All donated items from our collection bins are brought to a Gaia Movement warehouse. When the clothing and shoes are collected, they become a commodity called "credential" or "original" used clothing. The term "credential" refers to clothing and shoes that have been collected from the public, but have not been sorted.
At the Chicago warehouse the clothes is made into 1,000 pound bales. Shoes are put into large bags called "cap sacks" and sold separately. Toys and household goods are put into boxes or cap sacs for resale. At the Portland warehouse collected clothes and shoes are put into the same cap sacs and shipped out to the buyers.
At the end destination the best clothing out of the credential used clothing becomes "Shop A", while other nice clothing is referred to as "Shop B." This clothing is typically sold at thrift stores in the USA, Canada, Europe or Central America. When you go shopping at the thrift store, this is what you see.
The other useable clothing is known as "Mixed Rags." This is clothing that may not be fashionable or may have small tears, stains, or minor imperfections. This clothing is usually exported to developing countries where the resale, repair, and re-styling of second hand clothes supports many small businesses and improves access to quality clothing for low income people.
The major benefits of re-wearing clothing are two-fold:
Democratizing access to quality clothing
Historically, high quality clothing has been a privilege of the wealthy. This continues today in the developed world as clothing brands use high prices to prevent working class people from purchasing their brand. In the poorer parts of the world, there may be a developed textile industry; however, the development (or, more properly, re-development after centuries of concerted European colonial actions to destroy local production) of industrial textile production in poor countries has typically been for export purposes. Production of clothing for local sale in poor countries (especially in rural areas) is usually carried out by local artisans. Such small scale results in prices that are out-of-reach for the poor.
By collecting clothing for people to re-wear, we help to break down the class barriers to quality clothing, and we help to blur class distinctions that clothing signals.
Reduction of environmental impact due to clothing production
Production of clothing is a resource intensive activity with an environmental impact. The raw materials must be cultivated or extracted, processed into fabric, turned into garments, and transported to market. Every step in the process increases environmental impact.
For example, let's look at the cultivation of the most commonly used fiber-- cotton. Cotton is typically produced in large-scale mono-crop agriculture. As a result of mono-cropping practice, cotton requires large amounts of insecticides and pesticides. In fact, cotton production accounts for about 1/4 of world insecticide use. For every 3 pounds of cotton produced, 1 pound of agricultural chemicals are used. In recent years, farmers looking to reduce usage of agricultural chemicals have turned to transgenic cotton, which has been genetically modified to produce delta endotoxins (insecticides) and for enhanced resistance to herbicides ("Round-up Ready"). The USDA estimated in 2010 that 73% of cotton planted in the USA was genetically modified to produce pesticides, and 78% was engineered for herbicide tolerance.
Clothing that cannot be re-worn still has value. The materials can be reused in other ways.
Some clothing that we receive cannot be re-worn or reused. There are many more industrial processes that can be called recycling of textiles.
Here are some examples of textile recycling:
In addition to clothing, Gaia receives a few items in our donation boxes that are unusable. We want to recycle as much of this material as possible, with a goal of becoming a zero waste organization.
Volunteers are taught how to extract and separate different materials as a part of our educational recycling program. We can use groups or individuals both weekends and weekdays on our volunteer days. You and your group will learn about recycling and we can have a presentation if desired.
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