Picture this: It’s Sunday morning and the only thing on your “to do” list today is to finally clean out your wardrobe and drop off your old clothes to your local charity. Donating your old, unwanted clothes is an amazingly satisfying feeling. Not only do you feel like you have reduced clutter but, you’re making a contribution to those in need. But once you drop your clothes off, their journey may not be as simple as you think.
Consumerism in the US has reached record levels, Americans buy 4 times more clothes as they did in 1980. Charities have clothes in extreme excess as their own storages are full to the brim. Your donation goes thru a process of “triage” like this:
10-20% resold to thrift stores, yeyy !
80% is distributed like this:
A small portion is unsaleable and goes straight to trash (landfill)
About half gets recycled and the other half gets imported and sold to second-hand markets in Africa, unfortunately there is an issue with this.
Even though sending clothes to people in less-developed sounds like you’re doing something nice….. Africa doesn’t want your hand-me-downs . The importation of these clothes from the west is extremely damaging to these counties. In fact, a handful of countries in the EAC (East African Community) proposed banning imported used clothing in an effort to boost the development of local textile and clothing manufacturing. Although the local second-hand markets employ thousands of people manufacturers are saying “it’s killing our textile & apparel industry which are crucial for employment creation, poverty reduction, and advancement in technological capability.”
Dead white man’s clothes research project shows 40% of the unsold goods from the second-hand clothing markets go straight to landfills or dumped in the Gulf of Guinea.
There is no perfect solution for now except cutting down on the amount of clothing that we donate.
Here’s 6 tips to help minimize our consumption:
- Buy less- Control your urge to shop for no reason and end up with shit you don’t need.
- Go for brands or quality- This may seem a little bougie but buying clothes that have a good resell value is a great way to take full use an item. It will last longer and you have higher chances to re-sell it
- Buy natural fibers – What comes from the earth goes back to the earth. Biodegrade organic textile like hemp, cotton, silk & cashmere are easy to decompose compared to synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon & spandex which could take from 20-200 years to decompose.
- Sell your clothes- Humans are weird and we tend to value stuff we pay, far more than freebies. Try to sell your clothes online before assuming its trash. Making $ on your old clothes is a great way to afford your brand new 40$ sustainable t-shirt you always wanted 🙂
- Take care of your clothes. Keep your clothes in good conditions, they will last longer. Invest in quality environmentally friendly detergents , to-go stain removers pens, etc. Visit your local tailor for repairs like; zippers, holes, tared linings, size adjustments.
- Swap party- Invite your friends over, have them bring all of their unwanted clothes and swap ! Don't forget to throw-in some booze and there! you have a fun sustainable swap party!