Last updated on April 20th, 2021 at 12:25 pm
Do you want to decrease your wardrobe’s carbon footprint, but wonder what to do with that pile of ratty t-shirts? This zero-waste guide to upcycling and repurposing your clothes can help you with that!
Each year as a household manager to a family of five, I end up with boxes of clothes that are either too small, stained, ripped, or worn out. Over the years I have come up with ways to make sure that very few of those clothes end up in the landfill. All of those different tips for zero waste clothing consumption are on this list, plus ways to repurpose clothing that I found on Pinterest.
The Ultimate Zero Waste Guide For Upcycling Or Repurposing Clothing
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What To Do With Clothes That Are Still In Good Shape
After visiting my local thrift store years ago and hearing the volunteers complain about the high cost of trash removal for items that were donated in poor shape, I realized that perhaps some of us don’t understand the definition of clothing in good shape.
So here it is: clothing that is in good shape shows little to no signs of wear. It does not have stains, rips, holes, pilling, missing buttons, bleach marks, broken zippers, or clasps that no longer function.
Clothing in this category can be passed along to another person who can use it. Here are a few ways to put your no longer needed clothing into the hands of people who do need it.
Six different ways you can sell your clothing:
1. Sell clothes on Facebook either to your friends through a virtual yard sale album or to those in your community through a Facebook buy and sell group (of Facebook Marketplace).
6. You can also sell them online through places such as…
Poshmark–Use my referral code SNAILPACER when you download the Poshmark app and join Poshmark. When you do, you will get $10 off your first order.
Three Different Ways To Donate Your Clothing
1. Give your child’s clothes to a family with children smaller than yours who are on a tight budget.
2. Hold a clothing swap party with your friends (here are a few different variations of themed swap parties that can help you save money and the earth, as well as tips on how to hold a successful one).
3. Donate them to a local thrift store or Goodwill.
Repurpose or Upcycle Your Clothing Into Something You Or Someone Else Will Love
I have done this a time or two and find a lot of personal satisfaction in it.
Here are a few ideas I found on Pinterest
What To Do With Clothing That Is Not In Good Condition
Now that we have addressed what to do with the clothing that is in good shape it is time to decide what to do with all the clothing that isn’t.
Save on paper towels and make them into rags for cleaning.
If you want more ideas, visit my Pinterest board, where I collect ideas on ways to upcycle a t-shirt.
Visit my Pinterest board for repurposing old jeans for more ideas.
Cotton Blouses, Skirts, and Dresses
Collect together several items and make a baby quilt–or a large one if you want to.
And if you want ideas for what to do with your old stretched-out sweaters, visit this Pinterest board.
Pinterest is full of ideas to help you turn anything you have that is no longer useful into something that is. If you prefer a book over a blog post, then here are a few books that look like they would be great at igniting your creativity.
- Wear, Repair, Repurpose: A Maker’s Guide To Mending And Upcycling Clothes
- Visual Mending: Artful Stitchery To Repair And Refresh Your Favorite Things
- Upcycling Crafts: 100 Upcycling Projects That Reuse Old Clothes
Other Ways To Reduce Your Fashion Carbon Footprint
Now that we have addressed what to do with the clothes that you no longer need, fit in, or that are in bad shape, let’s move on to how to reduce the piles of cast-off and worn-out clothing.
Growing up, I heard my mom say the following over and over, “One to wear, one in the wash, and one to spare.” I did own more than three outfits thanks to generous hand-me-downs from my cousins. The three outfit rule was more for my “best” clothing, as I grew up in a day when kids changed into play clothes after school. Hey–I am not that old, I am a Generation Xer, but I think my age group was the last to grow up with play clothes.
Now that I am grown up, I use the three outfit rule more as a guide for “types” of clothing; three tanks, three t-shirts, etc. Obeying this rule gives me plenty of variety, yet doesn’t overwhelm my closet.
If I had to give a percentage value to how much of my wardrobe was bought used versus new, it would be roughly 85% used to 15% new.
Buying used clothing not only saves money, but is a great way to lessen your carbon footprint. You are saving an item from the landfill and reducing the need for new items to be manufactured.
I buy most of my secondhand clothing at Goodwill (here is a series I wrote that will help you find quality items you will wear at a great price at Goodwill).
Another way I buy clothing without increasing the need for further manufacturing is through ThredUp. At ThredUp I buy new with tags clothing at clearance prices. ThredUp is my favorite place to find workout clothing as I find that most workout clothing at thrift stores near me is worn out. At ThredUp, I can get it brand new through sellers who bought it and never wore it. Here is my referral link for ThredUp. When you use it, you get $10 towards your first purchase.
I have also been able to find new shoes (Birkenstocks) still in the box through Poshmark at a discount of 50% off retail price. Again, these Birkenstocks were bought and rejected by their first owner–I gave them a forever home.
Use my referral code SNAILPACER when you download the app and join Poshmark. When you do, you will get $10 off your first order.
When I do buy new clothing, I have learned to look for quality pieces. Paying a bit more up front will mean tossing less later on. I tend to get bored of these items long before they wear out and I can pass them on instead of having to find a way to repurpose what is left of them or throw them in the trash.
I often don’t pay more than a few dollars per item to purchase a garment that will last over one that won’t since I have quite a few thrifty tips up my sleeve that really don’t take long to apply and reap the savings.
Here are the tools I use most often to save money on new quality clothing:
- I sign up for emails from the companies I shop at most so that I am notified of sales.
- I have the Honey browser tool installed on my computer to alert me to promo codes that may work on my purchases (and it applies them for me at the click of a button).
- I have the Rakuten browser tool installed on my computer, and after I use Honey, I activate it if Rakuten is offering a cash back for that site.
- When cashing out, I use my point rewards credit card (don’t use this tip unless you pay your credit card in full month after month).
Take Care Of It
Did you know that not only does hanging your clothes to dry save on electricity, it also makes your clothes last longer? At least that is what this article over at Money Talk News says (see point 3). To be honest, I don’t hang dry all of my family’s clothing, but I do have a drying rack similar to this in our bathroom and I use it to dry my jeans and everyone’s activewear. I read somewhere that these items can benefit the most from hang drying (but I can’t remember where).
Another way to lengthen the life span of your clothing is to deal with stains promptly. I have yet to meet a stain that hasn’t come out when I put a quarter cup of this green cleaner in a basin with a few cups of cold water and swish it around and then add the item to the basin and allow it soak overnight.
Truth be told, I would rather repurpose an item than repair it. However, I have been known to resew a loose seam, sew on a button, or do other simple repairs if I feel that the garment has a lot more wear left in it. If you don’t know these basic skills, there is always YouTube to teach you how.
I hope these tips help you reduce the number of clothing items your family tosses in the garbage to as close to zero as possible. I also hope they inspire you to look at that ripped shirt with creativity and upcycle it into something new that you will love just as much–if not more–than the shirt it was.
More Posts That Share Environmentally Friendly Living Tips
- 2o Websites and Apps For Saving Money On Organic & Whole Foods
- 15 Ways To Save Money On Real Food
- 8 Must-Have Ingredients For Making Simple DIY Cleaners
- An Insulated Tumbler That Is Easy To Clean, Fits Anywhere, And Can Take A Beating
Do you want to save or earn money? Join my Thrifty People Of Snail Pace Transformations Facebook group where I share tips for doing both.