Limiting the Lives of the Clothes in Our Wardrobes

BY KATIE BLOOMER


What happens to private school uniforms after the students graduate? Where do employees bring their work clothes once they have moved on? Do retirees send their wardrobes to the dump?


Unfortunately, most day-to-day clothes will only be worn a few times, and then promptly placed in the trash. But what about school uniforms, work attire, and speciality outfits?


Some private schools have programs that allow graduates to drop off gently used uniforms. These are sorted and distributed to incoming students. This way, seniors do not need to worry about getting rid of their uniforms, and freshmen can reduce their spendings by not purchasing new outfits. Everybody wins! This system only requires a few volunteers to sort the items and a temporary place for storage between the end of one school year and beginning of the next.


Many companies encourage their employees to return their uniforms after the end of their career. This cuts down on expenses and clothing waste. The few disgruntled employees who refuse to send their uniforms back often end up giving them to friends within the same company, or sell them online as a costume. Either way, they stay out of landfills.


Retirees who had careers in businesses requiring formal attire can donate their gently used pieces to organizations like Dress for Success and Career Gear. Despite this easy option, most people hold onto their old work outfits, even if they have no chance of wearing them again.


Why? People have no problem giving up school uniforms and company outfits, but as soon as it’s something personal, we suddenly become hoarders. This is partially due to the sentimental connections that we form with clothes. These pieces of fabric were once the new, bright garments that caught our attention at the store. They were the bargain of the century, the latest trend, or the statement piece missing from our collection. Now, these previously beloved items take up valuable space in some homes, while other people are struggling to afford even a few outfits.


The world has taught us that 'more is better' because we need to be prepared for every situation, realistic or otherwise. Our natural instinct is to collect. This is reinforced by the lack of normalcy in buying pre-used. What if we change our perspective? Instead of thinking about the slim chance that you might need that item in the future, focus on making the resources that went into the item worth it.


For example, if the production of a tee shirt uses 500 gallons of water and it is worn twice, then each wear uses 250 gallons. In this case, the toll on the environment is not worth the few uses. Whereas, if the shirt is donated and becomes a go-to in someone's collection, being worn 1,000 times before discarding, each use is only a fourth gallon of water. While it’s still not ideal, and hopefully the shirt lived another life as a rag, one fourth of a gallon is far more acceptable than 500 gallons. Once the resources have been used to produce items, we should make the most of the clothing.


Go through your closet and consider if you are going to use the items to their full potential. If not, consider passing them on to live a better life.


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