9.22.2014

Greenest way to get rid of unwanted clothes

After my closet clean-out, I had several bags of clothes to reckon with.  In trying to leave as light a footprint as possible, my goal was to figure out the best place for these to go where they might get used.

This means I was looking to:

Firstmatch clothes with people who are most likely to use them if I know such people

Second:  get them to a place where they might have some re-sale value and be sold to a wider audience (but again, to people who want them)

Third:  for items that likely aren't all that desirable, get them to a thrift store for possible re-sale or sorting to ship overseas (wearable, just not very "current" or worthwhile vintage) or textile recycling, which can be sorting to ship overseas or for use in repurposed products like insulation, etc. if it's a single-source material like cotton (this is stuff like old t-shirts, damaged or stained items, worn out workout clothing)



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^ just one heap of many - ready to go to Housing Works ^

So, first I started a Facebook group for NYC Vegans Clothing Swap and invited a bunch of people I knew and encouraged them to invite their friends.  I figured this would be easier than waiting for swaps where the same friends showed up each time and we are all different sizes and styles.  This group would hopefully mean there was a better chance for overlap with others of similar styles and sizes.  So far I've given away a pair of shoes, got a dress and some friends have rehomed a few of their items as well.  This group might be better situated to either host larger in-person swaps or to focus on accessories and shoes online since those are easier things to have measurements for.  No one seems to want to have to measure clothing and it's hard to figure out what might fit otherwise.  Anything that hasn't gone on the swap group, I've either moved to my second step or saved for an in-person swap.  (If you are in NYC and want to join that group, just let me know.)

Second, I brought a bag of in-season stuff to Beacon's Closet and Buffalo Exchange. Twice.  I ended up with credit and I will put the rest back into my holding box for an in-person swap.

Third, I bagged up all items I didn't think would sell or be taken at a swap and brought them to Housing Works.  Housing Works has a partnership with NYC that makes them the only textile recycler operating on behalf of NYC...and they have a process for sorting clothing that involves their thrift shops (that benefit New Yorkers, as Housing Works in a non-profit), a thrift warehouse and a process for overflow.  They are transparent in their process - see below!

What happens to clothes and other items deposited into the re-fashioNYC donation bins?Your donations will be picked up and transported to Housing Works’  warehouse in Queens for sorting. Some donations will be sold in Housing Works’ shops throughout NYC or at one of their regular “all-you-can-stuff” warehouse sales. Some leftovers from these sales will be shipped to another nonprofit thrift shop in Haiti, while others will be made available to different nonprofit thrift shops for sale in their stores. The rest will be sold to a used textile merchant for recycling or export to overseas markets. In all cases, the profits generated from the sale of your donations will benefit low-income and homeless New Yorkers living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Why was Housing Works  selected as the charitable partner for re-fashioNYC?Of the many charitable organizations that answered New York City’s partnership offer, Housing Works proposed the best plan for getting the most value out of the donations and routing them back to help New Yorkers in need. According to this partnership, Housing Works is the sole and exclusive textile recycler operating on behalf of New York City.

By giving everything in my third category to Housing Works, I didn't need to sort what would get sent to a thrift store and what would really need to go to textile recycling (plus I didn't have much that was ratty as we use some of that for rags around the house).  This made my final step pretty easy - and I knew their sorting process would get things to the right place.

I'd like to hear how you pass off your unwanted apparel, accessories and shoes -- what do you consider when finding a place for this stuff to go?  What steps would you have added or done differently?

13 comments:

  1. In the US, my system was similar to yours; swap or consign nice stuff, donate the rest of the good things--- though I never put as much thought into finding the right charity as you have --- and ratty junk becomes cleaning rags. "T-Shirt Travels" has really stayed with me, I can't feel so good about tossing a huge bag of cast-offs at Goodwill or the Salvation Army any more.

    Here in Germany, there are fewer thrift stores OR consignment stores, and I barely have any friends. Time for new strategies!

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    1. I was wondering what the international differences might be! I remember hearing that there's very little vintage in Japan and wondered if that meant very few thrift stores too or just very little older items.

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  2. T-Shirt Travels has stayed with me, too. I just can't dump clothes to "charity". In Finland I've given some clothes to friends or relatives, and some I've sold them at flea markets. There is a small local charity store where we live now. It's run by a handful of people who take trips a few times a year to take clothes to small Russian villages close to the Finnish border. So at least it's not Salvation Army / Goodwill textile dumping, but the people who've collected the clothes actually go and see the people who benefit from the donations. :)

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    1. I still haven't seen it. With both of you mentioning it, I feel like I should try to find it. That charity sounds like a good option to have and be able to use.

