Yes, you can donate your ratty old clothes (in fact, you should)

This morning, I was chatting with a neighbor who shares a commitment to extending the life of used things.

In so doing, we struck upon a common question: “what can I do with ratty clothes that aren’t good enough to donate?”

Answer? You donate them.

Here’s why: There is a bustling international secondhand rag trade — and Arc’s Value Village, Goodwill, and Savers are all participating in it. In fact, most secondhand shops are somehow connected to this.

Used textiles are actually a healthy money-maker when managed in bulk, and many donation centers profit accordingly. In fact, if your nicer clothes don’t sell at Goodwill within 3 weeks, they also get baled and resold (those blue, yellow, and green price tags are used to help identify aging product).

And here’s how: If you’re not sure if your donation center participates in this way, ask them what happens when you donate things they can not resell. If they don’t resell or redistribute, you’ll want to find a center that will.

And then, as you prepare your cast-offs for donation, separate the crappy stuff from the items that are likely to be resalable as-is. Bag up the items you’d consider rag-bin material, and clearly identify ‘for rags’ on the bag to make it easier for the sorters to know what they’re dealing with once it comes in.

Wanna learn more about how your purchasing/donating habits fit into the bigger picture?: Here’s a short list (of books) that has been helpful to us in connecting the dots between our personal choices and the impact of those choices on global systems — because those of us in the US are setting an aspirational standard for many of the world’s up-and-coming populations – think China, and India – and your choices x 310 million Americans x 5 billion aspiring observers, more or less, add up to huge impact very quickly.

And, of course, if these realities alarm you, you can change the system by adopting and demonstrating different behaviors. Best place to start? Make a conscious choice to help extend the useful life of other people’s castoffs by solving your needs through secondhand product.

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