Have you ever wondered what happens to the clothes you get rid of? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 84 percent of unwanted clothing winds up in landfills or incinerators, producing harmful greenhouse gases while they decompose slowly.
Luckily, there are three prime ways to cut down on waste. First, think about how you can use what you already have. Second, give items a new life by making any necessary repairs, like mending holes. For pieces that are too damaged, you can upcycle them into cleaning rags, tote bags, and more. And lastly, donate anything that’s in good condition. If it’s not working in your closet, it could be a prized possession in someone else’s.
Now that you have a pile of clothing you know you’ll never wear again, you’re probably wondering where to donate used clothes. Here are some of the best humanitarian and sustainable options.
Where to Donate Used Clothes
One of the oldest, most reputable nonprofits there is, the American Red Cross provides disaster relief, emergency training, and blood donation around the world. Currently, it partners with GreenDrop’s donation services to sell donated clothing in thrift stores, funding Red Cross initiatives that help millions.
Accepted Donations: All new and gently-used clothing items, as well as furniture, appliances, and other household items
Location: Search for a drop-off center near you, or schedule a pick-up for larger items
The revenue Goodwill makes from selling clothes goes directly into vocational services, community programs, and job placement services. Plus, the clothes that don’t manage to make their way to new homes are recycled to avoid clogging up landfills. There’s practically a Goodwill in every city, so the donation process is beyond convenient for voracious spring cleaners.
Accepted Donations: New or lightly-worn bras in good condition; you can donate up to five at a time
Location: Fill out this donation form, then find a drop-off center near you. If there are none, you can ship your donations
Instead of throwing out your bras, donate them to Free the Girls. The organization was founded to economically uplift sex trafficking survivors from places like Uganda, El Salvador, and Mozambique. Donated bras can be sold by these women in second-hand markets for a sizable income. In fact, just four donated bras make a living wage for a woman in the El Salvador program.
4. Planet Aid
Accepted Donations: All clothing, shoes, bedding, and curtains (including items with holes, stains, or tears); wet, dirty, or moldy items aren’t accepted
Location: Bag your donations and find a yellow drop-off bin near you
Tired of donation boxes that only accept clothes “in good condition”? Planet Aid has your back. This organization accepts all clothing—with some obvious exceptions—in order to keep it out of landfills. (In 2020 alone, the company collected 70 million pounds of textiles.) The donations are sold in developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, with the proceeds going toward the fight against poverty.
The Salvation Army serves people in need across 130 countries. In the United States, 23 million people are assisted every year. Your donated clothing and other goods will go to its national network of thrift shops. The proceeds then go toward The Salvation Army’s adult rehabilitation centers, which help people who are struggling with drugs and alcohol get back on their feet.
6. Local Churches, Homeless Shelters, or Nonprofits
These organizations give directly to those in need, right in the community. For example, Housing Works in New York City gives donations to the homeless and those affected by AIDS. To find your local donation drives, ask around and visit your city’s website. Just be sure to call ahead to see which kinds of clothing they accept, as well as where they can be dropped off.
Now that you know where to donate used clothes, keep in mind that not all clothes are worth donating. Most organizations don’t accept stained clothes, wet clothes, and intimates. To cut down on waste even more, place your donations in a reusable tote bag instead of a plastic bag. Waste is inevitable, but donating is worth the effort. At the end of the day, all we can do is be imperfect environmentalists, helping the planet a little at a time.