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How to Donate and Trade Old Clothes and Shoes

While it’s true that changing your wardrobe with the seasons feels good, adhering to “out with the old and in with the new” does not need to be bad for the planet. In fact, recycling your old clothes and shoes is a powerful way to not just live more sustainably but to help others and support important causes.

4 Easy Ways to Donate and Trade Old Clothes and Shoes

Most discarded clothes and shoes end up in a landfill, just like plastic bottles and other refuse; however, recycling these items will do a lot to reduce your footprint. Beyond that, by making these items accessible, you help provide affordable, good-quality clothing to those who need it; you also cut down on the energy used to produce the new, often lesser quality, items they would have spent money on. In short, recycling old clothes and shoes is a win-win- win situation for you, for those who receive them and for the earth itself! Here are some easy ways to get started.

1. Donate Them to a Non-Profit

From the American Red Cross, who uses clothing donations to help disaster victims, to United Way, who uses them to clothe poor and at-risk communities, there are many noble non-profit organizations that will accept your old clothing and shoe donations right off the bat. Running thrift stores is a popular way for many non-profits to raise funds, since donated clothes are turned into cheap digs for others, and the proceeds support the organizations’ efforts – another winning situation.

Stand-out organizations that run thrift stores where you can simply drop off your old clothes and shoes include:

Out of the Closet

With 96 cents out of every dollar sold at one of their stores going directly to the HIV and AIDS programs and services of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Out of the Closet is an awesome place to recycle your gear. Use their handy interactive map to find a store or drop-off center near you or to contact them about picking up items directly from your home.

Goodwill

A giant in the global movement for a just world, Goodwill operates a network of social programs funded by its thrift stores. Thanks to Goodwill’s mission to employ people who face obstacles finding traditional employment (everyone from veterans to those with developmental disabilities), donating your clothes and shoes to this non-profit is a powerful way to support a truly heart-based sustainable clothing operation.

The Salvation Army

Running treatment homes for addicts by way of sales from its thrift stores, the Salvation Army is another great place to hit up with a donation of clothes and shoes you don’t need any longer. While its network of stores is vast, the Salvation Army also offers plenty of drop-off centers. On the website you’ll find an easy-to- use drop-off site locator and a form for scheduling a free pick-up right from your home.

2. Give Them For Rewards at H&M and Other Retailers

To combat the sheer amount of waste generating by throwing away clothes and shoes, the retail giant H&M has launched a campaign that gives you 15 percent off when you bring in garments or textiles like towels to recycle. After the huge success of this campaign, other major brands are now following suit including Levi’s, who provides free shipping labels on their website for recycling jeans (you will receive a 20 percent off coupon in return) and The North Face, where a drop off of old clothes or shoes will get you $10 credit towards anything in the store.

3. Trade Them for Vintage Kicks

One of the most unsustainable aspects of the fashion industry is the incredible energy used in shipping clothing around the world. Yet an easy way to join the ethical fashion movement is to simply shop locally, or better yet, recycle locally.

By bringing in your used clothes and shoes for trade at a local vintage clothing store, you are closing the loop of fast fashion (where cheaply made clothing is transported across the world at a huge cost to the environment, only to be worn a few times before ending up in the garbage) by contributing to a much more sustainable loop that keeps the same clothes and materials in rotation within a local sphere of influence.

Most vintage shops let you trade in your old clothes for credit toward new fits; this way, you get the same pleasurable buzz when shopping for clothes, you help the planet, and you save money in the process. In fact, many vintage outlets will even buy your old clothes and shoes from you, usually for a lesser amount than what they offer on trade-in value, meaning you can even get paid for recycling and doing the ethical thing!

4. Donate Them to a Homeless Shelter

Vintage shops will only accept clothes in good condition, and thrift stores run by non-profits will turn down items with damage or too much wear. But just because a sweater has a hole in it or shoe soles are a bit smooth doesn’t mean you should toss them in the garbage. Homeless shelters usually have a high demand for clothes, especially during winter months when those who live on the streets face the very real possibility of dying simply because they do not have sufficient protection from the cold.

To combat this horrible reality, most homeless shelters have bins of clothes that are readily available to the homeless population and will gladly accept whatever you have to offer them, as long as the items are in clean condition.

The ethical fashion movement is much more than just what you wear, it’s about thinking about the entire life chain of your clothing, from production to disposal. This makes recycling your used clothes and shoes at a homeless shelter or non-profit center one of the most humane and ecological choices you can make.

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