Spring in full swing! And with it comes everyone’s favorite task — spring cleaning. With the fresh air and sunshine, it feels great to de-clutter and sanitize spaces to prepare for a wonderful summer. But with spring cleaning often comes waste — and textiles (i.e. clothing) are some of the most wasteful items because they generally can’t be recycled. Instead, textile items at the end of their lives are typically disposed of in the garbage.
Fast fashion and even responsibly made clothes can have a huge carbon footprint and generate a lot of waste, which makes our closets one of the best places to start a spring clean. I personally love to look at my closet and see everything in one glance. This approach helps me have a better idea of what I have — and makes getting dressed far easier! Here are a few simple tips I’ve found to make your spring closet cleaning more sustainable:
Change your wardrobe with the seasons. I have a box of winter clothing that I put away in the summer, and a box of summer clothing I put away in the winter. Storing clothing that I only use seasonally helps maintain an organized closet, making it easier to know what I already have and what I may need. This helps reduce the amount of new clothing I buy each year.
Learn the art of the repair. If you have clothing that is well loved (and may have a hole or two as a result!) don’t get rid of it quite yet! You can easily extend the life of your clothes by mending holes, loose threads, and more. It’s very simple to learn how to repair things on your own, and there are many resources (including some great YouTube tutorials) to help you make your mend. The Utah Recycling Alliance also hosts Fix-It Clinics where expert fixers help repair items, including clothing. Check our events calendar to find the next Fix-It Clinic near you.
Think beyond the landfill. There are many places that your used clothing can go besides the landfill! If your clothes are in good condition, you may be able to consign them at a local shop and earn a little money back. You could also attend or host a clothing swap to facilitate an exchange of used clothing in good condition between friends or family. You can often also donate used clothing to a thrift store, homeless shelter, or animal shelter: just be sure that the clothing is still in usable condition. Donation centers can get overwhelmed with spring cleaning donations, and we don’t want to bog them down by dropping off clothing that is at the end of its life. Also, keep in mind that some donation centers may reach capacity and stop accepting items for a certain period of time. If you can, it's best to select a place in your house to store items for donation until they can be accepted rather than sending them to the landfill.
Creatively reuse any textiles that are near the end of their life. There are so many things you can do with old clothing. Try making a rag to use for other spring cleaning tasks, re-stuffing your dog’s bed, making a t-shirt produce bag or knot rug (tutorials found here: https://www.hgtv.com/design/make-and-celebrate/handmade/recycled-t-shirt-produce-bags-pictures and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFlBkxuBU8g).
If you have clothing made of natural fibers, you may be able to compost it. Click here to learn more: https://www.compostthis.co.uk/old-clothes
Shop sustainably. You’ve done the hard work to clean your closet — now you can keep it organized and green by buying only clothing that you need and that will last for a long time before breaking down. By thinking about an item of clothing’s end of life before you buy it, you can start making more sustainable shopping choices.