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  3. I have a similar process. If I have an item with someone in mind, I'll save it or suggest a swap. Otherwise, I donate business wear or stuff that looks like people in their 30s wear it to a local place called Rung that gives tax receipts and donates proceeds to help disadvantaged women get clothing and resources to find jobs OR sell it at Plato's Closet or another cash/credit resale shop. The rest goes to Goodwill. They recycle or repurpose what they cannot sell.

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    1. Ah, yes - good call on the nonprofits that cater to professional clothing. I think we have Dress for Success here but I never really have that much suiting since our office is pretty casual. But that's a really good point about "niche" charities and a direct connection to how they can use in-kind clothing donations.

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  4. I go through pretty much the exact same process: 1) Try to sell anything that's sell-able to Crossroads/Buffalo Exchange/vintage stores, 2) swap (I host a quarterly/seasonal swap that luckily has many vegans in attendance), 3) donate. Numbers 1 and 2 are pretty solid, but number 3 is what I'm trying to improve on, in terms of knowing what is done with the clothing that isn't sold. The only main thrift stores we have around are Goodwill and Value Village, and each company's site isn't very transparent about what/how much they recycle each year, their processes, or where their leftover textiles go. I'm currently researching, but it doesn't seem like we have a HousingWorks equivalent nearby. I'll keep at it in hopes that we do!

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    1. I think Made to Travel is a Goodwill ambassador but maybe that's just for NJ/NYC - I'm not sure how the different Goodwills work. She might know, though. There was a discussion about Goodwill in the comments of this post: http://jesseanneo.blogspot.com/2014/03/why-thrift-stores-suck-all-text-post.html

      I can't seem to find processing info on their site and the example discussed in Overdressed is the Salvation Army.

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  5. I don't usually ever buy from Salvation Army or Goodwill anymore. I can't say never 'cause once in a blue moon I'll be stuck somewhere with nothing else to do so I wander through. We don't really have SA stores here anymore, though. I think people went off them because of their obnoxious politics. Pity, because they were once the best--but no more. I never donate to either of these, nor to any other corporate thrift-for-profit. We've got a local thrift minichain, several shops all owned by the same group, who support a battered women's shelter and associated services. I actually get most of my clothing from them; their donation sources are amazing. So when I am done with clothing, if it's in good shape, I give most of it back to them. Vintage and specific taste type stuff I give to friends or, if there are no takers, I resell online. By making extra living money this way I free up more of my hours to do volunteer work instead of having to get another "real" job..I do the rag bag thing with ratty stuff, too, though I would love to find a cotton/natural fabrics recycler. Oh, and and old sweaters that pop lots of holes earn second lives as cat bed padding. ;-D

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    1. That sounds like a good option. I think we might have a few mini chains like that in NYC besides resale chains like Beacon's Closet and Buffalo. But I think places like Out of the Closet and Housing Works are similar to what you've described.

      I like the point about economics and time as well. I sometimes feel like I'm lucky I like "looking" because you kind of need to be continuously looking to find enough things you like used. I don't think I'd buy as much of my wardrobe used if I couldn't put so much time into it. So your point about saving money because it's cheaper and therefore not having to support a higher cost of living with more work hours is interesting and worthwhile to think about. Thanks for commenting!

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  6. I love the idea of swapping although in reality haven't done so for ages. I tend to give my clothes to charity as I think that also benefits the charity.

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  7. I had the hardest time finding some place local that might actually "recycle" my rag quality clothes recently. I ended up just leaving them at Salvation Army with the label on the bag "rag quality" hoping that they had some arrangement with a textile recycler and that they didn't just throw it in their big dumpster out back. Next time I might dig a bit deeper and contact some of the more B2B sounding entries that came up when I googled. There really needs to be a more user friendly consumer level outlet for textile recycling... like a secondhand shop that has an attached warehouse/manufacturing area behind it with the promotion of -- come buy these clothes before they get shredded and made into something new, but hey want to see how it works, isn't it cool?

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  8. Great ideas! As a thrift shop manager, I have an interesting perspective on donations. Unfortunately, we can't sell more than 50% of what we get in, but we donate a lot of that to AMVETS and Advancing Native Missions, which use unwanted clothes to make textiles or send them overseas. It's certainly not a perfect system, but at least we try to get as much use as we can out of unwanted goods. The scale of our over-consumption is terrifying. - Leah, http://stylewiseguide.com

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