Chances are you want to reduce clutter and create habits that help the planet. But where to start? It can be overwhelming, so we put together a 15-day challenge to help you get started.
Just look at the challenge for each day. If it is something you want to incorporate, do it! If not, let it pass and look for the next one that you can fit. Follow us on social media, too, where we'll be posting some of these as well.
If we hope to make the world a little better place, we have to focus on what we can do. No change is too small. Each thing we do gives us momentum and builds confidence for the next step. Think about it - taking 10 small steps is better than one big step!
Find what motivates you
We are all inspired in different ways so find what works best. Make it fun and meaningful for you. Share the challenge with family and friends if you are motivated by others. Create a list or goals if you like to see your accomplishments on paper. Once you make a few small shifts, you will find momentum to make more. Sometimes, all you need is to get started!
DAY 1: Your vision
When you live a less wasteful life, there are many benefits. At the start of this challenge, think about those benefits to boost your motivation, and write them down where you will see them. Imagine how you will feel surrounded by less clutter. Envision money you will save by buying fewer things you don't truly need. Think about the time you will save by buying less, and using things you have on hand. Consider the positive environmental impact you are leaving for future generations.
DAY 2: Swap it out
It's easier to create a new habit when you change things up and replace an old habit with a new one. Try this: First, hide the paper towels. Then, find an old washcloth or cut fabric from a worn t-shirt to make a cleaning cloth. Put it where you normally have the paper towels. Try experimenting for just the day and you will certainly find yourself reducing throwaway paper products. I recently forgot to buy paper towels and did this myself. It was a lot easier to do than I thought. One tip I found useful was to use the sink sprayer and hot water for a thorough rinse after each use. Just squeeze and hang it for the next use, or so it's not gross going into the laundry.
DAY 3: Buy smart
Post-holiday bargains abound and it's hard not to jump on them. Our brains are wired to want things, especially if we think it's a great deal. But with every new product we buy, we leave a bigger carbon footprint. Delay is an awesome preventative so try this: Instead of clicking "BUY NOW", make a list of everything you find that you want to buy during the week, and wait to buy everything on Saturday (or Sunday, or any single day). It's likely that looking at the number and cost of everything together will help you naturally pare down. And giving your brain time to lose the 'in-the-moment' excitement will inevitably shrink your list to the more essential items.
DAY 4: Keep food fresh
The great majority of food waste comes from households and is a huge contributor to climate change. One of the best sources for preventing food waste is the Zero Waste Guide on Instagram. Here are two great suggestions they shared: 1) Cover produce like carrots and even lemons in water and put them in the fridge - they last weeks longer. 2) Keep a sliced avocado fresh up to 5 days by putting it in a container with an onion on the bottom
DAY 5: Clean it out
Do you know what you have in your fridge and on your shelves? Clean them out. If you're really short on time, pick just one shelf. Pull anything that is just expired or expiring and try to come up with a creative meal or two to use things up (I found one of my all-time-favorite recipes trying to use up a large bag of spinach). Next pull anything you purchased for a special dish that you aren't going to use, or anything you have just too much of and put it in a bag to donate to your nearest food shelf - Find one near you using the Donate Good Stuff search tool. Finally, anything that is really outdated, throw into the compost and recycle the containers.
DAY 6: Pitch Plastic
Look around at everything today that has plastic in it, on it, or wrapped in it. Identify one thing that you can permanently replace with a reusable item next time you buy. Here are some quick examples: Put one thin reusable bag in your purse or car for when you shop. Buy loose instead of bagged produce (and put it in that reusable bag). Buy food/products in glass, paper or metal containers instead of plastic, and then reuse them for lots of things like homemade salad dressing, leftover containers, spices, or storing things in the fridge. Pack a party-ready bag with extra small plates and silverware you have or thrifted instead of buying plastic. Dump in the dishwasher when done (or do a sink-full at once to save time), and place them back into the party bag for next time.
DAY 7: Give new life to clothes
If today is a day you are feeling motivated, it's time to go through your closet. Pull everything out and start by putting back only the things you absolutely love - they fit, look great, and are something you currently wear. After that, select items that you don't quite love but you do wear and put them in a separate section. If you don't wear them during the next season, let them go. Finally, the items that are left that don't fit or you don't wear, donate them to someone who can and keep usable clothes in circulation. Note: if anything is soiled, stained, damaged, missing a button, etc, look into upcycling ideas or find a creative resource, like Rethink Tailoring, to help with that.
DAY 8: Tackle your T-shirts
If you have only a little bit of time for sorting clothing, tackle just your t-shirts. It's the one item most people have to many of and can't possibly wear. Here are a bunch of ideas for what you can do with old t-shirts, from donating them to creating usable and decorative items.
DAY 9: DIY cleaners
This is one of my favorites. You can reuse containers so you don't generate any new plastic. The bonus is DIY cleaners are nontoxic and safer for kids and pets. The extra bonus is that they save space. And time. And well, they cost less, too. There are a lot of DIY cleaner recipes but I found two easy steps to clean almost everything. One, get Castille soap. You can make almost any cleaner from it and you can refill in bulk at most co-ops. Two, (not required but makes it sooo nice!) get a few of your favorite essential oil scents. Mix and match creatively - just a squirt of soap, some water, and your scent make spray cleaner, hand soap, dish soaps, and laundry detergents quicker than clicking 'buy' and unwrapping more plastic.
