Every year, billions of pounds of clothes are thrown into landfills to be buried forever. The US EPA reported that 66% of the textiles produced in the U.S. are sent to the landfill, which is equivalent to about 22.6 billion pounds. Of that amount, 18.14 billion pounds consist of clothing and footwear. This not only leads to a waste of resources, but also results in millions of pounds of carbon dioxide and methane being emitted, contributing to atmospheric warming and climate change.
As consumerism and capitalism continue to drive our fashion choices, this pattern is likely to persist. However, as consumers we have the power to change this and divert our clothing and textile waste away from the landfills. There are many sustainable practices we can adopt instead of throwing away our old clothing, shoes, blankets, etc.
First let’s go through some ways to reduce the need to get rid of your clothes in the first place.
- Avoid purchasing trendy clothes
Clothing trends have always been around, but with the current fast fashion industry and the help of social media influencers, trends are coming and going more frequently. These are known as microtrends. Some clothing item or shoe will be trendy for 1-3 weeks, people will purchase said item, and in a few weeks when it’s no longer trendy, the item will sit in a closet before it’s thrown away or donated to a thrift store.
To break this cycle, consider investing in timeless and classic pieces that have neutral colors and patterns; items you can see yourself wearing five or even ten years from now.
- Invest in high quality clothes
Comfortability, thickness, stitching, and fabric blend are all characteristics to look for in a lasting garment.
- Comfortability — If a garment is itchy or rough, you’ll likely not wear it very much.
- Thickness — Thin garments will not last as long as thicker ones.
- Stitching — Well-stitched clothes will pass the tug-test, which is when you tug on stitching and buttons to make sure it won’t fall apart.
- Fabric Blend — A blend of cotton and polyester allows for the softness and breathability of cotton and the durability and wrinkle resistance of polyester.
- Repair clothes
Have a hole in a pair of jeans, sweater, or t-shirt? Don’t throw them away! Repair them! Take your garments to a repair shop, tailor, or learn how to repair your clothes yourself. We live in a time where we have access to a wide variety of resources to help repair our clothes, from online tutorials to community center classes. Consider even asking friends and family if they know how to sew and if they can help.
- Properly take care of clothes
According to the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), 32% of people always read the care instructions, 42% sometimes read the instructions, and 23% rarely or never read the instructions. If you’ve bought a brand-new garment or pair of shoes, chances are that there is a label with care instructions on it. Following these instructions will ensure the longevity of the clothes you spend money on. Here is a guide from the ACI on how to read the fabric care symbols on the tags of your clothes!
Now that we’ve gone over how to reduce textile waste and how to make sure clothes last, here are some ways to reuse unwanted textiles/clothing instead of sending them to the landfill.
- Upcycle textiles/clothes
Give your textiles another life by upcycling them into a new garment or textile. A pair of jeans can become a skirt, a t-shirt can become a tote bag, a sweater can become a pillowcase. There are so many creative ways to upcycle what you have. Find ideas online to inspire you; the possibilities are endless.
- Donate to a women’s/family/unhoused shelter
Instead of donating to a thrift store, try donating to a shelter for unhoused individuals. Not everybody has money to buy clothes, so donating clothes to a shelter is a great way to make sure your clothes are going to people who need it.
- Donate textiles to an animal shelter
There may be animal shelters in your area that will accept old towels, blankets, etc. to keep some fur babies warm! Call your local shelter to check their needs.
- Host a clothes swap with your friends and/or community
Swapping clothes is a fun way to not only part with unwanted items, but also receive new-to-you clothes, all while avoiding sending them to the landfill!
These are some of the many ways we can extend the life of our textiles and prevent them from being buried in the landfill forever. We hope these tips are insightful and helpful in your textile waste reduction journey! Let us know if you use any of these tips!