Recently, I’ve started cleaning out closets in a bid to encourage minimalism and greener living. Our closets are full of clothes that will never be worn. The first step to greener living is to change the way we shop for clothing. By reducing how much we buy, opting for resale items, and avoiding fast fashion, we can have a positive impact on the environment. But what do we do with all of the items we purge? In the past, I would take all of my clothes to a donation bin box without considering whether or not they were actually fit for donation. The problem with doing this is that the charities that receive these clothes often use only about 20 – 30% of what’s given to them. The rest either ends up in a landfill or gets shipped abroad to a 3rd world country where the textiles sit in massive heaps, leaching dyes and chemicals and posing a major environmental threat. There’s a better way to donate those unwanted items.
Stop Dumping Trash on Charities!
I’m guilty of doing this. I don’t like putting stuff in the trash. I never stopped to consider the shoes I was giving away were too worn out to be useful or the clothing items that were stained and torn were not suitable for donation. I bagged up everything regardless of whether or not it could be used. By doing so, I haven’t kept anything out of the landfill, I’ve only made it someone else’s problem to dispose of. I want to do better, so I decided to do a little research about better ways to donate.
Choose Local Charities over Large Organizations
According to Fashionista larger organizations like Goodwill, Red Racks, and the Salvation Army can only use a small portion of what’s given to them. The rest is either sold to for-profit companies that export the clothes to 3rd world countries or dumped in a landfill. It’s better to give to local churches, women’s shelters, and homeless shelters. The clothes are more likely to be used and less likely to be marked up for a profit. Fortunately, there are several local charities in my hometown and my next plan is to give them a call to make sure I’m giving them only what they need and use.
Donate what is Needed
Some items just should be donated. Clothes that are ripped, torn, stained, or inappropriate should not be dumped on charities. I’m currently getting in touch with several local charities to find out which items they need the most. I was surprised to learn one charity needed more men’s clothing than women’s. Another wanted mostly children’s clothing and new socks and underwear (do NOT donate used undergarments and socks). To know for sure what a local charity needs, it’s important to call first.
General Do’s and Don’ts
Food is one of the most needed items at charities, especially around the holidays. There are some items, however, that local food banks cannot take. Do not bring opened food or cans that have been punctured or dented. Make sure you check expiration dates before you bring in items to donate. Some food banks take expired items, but it’s always good to call and ask first. The best items to bring are canned goods and foods that don’t require refrigeration like apples, potatoes, and other fruits and vegetables.
Any clothing items donated should be new or gently used, in good condition, and not stained or torn. Check for wear and tear and ask yourself if this is a good item to give before shoving it in the donation box. Also, make sure any clothes you’re getting ready to donate have been properly washed and dried first. Fold them neatly instead of just shoving items in a trash bag. And any shoes donated should not be too worn, but still wearable and in good condition.
Charities are often in need of small furniture pieces, small appliances, toys, books, movies, and other household items. It should be common sense not to donate items that are broken or in poor condition. Also, items that can easily grow mold such as dehumidifiers should not be donated. Some items that may have been recalled or updated such as children’s car seats are also discouraged. But just because a local charity won’t take an item, doesn’t mean there aren’t other places where you can take these items. Many charities will list alternative locations such as electronic or mattress recycling centers. Here are some other resources to help you determine which items can be donated and which items cannot.
As always, it’s good to call ahead of time to make sure the stuff you have to donate is actually needed. Some organizations have an abundance of something and won’t need more. Get in touch with your local charities and see where help is needed the most.