DAY 10: Grow Your Own:
I live in Minnesota, so there is not a lot of growing we can do in the winter, but I found a couple of hacks that keep some lovely green in the house and also provide fresh food whenever we want it. You can take grocery store produce leftovers from onions, lettuce, and garlic to grow more in your kitchen window. Just cut the top off of green onions and stick the base in a little water. It will keep re-sprouting so you always have fresh. you can do the same with a head of lettuce - just cut the top and plunk the bottom in some water (with the top out of the water) or use toothpicks in the sides to hold it at the top of a glass of water so roots have a place to grow. You can also take cloves of garlic (this may only work with organic) and put them in a little pot. Keep them watered and use the sprouting greens like you would garlic. Of course, a small herb garden is pretty simple, too if you can find a container, a little dirt and a but of sunshine. Every time you do this, you save another plastic bag, and it's free food!
Many things that we throw away can be recycled even if they cannot be reused. Look a little more closely at what you put in your trash today and see if there is something that can be diverted to a better use.
DAY 11: Don't put bags in the recycling
One overwhelmingly common item is the plastic bag. Most people don't realize they are dangerous if they get into recycling because they get tangled in machines at recycling facilities, which can require a human to un-do. It is risky and expensive. You can, however, return bags to stores like Target. You can search to find a drop-off location near you.
DAY 12: Make a place to put it
One item that can be recycled (and, in fact composted many places) are toilet paper rolls. We produce tons of them, but most end up in the trash. In our household, we always had the intent to put them in the compost (or recycling) bin, but in practice we failed until we did one simple thing; we added a little extra bin in the bathroom. That simple act made it so easy, we couldn't not do it. If there is a room where you regularly throw away items that could be composted or recycled? It could be a bathroom, bedroom, garage, or the kitchen. Find a bin and put it where it will be handy. You'll be amazed at the difference it makes.
DAY 13: Make note of what you throw
For the day, take stock of what you throw away. Stop and think about each item and if there is possibly a way to reuse or recycle it. Start with a simple Google search. Connect with the Terracycle network for hard-to-recycle items as well as new and upcoming companies like RidWell that offer collection services. Also check into special city or county recycling events
DAY 14: Buy better
When you do have to buy items, choose reused, up-cycled, recycled, or at least recyclable options and packaging. Zero Waste Communities of San Bernadino County helps you keep in mind the difference between recycled and recyclable products and packaging. Recycled materials already have been given a second life, whereas recycled products only will be if someone recycles them. Take a look at the products you use and look for products you can switch out when you shop.
DAY 15: Demand accountability
As you find things that can't be reused or recycled easily like excess packaging, or single use components, reach out to let the manufacturer and seller know you want better. Ask companies to reduce the amount of waste they produce and/or to be responsible to take their trash back.
You Did It!
Once you are done with the challenge, sit back and reflect on what you have accomplished. Incremental change can seem small, but when you add up those little things over weeks, months, and years, the impact is anything but. And consider the momentum you've gained. When you start looking at ways you can reduce your environmental impact on the world, you create a habit in itself. This is how change is made.
Thank you for participating!!
The holiday season is here, which means there will be plenty of decorating, gift giving, good food... and waste.
According to Stanford University Recycling, Americans throw away more from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day than any other time of year, which is about an extra 1 million tons per week! And notes:
That’s right, as fun as this time of year is, it also has a habit of increasing the amount of waste we produce. So, how do you enjoy the holiday in an eco-friendly way? There are plenty of tips and advice out there on this topic. But don’t worry, we’ve already done the work for you. Below is our list of the best eco-friendly holiday tips from some of our favorite influencers and resources.
Follow the advice below to double your holiday fun while also cutting your waste in half:
Eco Friendly Gift Wrap Ideas from Laura at Reduce Reuse Renew blog
If you have ever struggled with the waste created by holiday wrapping paper, this article has many options to consider - from upcycling, to reusing, to swap parties and more. And even if you still want to purchase gift wrap, there are tips for making the most eco friendly purchases as well as ways to use that wrapping again after it's ripped off. And we loved the idea of reusing greeting cards as gift tags!
Holiday string lights seasonal recycling
Great reminder from Zero Waste Northfield that broken holiday lights can't be recycled curbside, but many locations offer year-round drop off points and even hardware stores and libraries may offer seasonal collections. Check your local state, city and county listed locations to find lists like these for greater Minnesota, Saint Paul, and Hennepin County.
Green Your Holidays
Thank you to Anoka Ramsey Community College for this great article about being mindful about waste during the holidays, including great ideas for reducing waste from food, gifts, packaging, and even travel! We love the idea of shopping second hand for the holidays and hosting a “vintage only” gift exchange.
And, of course, Donate your Good Stuff!
As you open up your holiday dishes, decorations, and even seasonal clothing, remember to take a moment to consider what you no longer use that you could donate to make a difference and declutter at the same time. Check DonateGoodStuff.org for the most up to date needs of nonprofit organizations near you.
