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Buy Wisely

Now in its third year, King County and Seattle Public Utilities’ Threadcycle program urges people to take used clothing items to one of the dozens of donation locations operated by nine partner organizations throughout Seattle and King County. Ripped, worn and stained clothes and linens, holey socks, and “singles” of items that are normally paired, can be recycled and turned into new products.

But did you know there’s another way to reduce textile waste? While recycling items is much better than throwing them away, even the recycling process takes energy and valuable natural resources.

The production of new clothing is also extremely resource-intensive. The emergence of “fast fashion,” or the mass production and sale of low-cost clothing items (due to rapidly changing fashion trends), is creating negative economic, labor, and environmental impacts. According to fashion industry magnate Eileen Fisher, “The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world…second only to oil.” The communities most heavily affected by that pollution are those in which the clothing is produced—some of the least developed countries in the world with the most lax environmental and worker safety regulations.

Spring signals a season for renewal or a fresh start. Let’s embrace that sentiment and pledge to reduce textile waste by buying wisely, giving cloths and linens already in the closet a new purpose, or Threadcycling items that can’t be repaired or reused. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Gather your friends, family, neighbors, or coworkers to do a closet swap. A clothing exchange party is a great way to get new pieces for your wardrobe without spending a penny or sending anything to the landfill. Winning!
  • Mend clothing and repair shoes that you already own to keep them in good condition. If you’re not up to the challenge, pay a visit to your local tailor shop, or ask around and see if someone you know is a sewing aficionado.
  • Buy only what you truly need, which for many will mean buying less. You don’t need the same shirt in 7 different colors. Consider adopting the minimalist look. Try searching “minimalist closet” on YouTube for inspiration.
  • Take a page out of Macklemore’s book and embrace thrift shopping. Buying secondhand clothes, shoes, and linens extends the life of these items.
  • Re-Fashion. DIY projects are fun! Why not get creative and repurpose some items? Turn fraying jeans into cute cut-off shorts. Faded T-shirt? Say hello to a new, comfy pajama top. Ripped T-shirt? Make a fun rag rug, or repurpose into cleaning cloths for your garage or kitchen. Got a tear in your bed sheet? Use it as a drop cloth for painting projects.   

Learn more about the impact of fast fashion with this 2 minute video, The Business of Fast Fashion, or read this Newsweek article, “Fashion is creating an environmental crisis.

For more resources on how and where to recycle your clothes, shoes, and linens check out Threadcycle. Particularly proud of a textile item you gave new life to? We’d love to see it! Snap a picture and tag SPU on Twitter or Facebook.