Closet system

Clothes make the man, so says the old Latin proverb says. Your clothes are you; what you wear makes a statement. Your personality shines, or not, with what you wear. If you are looking to transform what is currently hanging in your closet and ‘go green’, here are many of the ways to achieve that.

What’s old is new

When you have the need for new clothes, consider buying used. Not only is the price lower, but you are keeping those clothes from ending up in a landfill. Buying used is a more economical use of your money. The same is true when you want to dispose of some clothing.

  • If it is still wearable, donate it to a thrift store or church program. Someone else will be thrilled to find it there.
  • Take advantage of the kiosks that accept used clothing, shoes, and textiles; many communities have these kiosks.
  • If the clothing is beyond wear, use it for rags or remake projects.

Not sure if your clothing makes the cut, read Can Worn Or Damaged Clothing Be Donated?

Hung out to dry…

Consider wearing an item longer in order to go green. Don’t wear it as often and don’t wash it as often; both wearing and washing take their toll. When you do wash, try washing at least some items by hand to save on both water and electricity. Use cold water with concentrated and biodegradable detergents or soaps; avoid chlorine bleaches. Another way to be environmentally friendly is to use a front-loading machine, as it uses less water than a top-loading machine. According to ‘Do Front-Load Washers Save Money, or Just Water?‘, ‘front-load washers also use one-third of the water of a traditional top-load unit, about 13 gallons less per load.’  Then, dry the clothes on a line instead of using a dryer.

Rules of engagement

Go green by applying the 80-20 rule to your closet. You may wear only 20% of your wardrobe while the remaining 80% just hangs there. If so, start wearing some of the 80% or find a new use or a new home for these excess pieces of clothing.

Get creative

Go green by making a t-shirt quilt
Image Credit – Lucy Portsmouth (Flickr)

In addition to your closet, go green by creatively repurposing clothing for use around your house. Not sure how to do so? Try these ideas on for size.

  • Adult clothing can be cut down to become clothing for children. Thin sheets and blankets can be split and the sides joined to form a new middle.
  • Make a quilt or an art project from old clothing scraps; consider creating doll clothes from these materials.
  • If you detest those plastic bags used at grocery stores, think how you can make your own grocery bag from some heavy material. Use old jeans cut into strips to make a rag or braided rug; it is good exercise to make a rug so large that you have to work on the floor to complete it.
  • Your teenager might like a bedspread made from old decorative T-shirts.
  • Host a clothes swap party

Look around the house for ways to use old clothing, linens, and rugs. For example;

  • Create a “snake” that you can put along the bottom of a door to stop drafts.
  • Those old pillowcases may have a new life as hot pads or coverings for a trivet. These same pillowcases can become new coverings for smaller throw pillows or a baby’s pillow.
  • Design a small bag, maybe to hold coupons you take to the store, or to keep small items together which might otherwise get lost. A bag made from jeans is always an eye catcher.
  • Another use for old jeans is to cut them into strips, roll the strips into a circle, stitching them together to form a coaster. They can also make a gadget holder using rear pockets and a zippered compartment.

Organic materials

Grandmother reads while babywearing in an Organic Hugabub Wrap
Go green by carefully considering your clothing materials. Image Credit – Suzanne Shahar (Flickr)

When it’s finally time to buy some new clothes, go green by carefully considering the material. Organic materials are manmade and do not require the chemicals that are needed for growing natural fibers. The worst culprit for needing these chemicals is cotton. Growing cotton requires the use of insecticides to stave off bugs and insects that feed on cotton. Pesticides are also used to kill weeds, snails, fungi, and molds. These chemicals cause damage to the soil, contribute to harmful runoff, and can even cause cancer in farmers using these chemicals. Cotton is not an eco-friendly plant.

Organic cotton is, however. Cotton itself is a natural product that is not harmful. Harm results from the way it is grown and processed. Avoiding the harm can give us a safe and eco-friendly material. Remember, the appearance of cotton does not indicate if it is organic. The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program sets very high standards for anything labeled organic. Cotton must be grown without toxic chemicals for three years in order to be labeled organic. Subsequently, it must be manufactured to these same high standards, including the dyeing of the fibers.

A label that says 100% Organic means that the cloth meets the test for compliance with these standards. If the label simply says Organic, it indicates that 95% of the fibers used meet the standards. Otherwise, the word Organic can only be used when all the fibers are indicated by name, with at least 75% being organic.

The United States ranks 5th among all countries that grow organic cotton. The other countries are predominantly third-world countries. The 2010 Textile Exchange report states that less than 1% of all cotton grown worldwide is organic. The current value of this cotton reflects a 20% increase, now a commodity selling over $16 billion.

The United States itself during this same period showed a 36% rise in the number of acres growing organic cotton. More recently, production has decreased due to drought conditions in the South and West. However, planting will increase with better weather conditions and with the advent of new growing locations.

Be creative with your closet. Take an inventory to see what you can recycle or repurpose. Clothing can be revamped in many ways, to go back into your closet with a new life or can be used around the house. When buying new clothing, pay attention to the label to learn what fibers are used.

Choose carefully and remember – going green is always in fashion.

Feature image courtesy of Rubbermaid Products (Flickr)


By Warren Johnson

Warren R. Johnson is a Georgia-based freelance writer, author and bookseller. When not writing about green living, Johnson is writing about wine travel and tourism, food and history.