Worried about the supply chain crisis affecting your holiday gift-giving? Fill your list with these delightful ideas to get you on track for a low-stress and eco-friendly season.
Make Your List
If you are like me, I appreciate a list of ideas to get started as I consider everyone on my gift list. I love to give gifts that are meaningful and appreciated. I think about each person, things we have in common, events and themes that have been important in their lives, what they hold dear, and then consider what a meaningful gift might be. Also, how busy they are, what challenges they are facing, and what things might make their life easier. This helps me make the best possible choice of gift for each person, and not just the popular item of the moment that will get tossed out or stuck in a drawer the next month. And it means they are more likely to enjoy and appreciate the gift for a long time to come.
1) Give an Experience
Experiences can be the best gifts for creating connections and memories that last vs an item which may be enjoyed for a while and, as all physical items do, eventually has to be dealt with when its use is over. Especially for that person who has everything.
Here are some experiences to consider from across the web:
DIY Experience gifts:
Earth 911 shared a helpful list of Eco-Friendly Experience Gifts for the 'Quarantimes' last year which is perfectly timed for this year.
2) Donate in Their Name
Years ago, I was trying to find the perfect gift for my dad but he really had everything he needed and wanted. I finally decided on something that I then made a tradition, I 'bought' an animal in his name through Heifer International that helped a family to make a better living. It was something that kept on giving and made both of us smile. Another year, sometime later, I found out he had inquired about a volunteer role with a veteran's organization. He passed away before he was able to get involved but I knew it was important to him. I connected with a veteran's organization and donated in his name that year.
You can adopt a tiger, elephant, or other animal, complete with the kit at WorldWildlife.org.
Pick a nonprofit with a cause that your loved one is passionate about, whether it is reading, a health cause, the unhoused, or empowerment of women and girls or an infinite number of others. To give it a personal touch, write a nice card along with it sharing why you selected it and the impact it will make in their name that goes far beyond the holiday season.
3) Go Digital
Digital gifts are super easy to purchase and might be just the right fit. You can find something for everyone from the comfort of your computer or phone.
Gift cards are easily available online from an enormous variety of places. Whether it is for a special experience like a National Parks Pass or event, a class, there is something for everyone.
Subscriptions are another awesome way to give a gift and it keeps on giving all year long.
Video games can be purchased to download, even when it might be hard to find the cartridge version. You can download it directly to a gaming system.
Digital Art is a really creative idea that also supports a wide range of artists. You can find digital custom artwork that can be used as a screensaver, background, or framed in a digital display on a wall.
As with the donation gift, you can add a personal touch with a handwritten or even home-crafted card, and even pair it with something to unwrap.
4) Make it Yourself
Almost no gift is more meaningful or special than something you created yourself. If you have a talent or skill, put it to use creating something unique, fun, and creative. There are DIY projects for all skill levels, even for children to make.
Frame a photograph - Make a lasting gift from a beautiful landscape or a moment shared with the person for whom you are creating the gift.
Create a shadowbox - use one or a couple of small items that are meaningful to both of you. It could be a lock of hair, tickets from an event you shared, a wrapper from your favorite shared treat, or a pressed leaf or bits of nature from a special place. Use your imagination.
Write and frame a poem - Make it short and sassy, deep, or clever. Good words written specially for someone else will always be valued.
Write and record a song or even a fun ringtone
Holiday ornament or decor - There are a million ideas for creating adorable and beautiful ornaments, candle holders, holiday hangings, and all kinds of things - Just check out Pinterest or search 'DIY Holiday decor'
Candles - Last year, I made homemade beeswax candles that turned out beautifully and weren't hard at all. I used locally sourced beeswax and natural wicks, and essential oils.
Garden - You can create simple or fanciful container gardens for inside or out. Options include fairy gardens, herb gardens, bulb gardens, and so much more.
Gift Card for your services - Are you particularly handy, creative, or skilled? Give the gift of time for a special project.
Spa Experience - Create a basket of homemade, or local and sustainable items for relaxing like clarifying face mask, candle, a scented sugar scrub, and fresh dried herbal tea.
Knit or Stitch- Know how to knit, crochet, or sew? Hats, scarves, socks, mittens and other comfort wear are always well loved.
Physical gifts can still be the right choice - especially across distance, when there is a real need or use for something, or because of time and other constraints that make giving experiences more challenging. The best thing to do is to stay away from kitchy, of-the-moment items that become trash or a burden occupying a closet a year from now. Think about locally-sourced gifts, hand-made, created with local resources, or upcycled/recycled goods.
Buying local rather than from overseas can mean reducing your carbon footprint, save time, and be a more eco-friendly way to shop and give. If you want to give truly unique gifts with the additional gift of being more gentle to the planet, consider items that are made locally, from sustainable, upcycled and recycled materials.
Here is a list of popular hand-made gift items to get your juices flowing:
5) Shop to Support a Nonprofit
Not only can you give a boost to your local economy, you can also help support important programs provided by local and national nonprofits.
