Raise your hand if you have ever shopped at a thrift store? Keep your hand up if you have ever been disappointed while flipping through a rack to see brands like LuLaRoe and Shein pop up everywhere? This is exactly what happens to Portland resale shops when our impulse purchases turn into donation fluff. Places like Goodwill, Salvation Army, and even local charity shops are bombarded by the amount of unsellable clothing being donated that leaves them with the unfortunate responsibility of disposing of it. The harsh reality of clothing donation is that while it may feel good, it may not always do good.
If you are reading this, chances are you are already aware of the negative impact the fashion industry holds. So instead of listing already known facts we are going to follow a pair of donated jeans through a few scenarios to get the real picture.
You donate those jeans to Goodwill
Keeping in mind they are in good condition (not soiled, torn, or otherwise unsuitable), those jeans actually don’t spend much time on the rack before being removed from the store. According to Google, they have 4 weeks to sell. After that they are sent to either a textile recycler (best scenario), burned, or wrapped up in a bundle and sold to less developed countries. While the latter might sound like a good alternative, it is usually a catastrophic burden for those on the receiving end. More on this specific topic in a future blog post.
You toss them in a roadside donation bin
Many of those bins are for-profit textile recycling companies posing as a charitable organization. In order to make sure you are donating to a reputable charity, make sure the bin has proper signage and do some background homework before trusting them with your goods.
You take the jeans back to the shop for their takeback program
Brands like H&M, Primark, and other fast fashion brands have in-store programs that allow customers to bring in worn items, usually enticing them to purchase more in the process. There are a few issues here:
- This can be a brand’s attempt at greenwashing.
- It is hard to recycle fibers that aren’t meant to last in the first place. Cough cough fast fashion brands.
- Fibers with mixed materials are almost impossible to separate making them incredibly difficult to repurpose.
Instead, shop at brands that follow a responsible takeback program:
Patagonia, Girlfriend Collective, and Reformation for example.
You throw them in the trash
It can take hundreds of years for those jeans to decompose. And chances are they are not 100% cotton so whatever other synthetic material they are mixed with will pollute along the way. Dumping clothes in the trash bin not only hurts the planet but also wastes all the materials, resources, and sewing time it took for them to exist in the first place. Please avoid throwing away your garments!
By now you are probably thinking no matter what I do, there are no good alternatives. Well I am here to tell you that there are!
First step is to be thoughtful about your donations. Always check charity donation guidelines before donating, take your items to your local women's shelter or garment specific charity, or to us at HWGA where we send all our donations to a local small charity called Mainspring Portland.
Other than donating, there are a ton of ways to get more mileage out of your clothing such as:
- Mending, Tailoring, & Upcycling
- Clothing swaps can be a fun way to redirect textile waste. Also a good way to connect with your community.
- Shop consignment/resale! This is our favorite option because, duh.
Another way to reduce your fashion footprint is to buy quality over quantity. Don’t fall for micro-trends. Learn how to take care of the clothes you already have and when you do buy, choose thoughtful, sustainable options.
That covers it. Have any donation recommendations? Please share them in the comments section!
Till next week,