The Zero-Waste Wardrobe?

Although I started Project 333 on June 1st, the official summer session starts July 1. I joined the Project 333 Quick Start Course and am getting lots of great ideas. It’s also a nice community and I’m meeting other Minimalists there.

Karo, one of the other people taking the course, posted a link today on the course’s private Facebook group to a really thought-provoking Slate Magazine article about what happens to clothes after you donate them to a charity, such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army, here in the United States.

The article discusses how the nicest clothes are sent to the thrift store for resale, then the worn clothes are sent to a textile recycler (for pulp/rags) and then the medium-ish clothes that are not quite new or didn’t sell are compressed into cubes, shrink-wrapped and shipped overseas.

It’s kind of horrifying to think what these people must think of us….hyper-consumers who give away new or slightly worn clothes because we are bored with them. Apparently there is a whole market overseas for cast-off, nearly new American clothes.

It made me glad I am doing Project 333, because I am really using every item in my assigned wardrobe. There’s no waste. Once the project is over I will probably add in a few items again, but I think my permanent wardrobe will be smaller now. I’ve gotten used to thinking I need more than I really do. I thought a couple of weeks of clothing per season was a small wardrobe, but now I realize I can manage on even less that that with a well-chosen, coordinated capsule wardrobe.

Before, I could just give away extra clothes to charity and forget about them, but I think now I will always remember those shrink-wrapped cubes of discarded clothes. How much nicer to have a small wardrobe of well-loved items that you will wear until they are worn out. They’ll still end up with the textile recycler eventually, but at least the energy and materials that made them won’t be completely wasted.

It’s funny – I have thought about socially responsible shopping more from a cruelty or free trade perspective but never really just from a waste-generating perspective. I have thought about zero waste in terms of household trash but had not thought of clothes as waste, because I thought someone could use them. But according to the article, so many clothes are donated, it far exceeds the actual need, and at a certain point, it just becomes garbage. Food for thought!

This entry was posted in Consumerism, Decluttering, Downsizing, Frugality, Minimalism, Simple Living, Wardrobe. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Zero-Waste Wardrobe?

  1. This article really got me thinking about the waste our wardrobes can produce:

    It’s crazy how many outfits we think we need. I remember being horrified at the though of wearing the same thing two weeks in a row!

  2. Audrey says:

    I’ve always known about this because Chamlian Enterprises in town is a huge waste rag business. Mrs. Chamlian, however, dressed in the latest designer fashions. Because we have such a high poverty level in the San Joaquin Valley, the clothing that is donated at least to our Assistance League thrift shop where I volunteered, is either sold at the store or donated to other charitable groups . They often end up going to farm workers.

    • I’m glad to hear that about Assistance League, Audrey. I used to belong to the chapter here in Orange County and my family donated to their thrift shop over the years. It’s nice to think local farm workers are getting some of the clothes.

  3. Hulya says:

    Hi Simpler. Easier. Happier.
    I’m relatively new to the blogland, however, am very happy to find your inspiring blog. I’m enjoying my minimalist existence and my new blogging adventure. I have nominated your blog for One Lovely Blog Award. All the best.

  4. Pingback: One Lovely Blog | Simpler. Easier. Happier.

  5. This is a home made dress we bought on eBay. So far, it seems to be making it. I really like this one, so I hope it does!

  6. That’s awesome. I think that buying home made items is really important -that way you are supporting someone who has their own cottage industry, rather than a big corporation. Maybe a mom working from home or something like that. And hand made items are more personal and often better quality! I really like buying items from Etsy for that reason. I didn’t think your link/photo came through for the dress if you want to try posting it again.

  7. Pingback: Some Good Reading… « Journey to Ithaca

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