Give a Subscription
Give a fruit and vegetable subscription from an organization like Brightside Produce, which is a nonprofit 501c3. Give the gift of deliciousness and at the same time help provide fresh, healthy produce in food deserts. The proceeds from these home deliveries support increased access to fresh and affordable produce in underserved neighborhoods. They also offer fresh eggs, coffee, and a produce seconds option.
Give to Empower
Breaking Free is a nonprofit providing services and healing for survivors of sex trafficking, moving them from a life of bondage and oppression to one of safety, dignity, and strength. You can find one of a kind jewelry creations, designed by survivors of sex trafficking at the Sisters Shop for Freedom. 100% of every purchase returns to support the woman who made it, helping her to a life of freedom.
We love this option additionally because they are one of Donate Good Stuff's oldest partners. Some of the jewelry the artisans create is reimagined and crafted from broken and vintage pieces that have been donated to Breaking Free.
Support other organizations that combat human trafficking and offer survivor-made goods.
Support a Nonprofit Thrift Store
Flying Pig is an example of a nonprofit thrift that sells items for great causes. This thrift store has an inspired story and profits support multiple other nonprofits so the good keeps rolling. It helps people repurpose things, and it's a fun place to find new treasures. (They also have space where they sell local artist's work)
6) Support Local Artisans
When you know how and where items are crafted, and know you are supporting your local artists and craftspeople, it is a recipe for a meaningful gift. Whether you buy pure art or an artful practical gift, you can't go wrong!
Check out your local seasonal farmer's market, art colony or co-op, vintage, or craft markets. There are lots of options whether you are in the city, like the Minneapolis Craft Market, or in a small town, like Grand Marais Art Colony. (These are just examples of local artisan hubs in Minnesota, my home state.) Just search for one near you - you may discover a hidden gem! If there isn't one nearby, many vendors offer direct, online ordering.
Really. cool. brooms.
I have to add an example of something I've received and loved. I'm totally obsessed with these handcrafted brooms. I have a small collection that reflect unique styles and are for different purposes. They are made from natural materials, which makes me happy. And I use them all. My favorite is a smooth, willow-handled house broom. Despite my usual distain of housework, I find myself sweeping just for enjoyment. They not only work better than other brooms, they are gorgeous works of art. I know people who only display them, and that's just fine. Find them at local retailers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Utah. More at OxCart Broom and Woodwork.
BONUS: If you are looking for something fun, you can even take a class and learn how to make these! When you give someone the gift of an experience, it goes so much further, especially if you do it together.
7) Buy Nothing New
The New York Times just published a guest essay 'How To Buy Nothing New This Holiday Gifting Season' that is a great short piece that reminds us of why it is so good and important for our planet (and ourselves) to curb our consumerism, and that even a little bit helps. It also has some pretty cool ideas like an alternative White Elephant and a family drop and swap.
Buying vintage or up-cycled items can be a lot of fun. You might come across things that you hadn't even considered!
Junket Tossed & Found
It is hard to find a store more committed to the planet and eco-ethical shopping than Junket: Tossed & Found. As importantly, this is one place you will absolutely enjoy browsing all kinds of eclectic treasures. It's both fun and inspiring to look through the catalog of items from vintage tart pans, to creative papers and one-of-a-kind crafting supplies, hilarious (and not-PG rated) embossed greeting cards, and even digital downloads for fortune cookie you can print at home. Make a personalized crafting kit or find that one unique item for someone special.
8) Buy Ethical and Eco-Friendly
Look for items that are made from sustainable sources, produced in an eco-friendly way, high quality, and can be reused, upcycled, recycled, composted or otherwise not end up in the trash at the end of its useful life. Here is a great article from The Good Trade with 11 Sustainable Marketplaces to shop that are alternatives to Amazon.
Wrap it Up Right!
Every year, 5 million tons of waste is generated over Christmas, equating to 50,000 trees and endless crumpled rolls in the landfills since the shiny, glittery paper cannot be recycled. Fixing the issue is nothing new. We just need to take a moment to think about it and use good alternatives. Here are two ideas of how we can do better inspired by my own family -
My mother-in-law creatively encloses gifts in dish towels and other practical linens. I have always loved this (especially when we were starting out and had next to nothing). It looks cute, is a gift on top of a gift, is thoughtful, and earth-friendly.
My great aunt was a nun in central Minnesota and grew up in the earlier part of the 20th century so she knew how to economize. As a child, I thought she was a bit eccentric as she would gather up all of the wrapping paper, ribbon and bows, at the family holiday celebration and fold everything as if they were rare and precious. She saved all of this and re-used it for wrapping, for tags, for cards, and for crafts. Turned out, she was an eco-warrior. So, when we can't avoid the glitzy stuff, we can take a page from her book and creatively reuse it.
Donate Good Stuff exists to help you find the best home for your donation items and we recognize it's just part of the challenge of having too much stuff. How do you declutter what you have, reduce the amount of stuff you bring into your home, and continue to move toward sustainable and environmentally kind living? We can help with that, too. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or subscribe to our newsletter for regular tips and creative ideas for managing your stuff, reducing waste, sustainable living, and being part of a connected community.
It is hard to find another clothing item as numerous as T-shirts. Whether they come from concerts, causes, events, have famous faces or humorous sayings, there are a lot of them. Many are outdated, don't fit, or too worn to wear, and long forgotten in the bottom of a drawer.
