One of the biggest enemies of sustainable fashion is over-consumption. We’re encouraged to buy much more than what we need, leaving us with closets stuffed with clothes we don’t even wear. Then, in a flash of inspiration, we do a big declutter and many of our clothes wind up on the discard pile.
Getting rid of your old clothes in an eco-friendly way starts with changing your mindset. Sure, there are choices you can make that are a lot better than sending clothing to the landfill. But the most sustainable option is having fewer clothes to get rid of in the first place.
So first, choose carefully when you’re shopping. Buying high-quality clothes means you’ll be able to wear them for longer, and having high standards for what you spend on will help you choose clothes you’ll actually wear and enjoy. Download our checklist for conscious shopping, to help you find sustainable items you love.
Having said that, everyone needs to get rid of old clothes now and then. Here’s how to tackle your discard pile in a way that’s kind to the planet.
Reinvent your clothes
The first question to ask before you throw out clothing is, are you sure you want to get rid of it?
Before you dismiss a garment you haven’t worn much, try to figure out why you’ve left it in the drawer. Then, consider fixing the issue rather than getting rid of it altogether. Maybe the neckline is too tight or it’s missing a button, in which case some basic sewing skills could possibly solve the problem and make the item one you’ll love to wear.
If you can’t pinpoint what’s wrong but you just never reach for it, it might be because you’re not sure how to wear that garment with the other pieces in your wardrobe.
Spend some time pairing a rarely-worn item with your other clothing, to see if you can make some new outfits you hadn’t considered before.
When you find a combination you like, take a photo with your phone as a reminder. When you’re stuck for something to wear, you can then pull out your phone to remind yourself of the outfits you put together.
Organise a clothes swap
Now for the clothes you’re just never going to wear. If they’re still in good condition, the old saying that ‘one person’s trash is another’s treasure’ applies. A good way to get rid of your good used clothes is to invite a few friends over for a clothes swap.
Ask each guest to bring some good-quality used clothes they don’t wear anymore, and catch up with your friends while you all have fun looking through the items.
Remember, try not to grab a whole lot of new clothes you’re not going to wear – be choosy and select only pieces you really like. It’s a good idea to try the clothing on too, to make sure it fits well and looks good on you.
At the end of your clothes swap, you might like to ask each friend to take away any garments they brought that weren’t successfully swapped. This will save you having to discard them later.
Sell your old clothes
You might be able to get some cash back for your good used clothes. This is especially true for designer clothing, or pieces that are expensive to buy new, like a winter coat or formal dress.
The downside to selling clothes includes the time you’ll need to invest, and being disappointed if an item doesn’t sell for what you thought it would. But if your clothes are still in good condition and there’s a market for them, you might be able to turn your old clothing into a good amount of cash.
Try these options for selling your clothes
- TradeMe, which gives you access to more potential buyers and an easy online platform to work with. But remember it can take up quite a lot of time, whether it’s taking photos, measuring your clothing or answering questions from potential buyers.
- A consignment store, which means the shop does the hard work of selling your items for you, if they’re accepted by the store. Once a piece is sold, they’ll give you a percentage of the proceeds, but they’ll also take a cut for the work they’ve put in – meaning you might make less money than with other methods.
- A garage sale, which keeps things local and means you don’t need to worry about shipping anything once it’s sold. But successful garage sales do require work, including making signs and advertising, and you’ll need to be prepared to haggle with bargain hunters.
Give gently-worn garments away
Resurrect old fabrics