Fashion has this wonderful quality of allowing us to express ourselves. The colours, the cuts, the models – you are free to pick and choose what best reflects your style and personality, or even your mood on any given day. But sooner or later you have to decide what to do with the clothes in your wardrobe. Whether it’s a T-shirt, we’ve worn regularly for years or a jumper we’ve only worn once in our lives.
According to the representatives of the Helping by Dressing campaign – among the reasons for which we throw clothes away, three are the most common: they do not fit (34%), they are no longer suitable for use (35%), they have not been worn for a long time (32%). As a result, a truckload of clothes goes to a landfill every second. Every year in Poland, we generate 2.5 million tonnes of textile waste, which takes about 50 years to decompose (synthetic materials will decompose even up to 200 years). But it is worth looking at it more broadly because the clothing sector affects the environment at every stage of a product’s life cycle. Disposal is essentially the very end.
According to a 2018 UN report, the global fashion industry emits around 10% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions each year, more than international flights and shipping combined. The production of clothing also involves the use of chemicals and water. As much as 2,700 litres of water are needed to produce just one T-shirt. And for every kilo of cotton produced, 20,000 litres of water are used.
The good news is that up to 50% of textiles from waste can be recycled! Changing your attitude towards unused clothes will also mean that it could be long before your clothes end up in the bin and get replaced by new ones. Extending the life of clothes by nine months will reduce waste by 30%! Find out what you can do with your unworn clothes.
Donating is by far the easiest option. You can give your clothes away to relatives or neighbours, for example. Check if any swaps are organised in your neighbourhood, i.e. meetings where people can exchange clothes. Often such events are run by neighbourhood centres, community activity centres or community centres. If nothing is planned, you can easily organise it there yourself – ask the animators for details.
Clothes are also often accepted by social welfare organisations such as single mothers’ homes or shelters for the homeless. However, it is worth remembering to call before bringing your clothes. It may turn out that they do not accept things (e.g. due to lack of storage space), or they only collect specific items.
What is also very important – clothes donated to organisations must be in good condition. These items will ultimately go to people in need, often in difficult situations. It will undoubtedly be nicer for them to receive clean and undamaged items.
Buying second-hand clothes is not only eco-friendly but also fashionable. That’s why it’s straightforward to sell your unworn clothes online, but you should prepare well for it.
- Take photos. In the pictures, you should clearly see the features of the item. A bright background will work well. If you don’t have white walls, you can use a piece of bristol as a background.
- Name and describe the clothes. Include information about the exact dimensions and features of the product. It will make the buying decision easier and reduce the number of messages with questions. If the garment on sale has a defect (stain or hole), you should include this information in the description.
- Specify the price, payment and shipping methods – important points to avoid misunderstandings. The most effective way is the traditional bank transfer and sending the sold item by post.
3. Have fun and recycle!
Let’s agree – not everyone can sew. However, you often don’t need any special skills to make small alterations! Patches and pins will cover up smaller and medium-sized holes and stains. This can certainly be a lifesaver for many T-shirts.
What else can you do? Here are some ideas.
- Alterations. Transform a cotton T-shirt into a fabric shopping bag or cloth supply. Jumpers hemmed and filled with other clothes (e.g. shredded, unwanted T-shirts) work great as pet beds that you can donate to animal shelters. Jeans are easy to convert into shorts. Look around for ideas, and you will quickly see that there are many ways to transform unwanted clothes!
- Wall decoration. Frame materials with interesting patterns or prints for an original decoration.
- Toys. Socks and T-shirts are great for making rag dolls and puppets. These will work well not only for children but also for pets! Among other things, you can easily make a sensory mat for dogs out of unwanted clothes.
- A bedspread. Patchwork bedspreads can become a unique adornment for your bedroom or room. Use soft materials to make them.
There are lots of ways to save clothes from being thrown away. Each of them has its benefit! You can do a lot to help those in need or simply profit from it. Maybe you will discover a new passion for sewing and alterations, perhaps you will make something new out of your old clothes, or perhaps you will have some cash in your wallet. No matter what you choose – you’re protecting the environment. And that’s the beauty of it!