So if you, like most people, have drawers, closets, and boxes full, of old T-shirts, it may be time to part with some. Which can you donate? And what do you do with the ones you can't? We've compiled a resource so you can begin to reclaim some of your space.
Which T-shirts Can Be Donated?
When it comes to T-shirts, one persons trash is not another's treasure.
Only the best and brightest should be donated to be worn again. The main reason is that with so many t-shirt donations that come in, if the shirt isn't in excellent shape, or something other people will want (think twice about that family reunion t-shirt from 2008) they may get thrown out by the donation center. In those cases, you may be better off reusing or even recycling it locally yourself.
Here are some guidelines to make sure your donation will be accepted:
In short, if your shirts are showing any wear, have holes, stains, pet fur, or anything else that you would not give a picky friend to wear, don't donate it. Read on for some creative ways to give them new life.
Fix it First
Do you have a favorite shirt that you would want to wear but it has stayed in the drawer because of some minor issues? Give it a little love and put it back into circulation. Before you donate for someone to wear, it should be in excellent condition as-is, meaning the recipient will not have to clean or fix any minor or major issues with the garment. Who knows, once you tidy it up, you may find a new use for it yourself.
If there is a small seam coming out, it takes less time than you think to grab a piece of thread and a needle and sew it up.
For that persistent little stain, Kitchn has a simple-to-follow article for getting out grease stains. Once your t-shirt is back to it's former glory, you may want to wear it again or decide it will then be suitable to donate, give, or even sell if it's a collector's item.
For stubborn smells like armpit body odor, I learned a trick from a family member who used to work in theater. Washing decorative costumes wasn't always possible, so they used a spritz of alcohol. It works magic. Just wet the area with a cheap vodka or rubbing alcohol and let it dry. Then wash as normal.
Pet hair is tough because it doesn't just wash out. You usually need to get in there with a roller (consider reusables) to get it all out, but you can start by reducing the amount of hair with some pre-treating and some creative laundry tricks. Use damp hands or rubber glove and wipe over the surface in one direction at a time. When you wash your clothes, use 1/2 cup of distilled vinegar in the wash to prevent static electricity from causing pet hair to stick. You can also try dryer sheets - just throw one in with your shirts on a cool setting. Add a damp microfiber cloth or even a balloon and they will help attract the hair that is there.
What are the best places to donate t-shirts?
The first place people think of when donating t-shirts are the big thrift re-sellers like Goodwill (nonprofit) or Savers (for profit). But many t-shirts that arrive at these stores never make it to the shelves. Some can be put into textile recycling and others might be tossed. They simply get too many.
If you have t-shirts in like-new condition, consider giving your best Ts to a smaller nonprofit that will actually use them. An example in St. Paul, MN is Walking With A Purpose. They give them directly to the unsheltered living in the city.
If they are not quite excellent, but are clean and usable, consider an animal shelters, or other places that can use them for other purposes like bedding, upcycled projects, or rags. An example is the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley.
Check out Donate Good Stuff to find a listing of all organizations near you that are in need of T-shirts right now.
Creative Re-use Ideas
T-shirts that aren't in great shape can be repurposed and reused for so many things, with minimal effort, and that can instead save you money and time going online or the store to purchase. Just as importantly, you trim down your carbon footprint by reducing the amount of 'new' things that have to be sourced, produced, packaged and transported. Here is a fun list of things to try.
Great for staking tomatoes, beans, raspberries, or other plants in your garden! They have a great stretch which is gentle on your greenery and will hold well. Simply cut your t-shirt into strips. Keep a bag of strips for lots of other projects both inside and out.
There are lots of tutorials about how to make a super simple reusable tote with a few cuts and by tying knots across the bottom. You can also sew the bottom shut for a simple-sew option. Recycle Ann Arbor has easy to follow photos.
Make a bunch to give away to friends, or even to your local market.
Instructables has instructions for a braided rug you can make with as few as 5 t-shirts, and can use more for larger rugs. Just cut long strips and braid, adding new strips as they get to the end. Mix and match colors, or gather all of one color for a rug of similar hues. They can be great for dorm rooms, front entryways, basements, and really beautiful ones can serve as an accent piece in a room. Leftovers can be used as t-shirt yarn or for other projects.
Use them as rags for things that are gross where you don't want to use them again on nicer things. For instance: pet mess clean up. If you happen to have 100% cotton, they make great lint free wipes.
Craftspeople or neighbors may appreciate rags for staining wood or for use with other creative endeavors. It might even be worth posting on a social media sharing site like Nextdoor, Cragslist, or Facebook Marketplace.
One really easy, no-sew project is to make a headband by cutting the bottom off of a t-shirt, twisting it in the middle and matching up the two loops to go around your head. You can also make pony-tail holders in the same way by cutting a thinner strip. The hem at the bottom of the t-shirt has additional strength that is good for this.
Quilts & Framed Art
If your t-shirts have sentimental value, you could turn them into a keepsake for yourself or as a gift. Quilts and framed art using t-shirts from 5K races, family events, travel, concerts, or other themes are perfect for these. Make your own quilt or have one made by a skilled quilter. For framed art, you can simply cut or stretch the t-shirt art over a frame insert and attach the frame as you would for a photograph, or use a canvas frame and pull to attach at the back.
