Should you donate them? Throw them in the trash? If you care about the environment, neither of those options is ideal. According to statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generated 11.9 million tons of clothing and footwear in 2015. Of this amount, only 1.7 million tons (less than 15 percent) were recycled.

And while donating your clothes to your local donation center is certainly better than throwing them away, even then, your clothes can potentially end up in a landfill. Donation centers often get flooded with more clothes than they can handle, forcing them to either send clothes overseas or to landfills.

So, what should you do with your old clothes, exactly? To upgrade your style without contributing to landfills and waste, here are some better ways to ditch your old duds.

Sell Your Gently-Used Clothing

If there’s nothing wrong with your old clothes, try selling them before anything else. Not only will your clothes get a second chance at life, you can also put the money you earn towards your stylish, new wardrobe. Talk about a win-win.

Besides, modern technology has made it ridiculously easy to sell your gently-used clothing. From selling them on eBay to using fashion resale sites like thredUP and Poshmark, there are plenty of websites that make selling clothes a total breeze. Just make sure that you research each resale site carefully to give your well-made clothes the best shot at selling.

Repurpose Them

So, you’ve recently turned over a new leaf and are now committed to wearing high-quality clothes that are made to last. Finally, you can say goodbye to your cheap clothing that did you no favors, style-wise.

But let’s face it, who wants to buy poorly-made clothes that are falling apart? If you can’t sell your old clothing, you can always give them a new purpose in life by upcycling them.

Upcycling refers to the process of taking old or discarded objects (like your clothes) and turning them into something of value. For instance, if your beloved collegiate clothing has seen better days, consider turning them into a cool sports blanket that you can love and cherish for years to come.

Are your ratty, old shirts not fit for a blanket? Turn them into dog rope toys for your pup (better yet, make tons of dog toys and give them to an animal shelter). There are so many cool ideas for upcycling clothing these days that you should have no trouble turning your old clothes into something unique.  

Get in Touch with Textile Recyclers

Although you may just now be hearing about it, the growing problem of textile waste has actually been going on for decades. In an effort to curb the amount of clothing that ends up in landfills, many non-profits and clothing companies have created programs to help people recycle clothing responsibly.

To ditch your old clothes the right way, the following textile recycling organizations and programs are definitely worth checking out:

  • Blue Jeans Go Green: One of the most well-known textile recycling programs, Blue Jeans Go Green takes your blue denim and upcycles it into insulation for buildings such as hospitals and schools.
  • American Textile Recycling Service: ATRS takes gently-used clothing and shoes through donation bins set up all across the United States. They also offer a cost-free program for retailers that allows customers to easily drop off unwanted clothes.
  • Simple Recycling: Simple Recycling is a free, curbside program that allows you to (almost) effortlessly recycle your used clothing. All you do is request a bag, fill it up, follow the recycling collection schedule and your clothes will be taken off your hands. Easy-peasy.

Donate Old Clothes to Those in Need

Donating your old clothes isn’t completely off the table. But to reduce the likelihood of your clothes ending up in a landfill, you need to be careful about where you donate them.

Before you donate, do your research and find out where your unsold clothing will go. For example, non-profits such as Goodwill have textile recycling programs to help keep textile waste out of landfills.

You can also donate your gently-used clothing to your local homeless center. Be sure to call ahead and ask what they’re looking for specifically.

Give Composting a Try

If your clothing is made of natural fibers, you can try composting them. Unlike synthetic fibers which won’t decompose, natural fibers such as cotton, linen, pure wool and silk are biodegradable and can be turned into compost.

Before you compost your old clothes, make sure that your biodegradable fabrics aren’t stained with paint, bleach, motor oil or other chemicals that you don’t want in your compost. Additionally, make sure that you have a lot of patience. Checking fabrics, shredding clothes, removing all the zippers and buttons is hard work!

Pawn Them Off to Friends

Do your friends always compliment you on your great sense of style? Consider letting them have first dibs on your old wardrobe. Allowing them to raid your closet is not only beneficial for the environment, it also means less work for you.

Are your friends not interested in your clothes? Don’t sweat it. Simply post your clothing to FreeCycle, a website dedicated to keeping perfectly-good stuff out of landfills.

Upgrading Your Wardrobe Responsibly 

Getting rid of your old clothes in a responsible fashion is key to reducing the sheer amount of textile waste that ends up in landfills each year. While these clothing-disposal methods can go a long way in minimizing your environmental impact, truthfully, the best thing you can do for the planet is to invest in high-quality clothing that is made to last.

Yes, the price tag may be higher initially, but think about the long-term. Well-made clothing that lasts a long time is better for the environment and better for your wallet. If that’s not fashion-forward, we don’t know what is.

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