Like most Americans, I have way too much clothing. When I stopped working fulltime, I cleared out a lot of my business clothing. And I stopped buying as much new stuff. Still, my closets bulge, my dresser drawers are crammed.
I don’t have the heart to open a couple of those crammed drawers and do a count, but, if I count the pale periwinkle and light green versions, I do believe I have ten pairs of jeans. At least. Why?
The count may be lower for khakis. But if I factor in cropped pants, well, let’s just say I have plenty. Black pants. OMG. By the numbers, jeans equivalent, at least.
And how many sweaters do I own? Could it possibly be fifty? Yes, it could.
Some are pricey Peruvian Connection ones that I won’t get rid of until they fall apart. The first of those PC sweaters I got in 1989, so I do tend to hang onto clothing that I love. Still… Do I need two periwinkle, cashmere v-neck sweaters? And four pale aqua cotton ones?
Let’s not get into scarves. Let’s just not.
I promise, I pinky slippy swear, that I am going to thin the sweater, jeans, and everything else herds when I do my winter-summer clothing flip.
Everything that hasn’t been worn in the last year or two: GONE. Everything that’s at the bottom of that infinity ironing basket: OUTIE OUT OUT OUT.
Where to? I’ll bring them over to St. Francis House, even though I know that all of what I leave on their doorstep won’t get used. The jeans will. Warm sweaters. That Barney-colored Patagonia fleece. (What was I thinking, other than that it was on sale…) Business clothing (although I don’t have all that much to offer there). Maybe that taupe pant suit. When was the last time I wore that sucker?
Another organization – I can’t remember if it’s Morgan Memorial or Goodwill – handles the clothing donations for St. Francis House, and they find a home for some of the clothing that SFH can’t use. The rest gets ragged.
And I do know for certain that SFH uses some of what I’ve given them. I’ve see folks around The House wearing clothing that I’m pretty certain came out of my donation bag.
But I’ve never given much thought to the full journey that donated clothing goes on. Until I saw an article on HuffPo the other day, which includes the grim fact that a ton – actually 12 million pounds in 2013 – ends up moldering in landfill.
The HuffPo article focused on Goodwill, which in 2015 collected over 85 million pounds in NY and NJ alone.
When Goodwill gets a bag of donated clothing, they look through it figure out what they can sell in one of their stores.
Wet or mildew-y clothes are eliminated, but everything else is fair game.
Okay. Who donates wet or mildew-y clothing? I suppose if they left a bag overnight at a Goodwill store on a rainy night…
Anyway, clothing stays on the shop floor at a Goodwill store for a month. If it doesn’t sell, it moves on to a Goodwill sell-by-the-pound or 99 cent outlet.
If the outlet doesn’t work out for those jeans and sweaters, they move to Goodwill auctions, where attendees blind bid on bins full of stuff. Which could theoretically be full of vintage Chanel suits or polyester 1970’s leisure suits with top stitching.
Whatever’s left at that point goes to a textile recycling organization, from whence it is “either re-sold into the U.S. used clothing industry or sent overseas into markets with more demand.”
Beyond that, 30 percent of donated clothes at S.M.A.R.T. [a textile recycler] is cut into rags for industrial use, and 20 percent is processed into a soft fiber filling for furniture, home insulation, car sound-proofing and more.
And some, inevitably, ends up in landfills. (The would be the wet and moldy donations.) As does the clothing that you put out in your trash because it’s too worn and sweat-stained to put into a donation bin, or you’re too lazy to find a place to take your used clothing.
There are two bottom lines here. One, you should donate your used clothing, even if a lot of it gets ragged or landfilled. And, two, we should all stop buying clothing we don’t need.
Those two pairs of shoes coming from Zappo’s? I almost need them. Those PJ’s from LL Bean? Well, one of my flannel nightgowns is getting pretty thin.
Not buying clothing is just plain easier said than done, I guess. As we say when on the hunt, “the word ‘need’ never enters into a true shopper’s vocabulary.’ But I am going to go through my existing stock pretty ruthlessly any day now.
Throughout grammar school and high school, I wore a green jumper and white blouse. Every day.
I know I can do with a lot less.
The problem is, do I want to?
Maybe now that I have a better appreciation of the environmental impact of clothing waste – all those nasty, festering landfills – I’ll think twice before buying that next pair of jeans, that next cool sweater.