As most Americans know, the green movement is big right now, and recycling everything from clothing to natural resources is one of the easiest ways to save our planet. However, not only does the environment benefit from these efforts, but so do people who are in need.
Although recycling may seem like a fairly new idea, it’s not. Humans have been reusing metals since the beginning of the Bronze Age 3,000 years ago, but it is plastics and other mass-produced materials that we have yet to get the hang of recycling.
Yet while metal recycling can often turn a profit (and this profit, not the issue of sustainability, is what motivates these initiatives), clothing and fabric often wind up in landfills instead. Synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon, and rayon, along with natural fibers like cotton, make up approximately 5% of all garbage.
And that’s not the most surprising figure when it comes to waste: Americans are purchasing more clothing per year than we did a few decades ago, going from an average of 25 garments per person in 1960 to over 70 pieces of clothing per person 50 years later. Because polyester manufacturing requires the use of petroleum, rayon is derived from wood pulp, and cotton is dependent on pesticides, our desire for new clothing production has a profound impact on the environment due to pollution and deforestation. Additionally, much of this clothing is not manufactured to last long, so many people tend to throw it away once it is no longer useful.
The most obvious alternative to discarding our clothing when we no longer want it, however, is to donate it instead. In 2007, the worth of clothing-related donations made to charity in the United States was approximately $5.8 billion, and in 2011, Americans donated or recycled an estimated 2 million tons of clothing and textiles.
Americans purchase an average of 10 used articles of clothing per year, and many other receive these donated garments for free. The benefit of clothing and textile donations to charities is clear, as low income, homeless, and disabled Americans, in addition to many of our nation’s military veterans, all depend on these low-cost or free items.
Recycling programs sometimes partner with causes such as the Military Order of the Purple Heart veterans pick up for clothing and other recyclable goods to go toward aiding those in need.
Donating used items to charity may not bring profits, but the benefits to society are numerous. In addition to clothing, other household goods, such as those made of plastics and metals, are also welcomed by charities that donate to the disadvantaged. Many recycling services offer home pick ups and have convenient drop off locations, as well, to take your used items.
If you are interested in helping others and saving the environment, now is a great time to begin donating. All it takes is a few minutes of time cleaning out your closet, and you can ensure that the Earth and your fellow citizens can benefit your charity.