How To Recycle And Repurpose Used Clothing

 Giving Your Clothes New Life

We are more conscious than ever about the things we own, since caring for what we already have is the best way we can live a more sustainable life. But even the best-loved clothing can get damaged or stained, and our bodies and tastes can change over the years so that the once beloved item now hangs in the back of the closet, forgotten.

The change of seasons brings the perfect opportunity to do a wardrobe assessment. As you clean and pack away this season’s clothes and pull out your storage items, carefully look at each piece. Did you wear it this season? Is it in need of repair or tailoring? Have you been meaning to upgrade or replace it? Be honest with yourself, and take your time.

Luckily, there are more than enough ways to be mindful and sustainable when it’s time to consider the next phase of a garment’s life. Here are 10 ways we can give old clothes a second chance and make an impact, beyond just donating to Goodwill.


1. Host a garage sale & donate the proceeds 🏠

We’re feeling nostalgic thinking back to our neighborhood block parties and garage sales—and these small-town events are a fun and easy way to give away your old clothes and turn a profit. If possible, we encourage you to donate the proceeds to organizations like the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, or your local branch of the International Rescue Committee.

 

2. Donate your gently used clothes to local refugees 🤝

If you’re looking to support refugees, newly immigrated families, or those seeking shelter with community programs or churches, there are many resources out there to find the best place for you. Not sure where to start? Check out the Hello Neighbor Network, a coalition of grassroots organizations working with refugees across the nation, to find volunteer opportunities including mentorship, hosting, education support, and more.

 

3. Donate clothes to retailers & receive a discount🧾

Businesses today have become more socially conscious than ever before, and many companies will now accept donated clothes in exchange for store credit or a discount. Some of our favorites include B-Corp Reformation which utilizes textile recycling, or Madewell which turns your old denim into housing insulation for local communities in need (and gives you $20 off your next pair!👖). One of our favorite ethical brands Cuyana offers resale programs when you’re finished with their products; simply send back in a pre-labeled bag and earn store credit or resale cash, all while benefitting their nonprofit partner H.E.A.R.T. (Helping Ease Abuse Related Trauma).

 

4. Find local nonprofits for clothing drives 👠

We all know about the Salvation Army and Goodwill, but oftentimes, there are local chapters of nonprofits that could use our excess clothing. Community organizations like Dress for Success, and Back On My Feet are often looking for gently-used clothing or shoes for those in need of a fresh start. Many organizations will also include a wishlist of their biggest wants and needs, and of course, these donations will be tax deductible.

 

5. Shop secondhand 🏷

One of my favorite bargain-hunting methods is to head to the local thrift shop, especially those that support communities in need. Thrift stores like Housing Works or Habitat ReStore will oftentimes partner with churches or nonprofit organizations to better the lives of those they serve—if you’re not sure where to look, a quick Google search in your area should get you started!

 

6. Host a clothing swap with friends & family 👯‍♀️

What is more fun than inviting your loved ones over for a traditional clothing swap? Have each attendee bring at least 5-10 pieces they no longer wear that are still in good condition, set out some appetizers and drinks, and get the party started! You can even heighten the anticipation with some photos beforehand of what you’re giving away! Everyone will walk away with a new wardrobe and feel even more excited for the next time around.

 

7. Recycle your textiles ♼

We all have those one pair of jeans that we’ve worn the life out of or that shirt we just couldn’t bear to part with until it had holes in the sleeves. If your clothing is ruined and no longer wearable, consider donating to your local textile recycling program. Americans discard over 10 million tons of unwanted fabric per year, contributing to waste in landfills and harming the environment—most of these fabrics, however, can be recycled into something new through programs like GrowNYC or the Bay Area’s USAgain.

 

8. DIY old clothes into something new ✂

Turn your clothing into something else functional, like a rug, quilt, or grocery store bag. You can easily turn your old shirts into a rug using a hula hoop or through weaving (do a search on Pinterest for some easy how-to guides!), and services like Project Repat transform your tees into a quilt while providing fair wages and US-based jobs. Worst case scenario? Use them as rags around the house— they’re durable, easy to wash and reuse, and free. 💸

 

9. Learn to mend & repair your clothing 🪡

If you’re in love with your clothes despite their holes and tears, the most sustainable thing you can do is learn how to patch them up! Check out Instagram accounts like this one for inspo on creative mending to make your clothes last as long as possible. 🧵 Too far gone? Consider turning the garment into something totally new: Transform your jean jacket into an effortless vest by slicing off the arms, or cut the bottoms of your jeans and add some lace to make shorts in time for warmer weather. A simple sewing class online or workshop will give you all the tools you need to revitalize your most beloved pieces.

 

10. Consign & resell 🛍

If the pieces you’re looking to give away still have tags or are barely worn, you can quickly throw them on a site like Tradesy or thredUP and make money without ever leaving your home. These sites will offer you a payout for each piece, and all you have to do is then ship the item—easy and efficient! If you’d like to sell them in person, stop by Plato’s Closet or similar businesses to get cash or store credit for your retired goods.


 

Henah Velez (she/her) is the Senior Editor at Money with Katie at Morning Brew, as well as a writer at The Good Trade. She holds a Master's in Social Entrepreneurship and is a proud Rutgers grad. Originally from NJ, Henah’s now in the Bay Area where she loves shopping small, hanging with her pets, or traveling. Say hi on Instagram!



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