You can make throw pillows. You can even reuse an old pillow for this by stuffing it inside. Just cut two equal squares, sew three sides, stuff, and sew up the last side. For a no-sew option, cut strips on each of the sides and tie the top and bottom together all around the pillow. Here is a 5-Minute Crafts video showing how to do it.
Drink Coasters and Hot Pads
If you remember those loom kits from the 1970s and 80's? You can use t-shirt strips to make coasters and hot pads for a throwback craft.
Great for cold days or sore muscles, these easy to make comfort bags are a perfect project for using old t-shirts. Make large ones to throw in by your feet on a cold night or to place on a sore neck or lower back. Make small ones to tuck into your jacket pocket or mittens. You can make them from all kinds of fabric but when using the thinner fabric of t-shirts, consider using two layers. Make them just like the pillows, above, but stuff them with dry rice or beans. Heat them in the microwave but be careful as they can burn. I never put mine in for more than 1 minute.
You can actually make yarn out of old t-shirts by cutting a long, continuous strip starting at the bottom of the t-shirt and working your way up. You can string strands from multiple t-shirts together using a simple knot. Then just use a large knitting or crochet needle and create whatever you want.
Some cities and counties offer curbside recycling. For anything really worn, stained, or with holes, this can be a good local option. Just check your area for guidelines. It is worth finding out what they do with the recycled goods to make sure it is the best option available.
What about the collection bins? These are generally put out by for-profit, secondary market resellers and most often bulk-sell abroad. This has been shown to have negative effects on local clothing industries. Additionally, reports indicate nearly half becomes trash because of the greater supply than demand. Because of this, the carbon footprint of sending items across the globe to be burned or landfilled is both unnecessary and unjustifiable. You do much better for the planet by finding a way to upcycle or reuse items, and if that isn’t possible, recycling locally.
Recycling centers will often take worn textiles. For some, like Eureka recycling, it is as simple as scheduling a pickup on their app. Check with your local recycler. You can find one near you with Earth 911's textile recycling locator.
What about Goodwill or other resellers?
Definitely don't donate anything that is contaminated or smelly. In an NPR interview with Goodwill spokesperson for stores in Vermont and New Hampshire, Heather Steeves,noted that “All this trash adds up to more than $1 million a year in a trash bill, and it’s been growing every year for the past five years,” Her figure only counted their 30 stores in two states. Make sure to never leave donations outside. They often get damaged by the elements or local critters and the well-intended recycling donations turn into trash and a burden for the organization.
Always check with the individual store. They distinct programs and arrangements. For example, at the Northern New England Goodwill stores, they have a wiping cloth program where people can buy cut up shirts by the bag in the store, and softer rags go to ship builders or artisanal instrument makers who need very fine cloth rags for buffing out their products.
Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Regift, Repurpose, Recycle, Rot...
There are a lot of "Rs" and they are all important pieces of living more sustainably.
Focusing on just one thing to apply them to can help keep them in mind for many things.
Let's start with coffee.
There are so many ways to make enjoying a cup just a little more earth-friendly.
By focusing on just one item, hopefully, it will help you apply the "R"s more easily and memorably to other things, too!
Think about it.
Every choice is very important to the health of the planet. Coffee has a big carbon footprint from the production, water consumption, shipping, roasting, packaging, and brewing. Are there other choices that will be just as easy and satisfying for buying or brewing? Could you cut out some coffee in favor of a healthy glass of water or even enjoy growing your own teas?
If you do need that morning cup, read on...
Refuse earth-unfriendly stuff.
Ditch products (and companies) that harm the environment. Consider better options to capsules, pods, and pads that produce a lot of waste. Take a pass on single-use cups, overpackaged convenience items at the cafe', and plastic packaging. Opt for package-free bulk coffee, buying from sustainable growers and stores.
Have enough, not too much.
Do you find you are throwing out 1/2 of a pot or the last bit of your latte because you don't actually drink it all? Order a smaller size or make 1/2 of a pot.
Fix it if it breaks.
If you've broken a carafe, you know it costs almost as much to buy a new machine. But even if the cost is similar, in the end you end up with a working machine which is what you need. You may even be able find that carafe from a neighbor through nextdoor or FB Marketplace.
Refill your own, buy used equipment, and donate what you don't need.
Use a refillable cup, a filter-less coffee maker, a cloth napkin, a reusable straw....
If you no longer use your coffee machine, mug, or anything else, donate it, give it, or sell it so someone else doesn't have to buy new.
Done with your coffee mug or just have too many? Use it as an adorable little planter. Incidentally, you can also do that with paper cups, too. They work great for indoor planting spring seedlings. There are lots of other ways to up-cycle them in fun, creative ways.
Plant your grounds.
Who knew coffee grounds could be reused for so many things? You can save them for your garden where they make a great soil addition and help keep some pests at bay. They can even be used as grit on icy sidewalks.
The last option.
