Your Guide to an Eco-Friendly Closet Purge
I love "Spring Cleaning" so much I do it at least 4x a year...
Which honestly, now that we have 52 seasons of fashion, instead of the 4 we used to have 10 or so years ago, it's kind of the only way to keep up without buying a storage unit or moving apartments every year...AS IF!
However, I have noticed that now that I shop more consciously (aka much less frequently), I don't have to clean out my closet very often. I'm just one of those type-A weirdos who does still love a good sort out on a Sunday :) However, there inevitably comes a time when something is too worn or doesn't fit me anymore.
While getting rid of unwanted clothing is personally freeing, we should always make sure to do so in a way that isn't wasteful or damaging to the environment.
I was truly shocked earlier this year when I found out that the average person dumps between 70 and 80lbs of clothing and textiles into the GARBAGE each year. Horrified really. I thought everyone knew that those items inevitably end up sitting in a landfill and releasing toxic fumes into the environment as they decompose - for ex, a simple cotton tee shirt (no rayon/poly plastic fibers) can take up 100 years to decompose! But I've tried to put myself in other people's shoes and I think this information is not as readily available to everyone as it must have been to me working in fashion for several years, and tossing old or worn items in the garbage must simply seem like the easiest option...more to come here.
Even dropping off a bag of clothes at the neighborhood Goodwill, we have come to realize in recent years, is far from ideal. Less than 10% of donated items are actually sold in Goodwill stores, and even less than that is either tossed or sold overseas, eventually ending up in the same landfills we tried to save them from in the first place. The insanely low margins on the overseas used clothing market has brought chaos and corruption to the local garment industries in those countries. Finally, items that don't make it to market there, or wind up unsold, are sent to our own landfills, where they have been infamously burned or left to rot for 200+ years.
SO WHAT ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO - RUN AROUND NAKED?!
Breathe, here are some other suggestions...
1. BUY LESS CLOTHING.
I know what you're thinking (because it's what I'm thinking) YEAH RIGHT. Here me out...
This is such a simple concept, but can tend to strike fear in the heart of the fashion-worshippers among us, especially those who have been conditioned to this new fast-fashion model of "here today, gone tomorrow" splashed across social media. So no, I am not at all suggesting that you stop buying the pieces that make you happy and trends that you love, but I AM suggesting that we all start buying less frequently and choosing more well-made pieces. This is the absolute best way to be more responsible with your closet, and to start investing in quality over quantity.
Again, I reiterate for those of you still having heart palpitations - I'm not advising my fellow fashion-lovers to stop shopping completely. I'm simply suggesting that you buy thoughtfully. Pick the brands you really love, who have values that you admire, and stick with them. Plan your purchases for the seasons - do you need a new coat? Body suit? Flat leather boots? Keep in mind when these things come to market and when they go on sale! You, your wallet, your closet, and the environment will all be much happier as a result.
2. GIVE OR SELL YOUR USED CLOTHES TO FRIENDS.
This method seems to be gaining more and more popularity. I love seeing someone I know giving new life to an item that no longer suited me. There's a few different ways to go about this:
- Host a "Bazar Bash" at your house. I did this over the summer at my apartment and loved it! I set out all of my items, had some refreshments available (Bellinis and bites! Can you tell we love a theme?) while friends perused the selection. It's basically a clothing swap!
- Surprise a friend with a piece of yours that they love. This has brought me so much joy in the past! Instead of only giving away items that are on their last legs, consider giving away a piece that's still in great condition, but perhaps just isn't your style anymore, to someone who will love it.
- Start your own side-hustle on Bazar! If you're looking for a marketplace to buy and sell your fashions in a sustainable and charitable way, without all the pesky fees, check out our Seller Resources.
3. ORDER A BAZAR BAG
This is one of the easiest ways to responsibly get rid of old clothing. Bazar will send you a bag with a prepaid shipping label to fill with any gently used clothing or textiles to donate to a charity of your choice. You send the full bag back to us and we will process it on your behalf! We currently partner with a bunch of charities for both monetary and physical donations, check them out here.
We also provide an option for you to enter in a charity that is especially close to your heart (please let us know your favorites, we love this!) We are also currently on the hunt for a textile recycling partner that will take post-consumer textiles and responsibly recycle the materials they receive to keep the clothing donations received out of landfills. Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you know of any orgs like this!
4. SELL AT YOUR LOCAL CONSIGNMENT STORE
The cool thing about selling clothes to consignment stores is that you know they'll only accept pieces that are pretty much guaranteed to sell. This means they are less likely to throw away items that they acquire! However, keep in mind that most consignment stores, like the other reseller sites, carry a hefty fee for their services (most in the 30-40% range). So if you're not in a super rush to sell - aka, have a trunk or spare drawer where you can store your unwanted items for some time, I always encourage cross-listing - stay tuned for another article to come on this!
Many of these thrift shops are associated with local charities or clothing banks that will take any of the items that they do not unfortunately sell. The key is to look for the ones that accept post-consumer (aka worn / gently used) items before dropping them off to be recycled. Remember to always sell the items that are in season (ie coats in winter and shorts in summer) and to make sure they are in the best condition possible before selling (ie freshly washed or dry cleaned).
5. DONATE LOCALLY
One of the best things you can do if you want clean out your own closet — while still being gentle on the planet — is to look into local organizations that collect clothes. By working with local organizations that collect and distribute your items to those in need near your home, you’re directly serving your own community, meaning there’s practically no chance of your goods ending up in the wrong hands.
Key places to look for donation acceptance, that need items on an almost continuous basis are local women's shelters, hospitals, churches. Also schools will occasionally host themed clothing drives, such as coat drives before winter or disaster relief partnerships.
6. KEEP AN OPEN MIND
There will always be some items that just cannot be reused and would be pretty strange to donate (hello socks with holes in them and old underwear). But giving clothes a second try, and rediscovering new outfit pairings is probably the most sustainable option that many people don't consider enough. Tailoring, hemming and dyeing certain outfits are much less costly ways to completely transform an item you aren't excited about anymore, to one that feels brand new.
I understand may feel like a little more effort to pursue these options at first, but trust me when I say it's really just a habit change. Plus you can earn money, help someone in need, swap for a new item, donate to a cause close to your heart, or at least take comfort knowing your clothes aren't dangerously decomposing somewhere! If you want to do all the above, all at once in a one-stop-shop, I hope to see you soon @thisisbazar :) my goal is always to help make this as easy as possible, so that it gets done more than ever.