Sustainability School: Garment End of Life

Posted by Katia Hagen on

This edition of Sustainability School will be focused on what to do with garments when you are done with them. Now there are many ways you can be 'done' with a garment. It doesn't fit anymore, you no longer like or wear it, it is stained, it's ripped or ruined beyond repair. So today I want to break down different ways/venues to take when you have reached these points and in the most ecological ways possible.

1) Garment is in fine shape but you don't want it.
This is an obvious one but I'll include it just in case. There has been a really great trend in Swap parties wherein you bring your unwanted clothing to a big group and everyone can choose garments to keep based on how many they have brought in. 
You can also donate these to second hand shops or even sell them through venues like Varage Sale or DePop

2) Garment is stained.
One of my personal favourite things to do with white or lightly coloured garments (made from natural fibres or else the dye won't stick) is to dye them a new color. It's a fun way to do a DIY project and if it's a style you really love but have stained, it's a great way to give it new life and extend the time you can wear it. I use low impact fibre reactive dyes. But a more consumer friendly way is they sell Tie Dye Kits at craft stores like Michaels and Omer Deserres. You can find different techniques on youtube and make a day of it with friends/family! If you are good at drawing you can even get fabric markets and draw designs on your clothes! There are so many creative opportunities here :)

OR if you don't want to dye it, follow the next option!

3) Garment is ruined beyond repair.

Here is the one I really wanted to get into today. Depending on what the garment is and what it is made of you have essentially two options.
 

A - Compost

Yes! You can compost clothing. But there are specifications that are important. They need to be made from natural fibres. Think Organic Cotton, Linen, Hemp (things like wool and animal fibres as well if you are not vegan). It also depends on what kind of dyes were used on the garments. Let's say you have a cotton t-shirt with a slogan printed on it, chances are the slogan part is not compostable. This great article explains what to look for in composting!
If you have garments from Lights of All to compost, chances are they are perfect for it! If it's Organic Cotton, Hemp or Linen and has been made using non-toxic dyes here is what you can do to facilitate composting!
First, its important to note that composting garments is something you can do privately (your home composting) but our cities are not equipped/able to yet and if you put your clothing in your composting bin you might just ruin the lot. So for the time being - do it at home!
Best thing to do would be to cut/rip the garment up into shreds and mix it into your soil, try to disperse it as much as you can and not leave it all in one clump. These materials are strong so it will take some time for them to decompose. But they will!!

B - For garments made from synthetic materials (polyester, Nylon, Recycled Polyester, etc) Make sure to clean the garment before, but you can hand these over to your local second hand shops. Think Value Village or Salvation Army! These companies resell wearable garments to consumers but a little known fact is they also send the non-wearable/non-sellable ones to companies who repurpose them. They actually only sell 25% of what is donated through the shops. A lot of used clothing end up being insulation, cushioning in cars, recycled into other fabrics and more! So if you're thinking 'oh I can't donate this no one will wear it in this condition' you're wrong! You can still donate them and the second hand shops will know exactly what to do! Just keep in mind that they still need to be clean! 

Another easy DIY option, depending on what your garment is made from - you can cut it up and use as rags around the house. This will help eliminate your need for paper towels and you can use and clean these until you can't anymore.

Do you have any other ideas and tips about what to do with garments at the end of their life?

Image from this blog post by Trusted Clothing


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