When you don't have better choices, recycling single-use cups and items should be a last resort. Since very little plastic is actually recyclable, make sure your city or county can recycle what you are putting in your blue bin. More importantly, ask coffee shops to take responsibility to recycle, offer composting, and allow refillable cups.
Whether you’re on a limited budget, want to reduce landfill waste – or both – renovating your existing wardrobe instead of buying a new one is easier than you think. A good wardrobe is a must-have for many, and we tend to invest in new clothes without taking stock of what’s already hanging in our closets. You can resist the temptation by giving your wardrobe an economical but fun fashion facelift.
Transforming and tweaking your wardrobe instead of buying a new one saves money. Maybe you’re a single mom whose job requires a high-level wardrobe, or you’re young and just building up a solid income. Perhaps you’re interested in recycling and upcycling. We have some great advice and techniques to find both budget-easy and Earth-friendly ways to update your wardrobe.
A Second Life
We all have our clothing secrets, those gotta-have purchases that we hang in the closet, waiting for the next perfect occasion. Except, that perfect cocktail party or night on the town just never materializes. Eventually, we forget it’s hanging there, tags still attached, and now it’s no longer trendy or it doesn’t fit like before.
Don’t just toss clothes: consider giving them a second life. Most of our clothes eventually end up in a landfill. In 2015, more than 10 million tons of fabrics went to landfills, according to the EPA. Yet within that same year, only about 14% of clothing and shoes were recycled. Producing new clothes and other textiles requires energy, water, and other resources. By renewing your wardrobe (and other household textiles like linens, bed sheets, drapes, and blankets) instead of discarding, you can do your part to reduce landfill waste.
Clothes Renewal Selection
Let’s dig in and decide which clothes stay, which clothes leave, and which are good candidates for a transformation.
Go through your closet. Take clothes out and start working on an organization system. Some people organize types of clothes together: button-down shirts together, slacks, pants, skirts, dresses, etc. Others group their wardrobe according to use: work clothes, party clothes, casual clothes. Still, others group their clothes according to colors.
Whatever organizing system you use, stick to it, and revisit the selection process every few months, or at minimum once a year. You may discover clothes you haven’t noticed for years. Rotating them into your regular wardrobe choices brings new variety.
How Often Do You Use it?
As you go through your closet, question how often you use it. How about that outdated pair of slacks or that forgotten dress? These slacks make a good candidate for re-homing or renovating, and you could transform that dress into a cute blouse. If you haven’t worn something for a year, give serious thought to renovating it or removing it from your closet.
Does it Still Suit You?
You adored that skirt 10 years ago when you couldn’t resist buying it. Still, think you can’t live without it? Do you have the same feelings for it? This kind of item in your wardrobe might be a good candidate for a subtle or grand transformation.
What to Do with Clothes you Don’t Need?
You should now have a keep pile, a keep but renovate pile, and a “leave the house” pile. What do you do with these clothes? Evaluate them: If they’re good quality and not hopelessly outdated fashion-wise, you may consider donating them. You can find places near you to donate at DonateGoodStuff.org. You may also consider using social media groups such as Facebook Marketplace, or Nextdoor, as well as selling them at a local consignment shop.
If you don’t want the hassle or the clothes aren’t top quality, you can also offer them for free on sites like The Freecycle Network. This way, the clothes have a use for others while staying out of the landfill.
Upcycle, Downcycle, and Renovation Techniques
Your wardrobe is a great source of creative upcycle and downcycle projects.
Upcycling involves turning an existing item into something of higher value. Those tired old jeans could become an on-trend, functional shopping tote, a denim tank top, or a woven sink floor mat. Upcycling saves energy and materials used by new-item manufacturing processes. Some people earn income by crafting and selling items using upcycled materials.
You can also downcycle your wardrobe – that is, turn the fabric into something else useful but less valuable than the original item. Turn soft but no longer wearable cotton T-shirts into dust cloths, a sweater for your dog, or a snuggly small pet hammock. Downcycle shirts to wax your car. Crafty people have recycled clothes into sewn protective face masks, using t-shirt strips as tie straps.
Check out hundreds of amazing second-life ideas for upcycling your clothing. You’ll be amazed what some creativity, scissors, and maybe some sewing thread can accomplish. You don’t have to be a professional seamstress or DIY fashion guru to achieve beautiful results.
There are some great fabrics for craft or upcycle projects that are probably hanging in your closet right now:
Fabrics and scissors are a perfect match when you’re giving new life to clothes. Renovations can be as simple as cutting slacks into shorts and hemming the frayed ends (or leave the frayed ends for a casual statement). Cut strips and weave together for a rug, tying off the ends or cut clothes up for future quilting pieces.
Transform Dresses into Trendy Tops or Skirts
Remember that cute dress you almost never wore? Turn it into a top or even a skirt. This may be as simple as hemming the dress a little higher and adding a cute belt. Look online for inspiration and tutorials.
Repurpose Old T-shirts into Something New
Do you have drawers full of oversized t-shirts or old t-shirts? Give them a new life. Weave them into totes, make them into crop tops, or find other ways to reuse the fabric. T-shirt material is a dream to renovate, upcycle, or downcycle. When cut, t-shirts don’t fray, so you can cut and handle without the need to hem. You can also use T-shirts as knitting yarn to make rag rugs, macrame, pillow cushions, patchwork quilts, t-shirt bags, or even potholders.
