You know that feeling that kids get on Christmas morning when they march down the stairs to find a tree full of presents and shiny gifts? That magical excitement and glint in the eye? I liken that to the feeling I get when a fellow parent passes along a bag of second-hand kids clothes. Oh the joy! To not have to run to the store each time my kids shoot up inches over night! To have back-up clothes at the ready when holes present in the knees or when yesterday’s style is yesterday’s news! To avoid the busy shopping malls and the delays on online orders! Needless to say, as a parent, I love hand-me-downs. And as a person, privileged to live on this planet, I love them too and know how important extending the life-cycle of clothing is, from an environmental perspective. Which is why I included “Donate Old Clothing” as an Act of Kindness in My Kindness Advent Calendar - for your fellow parents and for the planet.
The environmental impact of the clothing industry
Did you know that the average American wears about 50 pounds of clothes every year? That’s a lot of material and takes massive amounts of energy to produce, transport and dispose of. In fact, it takes more than 1,800 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans! And that doesn’t even include the water used in their production or the resources needed to create them. Wow.
Things get even more shocking when we know that all those new clothes may only be worn for a few years before they end up in a landfill somewhere. Especially in the case of kids, who grow SO fast and outgrow their clothes faster than we can shop for the next size up! The average child will use around 40-50 t-shirts a year, which adds up to over 400 pounds of waste. That’s enough clothing to fill two large garbage bags per week for 20 weeks!
It's estimated that in North America, more than 10 million tonnes of textiles are sent to landfills every year, 95% of which could be re-used or recycled.
So, if you are mindful of consumption and extending your clothes life-cycle by donating, re-using and upcycling clothing, then you are performing an act of kindness that can not only help minimize the environmental impact of the textile industry but also help others and maybe even stimulate your creative side too!
How can we offset the impact on the environment of the clothing industry
Reduce: Buy fewer new clothes
Try to emphasize quality over quantity and consider reducing the size of your child's wardrobe. Simplicity can be helpful for kids too, by still providing them choice without creating overwhelm which leads to indecision. Creating a capsule wardrobe is an interesting option for kids or adults. And if you can afford it, you may want to try to purchase locally made clothing to support clothing designers where you live and decrease the environmental impacts that come with transporting clothes overseas as well.
Repair: Fix what needs fixing
If you have both the time and some skill, you can make repairs to clothes to extend their life. You don't necessarily need a fancy sewing machine - a basic sewing kit and some YouTube tutorials will go a long way to get your started. Patches are back in style just like the good old days!
Make: Create what you need
Feeling a little creative? Try your hand and making some pieces to supplement your child’s wardrobe. You can add accessories or combine pieces to make something new. Or you might be able to use some items from your own closet that you no longer use like an old sweatshirt or dress which will cut your cost of material. Even let your kids get creative as their old clothes need a new life. That old t-shirt can become a trendy new crop top, stained clothes make a wonderful canvas for tie-dye. You may have a budding fashion designer on your hands!
Recycle: Donate or Hand Down Old Clothes
Children frequently grow out of their clothes before they wear them out. If you have a younger child who could grow into it, then put them away and store them for later. You may also have friends, family or neighbours who have children who are a little bit younger and might want some hand-me-downs.
If you don't have anyone that you know of who might appreciate hand me downs, you can donate them to organizations that will donate and resell them to others like Goodwill or the Salvation Army or look for families in need in your local community groups, churches, schools or community organizations.
Upcycle - Turn your old clothes into something useful
What is Upcycling?
Upcycling is reusing materials in a way that creates something else. For example: turning an old sweater into a pillow or using a piece of wood as a cutting board.
There are many ways to upcycle your clothes. You could turn them into rags, quilts, pillows, curtains, baskets, crafts, accessories, etc. There are so many possibilities! Here are some fun DIY projects for upcycling your old clothes into something new!
- Turn old sweaters into mittens
- Make an old apron from an adult dress shirt
- Make a cowl neck scarf from an old sweater
- Make bracelets from old t-shirts
- Make a cute play crown for your kids from old jeans
- Make adorable baby headbands from old baby pants
- Make an entry rug from old t-shirts
There are so many creative ideas out there! Get googling and creating to find the best ways to use your old clothes! Happy crafting!