Give a Sh!rt about donating your clothes

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Landfills are laundry piles. North Americans are tossing 26 billion pounds of clothing and textiles into landfills each year, where they produce a staggering environmental footprint. But this is only the tip of the iceberg – there’s work to be done so we can fix this growing problem of clothing waste.

Every year, more than half of North Americans choose to throw their unwanted clothing and household goods in the trash instead of engaging in the reuse cycle, according to the second annual Savers State of Reuse Report.

While people still admit to throwing out their used goods, we are making progress; 81 percent reported they donated in 2016 with one in three reporting they donated more in 2016 than they did in 2015. Our report also revealed people are misinformed about clothing reuse, which is amounting to more waste. Knowing isn’t enough. We want to use this report’s data to help uncover potential solutions.

Lack of Awareness

Despite the rise in donations, there is still considerable waste happening due to lack of awareness on reuse. For example, 60 percent of people believe that leaving the lights on overnight has a greater environmental impact than purchasing one new pair of jeans. That is false. Considering that leaving the lights on overnight uses 16 kilowatt hours of electricity, and it takes 111 kilowatt hours to produce one pair of jeans, that’s a misperception that has real environmental consequences. Not to mention it also takes nearly 1,800 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans!

The environmental impact is clear, so why aren’t people donating? A key finding from this year’s report is that there are still a lot of misperceptions around what can be reused or recycled. Sixty-two percent of respondents who did not donate their unwanted items said this was because they thought a donation center wouldn’t take them.

People Want to Help Their Local Communities

The 2017 State of Reuse Report also illuminated potential incentives to mitigate the growing problem of clothing waste. People are overwhelmingly interested in helping their local communities through donating unwanted clothing and household goods: 51 percent of participants said they donated used goods to help their local community, while only 13 percent said they donated to help the environment.

Additionally, 71 percent of participants said a key benefit of donating unwanted items is knowing that others could be positively impacted. We now know a critical way to encourage people to donate more is by showing how their donation can impact their neighbors and community.

Environmental Need

Regardless of motivation, donating unwanted clothing helps communities AND the environment. According to this year’s State of Reuse Report, 75 percent of participants agreed with the statement, “If I better understood how my actions hurt or helped the planet, I would be more likely to make environmentally conscious decisions.” Considering the average person creates over 81 pounds of textile waste per year, a simple way to help is by donating your clothes instead of throwing them away.

With these new findings, let’s educate one another on the lasting environmental impact of clothing waste while emphasizing the good that rethinking reuse does in our communities.

Next time, choose a donation bin over the trash bin. Make the call, schedule the home pick-up with organizations that support community-based programs and services or put your items in your car so you can drop them off when you pass a donation center and make a difference.

To read the full Savers State of Reuse Report and find out more ways you can give a sh!rt about the environment, visit www.rethinkreuse.com.

Popular in the Community