The Hipcycle Materials Series: Fabric Waste
I'm always amazed at the number of clothes we go through in our house. Between my two growing boys, my rough-on-the-jeans Hubby and my own issues (how is it I never have ANYTHING to wear?!?) we are a virtual revolving door of fabric. Then, there is the guilt? Do I really think that someone wants my donated plethora of single, holey socks?
I had a feeling that the amount of discarded clothing each year was high, but I didn't realize it was THIS high. The EPA estimates that the average U.S. consumer discards 68 pounds of clothing each year. Can you imagine how much landfill space this requires?
It got me to thinking... what can I do make sure MY "fabric impact" does not reach 68 pounds of landfill clothing this year. Here is what I came up with by using the "3 R's and a U" model.
The first step in reducing fabric waste is to lower the amount of consumption—purchase fewer items and making better use of what it already available:
- Buy quality, not quantity. Who isn’t tempted by clearance racks and bargain bins? An $8 shirt that falls apart after one washing, however, may be more expensive per wear than an $80 shirt that you’ll wear for years. Look for well sewn seams, good quality fabrics, and classic lines that will never go out of style.
- Do a wardrobe challenge. Most of us can actually get by with fewer items of clothing than we think we can. Wardrobe challenges like 30 items for 30 days or a 6 item clothing challenge can help you learn to be content with less and give you a crash course in getting several different looks from a few key pieces.
- Buy secondhand. Designer jeans for $10? It’s possible at your local secondhand or consignment store. Buying secondhand clothing saves you money and keeps clothing out of landfills. Go with an open mind, look for quality brands, and try on before you buy. Don’t forget to check for details like stains, working zippers, and missing buttons.
- Repair. Sewing is a lost art for many people today, but simple tasks like sewing a hem or sewing on a button can be learned quickly. Making simple repairs extends the life of your clothes, saves money, and keeps textiles out of the landfill.
Anyone with older siblings knows the power of hand-me-down clothing, but there are plenty of other ways to reuse fabrics besides passing them on to some other lucky user. Here’s a quick list to get you started:
• Quilting. Fabric stores and quilting magazines tempt us with pricey fabrics, but scrap quilts can be made with almost any extra fabric you have. Jeans, old t-shirts, that bridesmaid dress your best friend promised you that you’d wear again—they all make great materials for quilts.
• Rugs. Old bedsheets or curtains can be easily repurposed into rag rugs or even heavy duty shopping bags.
• Jewelry. Would you believe that your fabric scraps can be converted into jewelry? This tutorial shows you how.
• Dog toys. Not into sewing or gluing? Old t-shirts can easily be cut into strips and braided into dog toys for your favorite pet.
• Rags. Old t-shirts or towels can also be cut into cleaning rags and repurposed for various household tasks.
If you’re not up for sewing or crafting, many fabrics can be donated or recycled. Set aside unwanted clothing items in good condition and donate them to your local charity or thrift store. Some cities also include textiles in their recycling programs. Recycled fabrics can be made into items such as rags, home insulation, or carpet padding. The Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART) can help you find a fabric recycling location near you.
Then, of course, there is Upcycle. Artisans from around the globe have diverted fabric waste into beautiful and durable products. We have a few of these items here at Hipcycle.com.
What ideas do you have to divert fabric waste? Share them below!
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Susan is Goddess of Marketing at Hipcycle and Get-It-Done Guru of Get Susan Marketing. She spends her weekends chasing after two active boys, sifting through her husband's garage sale finds and attempting to work on upcycling projects of her own.