Tie-dye never goes out of style. Vibrant and fun, tie-dyeing makes a terrific family activity. Transform white shirts or other clothes, even ones that may be stained. Chances are unless they’re bad stains, the tie-dye pattern will hide the imperfections, making that shirt wearable again.
Before you dive into tie-dying, watch videos online with step-by-step directions. There are lots of different techniques to achieve the patterns and color combinations you most love.
If you’re not into tie-dye, you can use different painting materials on clothing to change their look. Try acrylic pens, natural pigments, and even fabric paints watered down to make clothes look just like a dreamy watercolor painting. Sites like Pinterest.com have lots of ideas for bringing new life to your clothes.
If you have dark clothes, you can transform them into vibrant, eye-catching statement pieces by using a creative reverse dye technique process of bleaching out the color and then adding bright dye colors to the bleached, white sections. You can also use bleach pens to create cool, colorful images on fabric.
Knitting, Sewing, and Crocheting
Don’t overlook traditional methods to change up clothes you’ve grown tired of. Knitting, sewing, and crocheting are time-honored skills you can enjoy learning as you add beautiful accents to your clothes.
Hem a long skirt into a shorter version or transform slacks into shorts. Add a contrasting color block to an existing skirt. Sew a lace hem on shorts or a crocheted accent onto a blouse for a charming touch.
Repair Old Clothes
Instead of throwing away clothes, consider repairing them. Resist the urge to pitch clothes with a hole or missing button, Invest a little time in repairing instead of replacing, and you’ll save lots of money. Iron on or sew on a cool, on-trend patch on your jeans, and change out the buttons on your sweater. Browse online shops for eye-catching buttons that show off your personality.
If your sewing, darning, or sew-on button techniques are rusty or nonexistent, don’t worry: There are lots of tutorials online for almost any repair situation.
Denim Jeans and Jackets
Denim jeans are incredibly versatile for repurposing projects. Sew some patches or lace onto existing jeans or a jacket for an on-trend shabby-chic fashion statement. Use fabric paint to embellish with flowers, peace symbols, or cool sayings.
Denim’s fabric strength can be transformed into things like totes, light-blocking curtains, woven denim rugs, or reupholstering fabric for chairs for a fresh shabby-chic look. Make denim into pillows, baskets, or quilts. Make a braided tug-toy for your favorite pooch (make sure he doesn’t swallow the fabric) or, using elastic on each end of a pants leg, make a grocery-bag holder. There are lots of tutorials online with clever ideas for old jeans.
Clothes don’t last forever, especially if worn by kids. Sometimes quick patching can give clothes years more life. Find coordinating or contrasting colors to bring interest to your renovation. You can place the patch on the inside of the worn-out spot and sew it in for added textural appeal.
More DIY Wardrobe Renovation Ideas
There are other creative and inexpensive ways to inject new life into your wardrobe.
Update your accessories. Haunt thrift stores and estate sales for sweet vintage statement pieces like bracelets, necklaces, or earrings. Browse vintage stores for a retro leather handbag. A new-to-you set of bangles can bring new sparkle to your ensemble. Or, switch it up with a luxurious-looking, oversized scarf or shawl for a pop of color or pattern. Add an accentuating belt.
Add a few “basics” to your wardrobe. Add a solid-colored jacket or sweater, a classic blouse, or a basic skirt that you can create multiple ensembles with. Thrift stores are a great place to shop. These basic additions can match with pieces already in your closet, providing a fresh look.
Mix and match colors and patterns. This increases your daily ensemble variety and choices. Don’t be afraid to buck the trend of a pattern paired only with a solid. Try some florals with stripes.
Have a clothes swap party. Invite friends over and ask them to bring gently-used clothes, shoes, and accessories. Share your own offerings. You can make this a fun, themed get-together.
Look for classic, casual, or business jackets that you can change out with different blouses and skirts or a good pair of jeans. Elevate an ensemble or rock a casual look, adding versatility to your present wardrobe.
The Sky’s the Limit
Renovating and rehabbing your wardrobe can be as extensive and as creative as you want – let your DIY fashion imagination soar. Try out a new painting, sewing, or tie-dye techniques, and if you mess it up, that’s OK: it’s all part of the learning and experimenting process. If you have kids, set them loose with some of their clothes and paint pens or other kid-safe fabric paints.
Find Joy in your Wardrobe Again
You can feel good about giving your clothes a new life and a new look. You’ll expand your wardrobe choices while saving money and being a good steward of the Earth.
The clothing manufacturing industry is harsh on our environment. Some companies are showing creativity in using throwaway items like water bottles upcycled into new clothes, handbags, and even bed sheets. However, until all technology improves with more sustainable and recycled materials, you can do your part by not buying new items. Instead, have fun using these techniques to bring new purpose to your existing wardrobe.
Originally posted on Porch.com
COVID-19 hairstyles are trending longer, so if you are dipping back into your hair accessories like I have, you may be noticing some really outdated stuff that you can't give away but don't want to throw away. Here are some great hacks to make the best use of them!