The definition of slow fashion or environmentally conscious fashion is the production of clothing with the intention of respecting the workers, the environment and animals during the process. Also, the overall intent is not to encourage overconsumption as fast fashion does – where we, as consumers, are continually tempted into buying new trendy clothing we don’t need.
Fast fashion, on the other hand, is the fast creation of low quality, cheaply made garments that don’t last and quickly end up in land fills. This is extremely detrimental for the environment especially as the waste accumulates and causes landfill overflow in gargantuan quantities over time. In an effort to produce fast fashion with a very quick turnaround time, these companies may also not show enough concern for their workers or the environment with their manufacturing processes.
As consumers, so many of us are drawn to Marie Kondo style de-clutters in our effort to simplify our lives. As we go through the decluttering process, we can adopt the concepts of slow fashion and respecting the environment with conscious consumption and by responsibly re-using or disposing of our clothes. We can ask ourselves the question – “How can I keep my clothing in good use for the longest period of time?“.
Here are 6 responsible strategies to consider when disposing of or re-purposing your clothing as you declutter:
- Give your like new or barely used clothing to people in your life who would value it. If you have clothing that doesn’t fit any longer or that your kids have grown out of, that is practically brand new or, if you have a pregnancy or work wardrobe that you no longer need – consider giving it to people in your life that are in the season to use and love what lies unused in your closet.
- Sell or swap your pre-loved clothing. Some of us may feel hesitant about selling our clothing. However, this is an excellent way to make sure that the garment ends up with someone who actually wants it and is looking for that exact thing. Consider listing it on poshmark, depop, thredup, ebay or any other re-sale site. As a second option, find clothing swaps in your local area or swap gently used clothes with family and friends. Even if you don’t end up making a lot of money, you’ll have the satisfaction of participating in a circular economy.
- Alter, repair or redesign – Upcycle your garments. Take a closer look at your donation pile. Figure out if you can repair the garment, alter it to fit you better or redesign it entirely. Can you turn an unworn dress into a skirt you will wear? Can you take in something that is too large – or turn a pile of old t-shirts into a memory quilt? Can you dye a pair of jeans that is looking worse for the wear – or turn them into a skirt or tote? Also, do the same with shoes. Can you get a pair of shoes re-soled? Consider going to a tailor and/or a cobbler with your “to be fixed” pile.
- Be mindful about where you donate clothes and household items. Instead of putting them in a donation bin or dropping them off outside a thrift store where they may just end up throwing them away if they don’t fit certain criteria, do some research and be intentional about where you take them. If you have children’s clothes, seek out an organization that specifically provides gently used clothing to children in need. If you have spare eyeglasses, choose an organization that focuses on sending donated eyeglasses to local or global areas in need.
- Don’t give up on clothing that is too worn to be repaired – Downcycle instead. Turn old, holey clothing into neat squares of different sizes to use as rags for cleaning. Line dog beds with soft, worn clothing or donate it to an animal shelter so they can do the same. Cut up worn clothing into strips to use as filling for cushions or pillows that are losing their shape.
- As a last option, take your clothing to stores or textile recycling plants that take clothes either to donate or to recycle. If you search for key phrases like “give back box” or “manufacturer/retailer take-back programs” on google, you can find companies that will take clothing in any condition and either repurpose it or recycle the textiles. Use this option only if you haven’t found a way to directly donate to someone who will value and use what you want to donate or if your clothes are beyond the repair and re-use stage.
Bonus tip: Purchase responsibly as well. Only purchase high quality long lasting items if you can and buy exactly what you need rather than multiples of the same item in different colors. Sometimes we tire of the same thing and the multiples end up in the land fill. If we collectively do something about this and purchase less clothing over all, we can make a big difference together!