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The Environmental Impact of Clothes

Here is something you can feel good about:

Every pound of clothes donated saves 8.8 lbs of CO2!

Help save the Environment

By donating gently used (or even new) clothes you contribute to the good health of our planet. Production of new cotton as well as other textile fibers puts a strain on the environment: To produce 1 lb. of clothes -that is 1 pair of trousers - requires on average:

 10,000 lb. of water
 0.5 lb. of fertilizers
 0.4 oz. of pesticides

and results in emissions of:
 6 lb. of greenhouse gases

When you donate used and unwanted clothes for reuse and recycling you contribute to saving more than half of this.
In the following we go though the calculations.

How much CO2 is saved?

There are no calculations available from the US, but recently a detailed analysis was published by the Danish Technological University. Download the article "Environmental benefits from reusing clothes" from the scientific magazine "Int. Journal of Life Cycle Assessment", 2010. 

The report calculated the environmental benefits of recycling clothes using a cotton T-shirt and trousers of mixed polyester/cotton fibers. These represent very well the average clothing items.

Reusing Clothes

One of the crucial issues calculated in the study is to what degree used clothes replaces new clothes. By interviewing thrift store shoppers, the study found that between 2/3 and 3/4 of the items would replace new ones. So, nearly all customers in thrift stores who buy a set of used trousers, do this instead of buying new trousers. If thrift store shoppers still bought the same amount of new clothes, there would be no environmental gains, but the study show clearly that used clothes replaces new., and thus saves on the global resources.

On average 1 lb. of clothes that is sold as second hand clothes save 5.9 lb. of CO2.

Recycling Clothes

The clothes that are recycled into wipers and fibers also contribute to a better environment. Energy and resources are saved when recycled fibers are used instead of having to produce new ones.
On average 1 lb. of clothes recycled into fibers save 1.7 lb. of CO2.

Environmental Benefits

Given the mix of how the clothes from a collection bin in the US are used the final result is that:
Environmental savings by giving clothes to a clothes bin:

1 lb. of clothes:
~ 3.6 lb. CO2

~ 6,000 lb. water

~ 0.3 lb. fertilizer

~ 0.2 oz. pesticides


Donate your unused clothes 

The average American consumes 70 pounds of clothing and other textile products a year. Instead of taking up space in your closets, drop off your clothes when it suits you best for example in one of the many drop-off bins. The baled clothing is shipped to graders who sort the clothing in up to 200 categories according to type, style, color, and quality. Most of the used clothes are typically sold to third world nations to clothe the World’s poorest. 

About 20 percent of the material processed becomes wiping and polishing cloths.  Finally, 26 percent is converted into fiber to be remade into recycled textile products. Some of the clothing is sold to local thrift stores. These play an important role in American society. Students find bargains on vintage (read: trendy) and brand-name items. Large families with growing children find buying secondhand the only way to keep every child well-clothed.

Approximately 4 percent of the contents of US landfills is made up of un-recovered textiles which is almost 100 percent recyclable. 

Only about 15% of US clothes are currently recycled. Start a tradition of reusing and recycling your clothes.  By donating clothes you can therefore help to take care of the environment which needs your protection because the resources of our planet are not endless and modern development puts greater and greater strain on its land, water and air.

 

General Information

 The Gaia Movement USA, is a registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. We started in 1999 in Illinois and we are currently also active in Indiana, Kentucky, and Oregon.
Our mission is to create awareness about the plight of the environment, to educate the public about caring for our planet, humanity and the environment, to run recycling operations and to support environmental projects and programs locally and globally.