It’s been a crazy few weeks here at SpinachHQ, which you may not realize, because this is only slightly different from normal. Today was Bike to Work day in DC (I rode in! Did you?!?!), with meetups and pit stops all over the city for participants. As for the Spinach heads: Dan has been dashing off to exotic locations like Nashville, TN for reporting (no doubt a critical story on emerging trends in cowboy hats), Kara is once again working for our beloved United States Congress, leading to the renaming of The Hill into simply “Kara,” and Ryan decided that because he loves three-day weekends, we need several new holidays during the months of May and June to augment the joy of Memorial Day. So, he created some new ones and recycled several old ones, because he also LOVES recycling. Labor day will now occur in BOTH May and September every year. Talk about doing more with less. To celebrate, he went to Yosemite.
As for me, I woke up this morning and realized that it’s suddenly summer, and I have Nothing To Wear.
OK, so not REALLY nothing to wear, because like most normal people, there is clearly SOMETHING in my closet. But it is time for me to grab a few pieces for my summer work wardrobe, which I never do until I’ve gotten rid of something as well, which leads me to….well, to the part where right about now, you’re asking yourself what the heck this has to do with the environment. Allow me to illuminate.
Did you know that approximately 1 billion clothing items are sent to landfills every single year? Around the globe, clothing that we don’t like, don’t use, or have outgrown and dump into the garbage creates 500,000 tons of trash every year. That’s a lot of waste. Especially when you consider just how many people live with so little in other parts of the world.
Spring and summer is a time when a lot of people like to clean house, and a lot of times that means going through old clothing. Or, maybe you just went on a super diet and lost a bunch of weight, and now nothing fits. Maybe you just woke up this morning and realized that you were actually recovering from a concussion last year when you thought that bright yellow was your color. Now it’s all sitting there, in your closet, STARING AT YOU…what to do?
In London, Marks & Spencers stores might have your answer. Their “shwopping” campaign is part of a corporate effort to promote social responsibility and environmental efforts. You can drop clothing at a drop box in any of their stores, and the clothing will be re-used, re-sold, or recycled. Sometimes the garments are given to designers who will repurpose them, other times, the fabric or materials themselves are reused. Regardless, your clothing will never end up in a landfill, and the proceeds benefit OXFAM international and their social efforts. Theirs isn’t the only effort, either. If you’ve ever wondered whether or not there is a purpose for your old clothing item, consider this: Free the Girls is a nonprofit organization that collects donated women’s bras to aid those rescued from sex trafficking. Bet you didn’t think you could donate that, eh?
Alternately, if your item is new, in good condition, was only worn once, etc, you could also try a clothing swap- and there might be something in it for you! Business week profiled this growing trend recently, which let’s you swap out that dress you wore once to a friend’s wedding, or the shirt that still has the tags on for something that you love- for much less effort and much more fun than traditional consignment options. Aided by online tools such as meetup.com or swapstyle.com, swapping new or gently used clothing is a way to “recycle” your clothes – and maybe even get something new in return. (Side note: apparently, if you want to host a clothing-swap party with your friends, both Etsy and Evite will give you a template invitation!) There are also more public clothing swaps, usually events that are organized to raise money for a charity where there is a small ($10 is what I’ve seen most) entry fee plus whatever clothing you decide to bring.
So: as you embark on whatever late-Spring cleaning you might be thinking about, keep that old T-shirt or those pants you’ll never wear again out of a landfill. Donate, swap, sell, or re-purpose it. Just because you can’t use it doesn’t mean someone else won’t.