Wednesday, June 3, 2015

June 2015 Blog Article

Orginally printed in Nature's Pathways - June 2014

Clothes Minded Donating

by Lindsay Leno

Donating clothes is the perfect way to discard old or unwanted items, however the process of how and who to donate to has an impact that reaches further than the average do-gooder thinks.  Donating unwanted garments and accessories is a great way to help charities while keeping used goods out of our landfills.  Sometimes people are unaware that donating to charities that are large and reach global status can have a lasting, negative impact on developing countries as well as resources that are used to ship the goods long distances.  To prevent any negative impact all it takes is just a little bit of research to keep items local so that the effect plays a positive role in your local community.

Sending garments and accessories to developing nations seems like a good deed, at first glance.  Despite the fact that these countries lag behind in many respects it is a little known fact that developing nations actually depend upon their thriving textile business to support their growing infrastructure.  The textile industry includes the farmers that provide the cotton, the weavers that created fabrics, the dyers that individualize the fabrics, the markets and merchants that sell the fabric, as well as the patron that purchases and uses the fabric.  Here in the states we only use 15-20% of used clothing to resell in thrift stores. The remaining used garments are redistributed with 30% repurposed into industrial rags, 25% become recycled fibers, and 45% are shipped overseas as garments for reuse. (De Jesus and Kay, 2012).  Sending and shipping thousands of pounds of textile goods to developing nations directly impacts their textile industry as well as the individuals that rely on it as their sole livelihood.  It plays off the heartstrings to see a child wearing clothing that has an American sport logo on it because we believe we’re doing our part to provide for that child’s basic needs.  However, the impact on the nation’s industry is much more detrimental than we can understand.  We could point fingers at how this has played out, but it is a complex issue and there are no easy answers.  Luckily, there are a few easy steps we can take on a local level to ensure we are doing our part both in our community and to help those in need in developing nations.

Donating at a local level by doing a little bit of research ensures that items are redistributed within the community for people in need.  This helps people within the local community and prevents negatively impacting the textile industry in developing countries all while keeping the environmental impact to a minimum that would otherwise be compromised due to shipping mass amounts of garments overseas.  Research small, local thrift stores that take donations as well as local churches and schools that have clothing banks for those in need.  Most schools and churches have a system in place to help their congregants and students.  Beyond finding ways to donate goods locally it may create a dilemma on ways to than best help people in developing countries to have basic needs such as clothing.  It’s far better to purchase products from their local economy and donate through an organization within their country than to send our used goods.  Purchasing items that are certified Fair Trade also help people thrive by focusing on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicraftscoffee, and cocoa to name a few.

One recommendation for a local organization in Madison and Janesville is Agrace Thrift Store where their mission is to partner with several area businesses and organizations to help ensure that saleable donated merchandise gets back into the community to be used again, rather than ending up in a landfill. In addition to making sense for the environment, these partnerships also help support the local economy, making the quality merchandise available at very thrifty prices.
Also research local churches and schools within your community to ensure a local effort at helping those in need.

Understanding where our second hand clothing ultimately is donated to helps us control the outcome.  Giving used goods to a local charity or church will directly help the local community and economy.  Donating clothes to large charities, despite knowing that a portion is refurbished or recycled, can create a negative impact on developing nation’s local economies.  By doing a little research we can best make a positive impact in our local community while understanding that making conscious donations in other nations will ultimately help those in need in other nations.

And always swap at Upshift to keep it totally local (to Madison) and totally sustainable.

De Jesus, J. and Kay, T. (2012). Ethical Style: Where Do My Used Clothes Go? Retrieved from

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