Healthy Beginnings

Back to School Buzz on Recycled Clothing

Written By Rachael L. Scala |

The drill is familiar. You trek to the department store in August with the kids, allotting a specific budget for the back to school wardrobe. Six months pass and the youngest has already outgrown his new pants, the others render the formerly crisp t-shirts into rags. You’re back at the store once the seasons change because last year’s winter coats are too small. Hand- me-downs suffice to an extent, but let’s face it: kids grow. As do their clothes, which aren’t cheap.

Perhaps you already possess a thrifty eye and know where to shop for best value. Budget aside, clothing consumption is still one of the most environmentally taxing—from copious amounts of pesticides in cotton growing, to toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and dyes in fabric processing, not to mention excessive water use, and finally, the waste produced by clothing disposal. The average American throws 68 lbs of clothes into landfills each year, which don’t quickly break down and are loaded with the toxins.

The sensible solution to satisfying your family’s back to school needs and being mindful of the impacts of your purchasing choices is using recycled clothing. Why buy new when your kids are sprouting like chia seeds and rolling around in the mud and grass at recess? Since the clothes have already been used, try jazzing them up with simple embroidery details, or your own hemming. Your youngins will develop a sense of individuality and respect for recycling, which they will hopefully carry into adulthood.

Check out these eco-conscious and frugal ways to obtain recycled clothes:

Garage Sales:

Check your local newspaper or Craigslist for some garage sales in the area. Often, families such as yours will be riddingthemselves of years of kids’ clothes. My mom has developed a knack over the years in finding amazing clothes and housewares at garage sales; she can actually drive past one and with a flashing glance, determine if something good awaits. Sometimes people are kind enough in the ad to list what will be available to save you the travel. Team up with your friends who have children and make a “friend date” out of it.

Clothing Swaps:

Swaps are bartering at its finest. They are great for groups of parents with kids of various ages. Round up your kids’ (and your own) wearable garments that no longer get any use. Meet up at an agreed location, most likely someone’s home, and set out your offerings out for everyone to see. Let each person present their items and allow attendees to claim or request. You will likely leave with decent finds since everyone’s goal is to get rid of their stock. Have each person bring a snack or drink to share.

Nifty Thrift Stores:

The most obvious choice for recycled clothing is a thrift store. At more selective thrift stores, it’s likely that the clothes have been screened and picked through by employees, for cleanliness. You may even sell your used items in good condition for cash or a store credit. Spending your dollars at thrift stores also supports your local economy by keeping those jobs in place and contributing to non-profits operating them, such as the SPCA or Salvation Army.

Choosing recycled clothing means you may have to spend a bit more time finding items that aren’t overly tattered and on occasion, guessing that they’ll fit. Overall, you’re still saving on extraneous spending and using less. You could put that extra money into your family vacation fund for next summer.