It’s that time of year when so many of us donate to our favorite charities. While donating money feels good, donating something more tangible or personal, like clothing, feels even better. Donating clothing not only gets rid of unused clothing lying around the house, it also physically puts a shirt on someone’s back, right?
We hate to break it to you, but donating clothing to charity isn’t as positive as you think.
Here’s why donating your clothing to charity isn’t always helpful
First, when it comes to charities that resell donated clothing, only 10-20% actually gets sold at their stores. The other 80-90% is sold to textile plants across the globe. From there, 50% of clothing is turned into rags or is “ground down,” and the other 50% is sold in African markets with a price hike. The average price of jeans sold on the African market is around €6.03. This means your clothing may actually be going to someone who could use it—but they have to purchase it.
There are much greater needs
Second, while clothing is certainly a necessity for many people who need assistance, there are typically much greater needs. Take for example during natural or man-made disasters. What ends up happening is the area and people affected by disaster get overwhelmed with clothing or other non-essential donations. In an NPR article, Juanita Rilling, the former director of the USAID Center for International Disaster Information, recalls a harrowing donation story during Hurricane Gilbert. In 1988, the category 5 hurricane pummeled Honduras and killed 12 people. A plane carrying much needed medical supplies was unable to land due to the piles and piles of unrequested clothing and other supplies on the runway. Ultimately the plane had to reroute and it cost emergency workers valuable time rescuing Hondurans.
If you truly want to help others, reconsider donating your old clothing
Instead, do research on your favorite charities and see what sort of supplies they’re in need of. For instance, in the case of refugees and migrants, they need a LOT of things, and clothes are really at the bottom of the list. In many cases, the charity might be in most need of money. If that is the case and you have concerns about where your dollars go, visit Charity Navigator to read reviews, financial history and accountability of global nonprofits.
We know donating money isn’t as exciting as donating clothing, but money allows the charity to buy the supplies that are most needed by the people they serve.
Another great way to give back is to donate your time
Most charities have volunteer opportunities, and this is a great way to feel like you’re truly making a difference. If you have time, legal knowledge, language/psychological/health care skills, then you can make a huge difference in people’s everyday lives and struggles.
If the alternative to donating your clothing is throwing them away, try to avoid doing that as well. Fast fashion is a large contributor to our landfills—some estimates say 5% of landfills are made up of textile waste. Consider ways you can recycle your clothing, such as hosting a clothing swap (like ours!), turning your clothing into rags, or sewing them into new clothing like bibs, skirts or tank tops.
You can also search for textile recycling centers in your area. With the holidays upon us, challenge yourself NOT to buy new clothing this year. By not buying into fast fashion, you’re ultimately helping our environment and future generations by reducing waste and your carbon footprint.
I’m not the only one who believes little changes can make a big impact. So what about you. Are you ready to change? you can start joining us to make a difference for a more sustainable world! Learn about the negative impacts of FAST FASHION and consumption, and find alternatives for a better world.
Do you donate your clothing to charity? If so, which charities have you discovered are most in need of clothing? Or, have you tried to donate clothing only to discover it was not needed? Have you given up fast fashion? Which fast fashion solutions have you found work best for you AND the environment?