Ethical Clothing Donation

“Who wants my old stuff??

According to the English isms of the universe, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” But what’s the best way to get your (gently used) trash to those treasure hunters?

My goal for today’s post is to give you plenty of information about clothing donation centers. Some you may have heard of, some you may not. Either way, I hope you walk away from this read armed with more information about your options than you came in with.

Clothing Donation Centers

For the purposes of this post, clothing donation counts as any avenue through which you’re getting rid of clothes without any form of compensation. Each charity I list will include their rating on the Better Business Bureau’s Charity Report, the percentage of funds they put into their programs, as well as a general overview of the companies mission.

In a future article, I will discuss various avenues for reselling or bartering your unwanted clothing.

dress for success

Mission Statement: To empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.
Charity Report Rating:
20/20
Funds to Programs: 88%

Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

As their mission statement asserts, Dress for Success works to help women in low income households obtain the professional wardrobe they need to secure a higher paying job. Poverty is cyclical, and providing women with a wardrobe they might not otherwise be able to afford helps break that vicious cycle.

While their standards for donations are high, Dress for Success is the perfect place to send any gently used professional clothing you’ve outgrown, gotten tired of, or simply forgot to return to the department store after you put the dress on at home and realized it didn’t fit as well as it did in the dressing room (the WORST).

american red cross

Mission Statement: To prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
Charity Report Rating:
20/20
Funds to Programs: 90%

Photo by jonathan Ford on Unsplash

The American Red Cross will accept almost any kind of gently used clothing. Shoes, dresses, jeans, formal wear. If you can think of it, they’ll likely accept it.

And as you’re likely aware, American Red Cross will accept more than just clothing. They have a detailed list of acceptable items that encompasses kitchen ware, household items, books, toys, sporting goods, and even small appliances (link below!). The primary restriction is that they cannot accept any individual item weighing over 50 lbs.

salvation army

Mission Statement: Into the world of the hurting, broken, lonely, dispossessed and lost, reaching them in love by all means.
Charity Report Rating:
20/20
Funds to Programs: 87%

As you may or may not know, the Salvation Army is very much a Christian organization, and thus part of their programming is Christian witness and Biblical teaching. If that’s not your cup of tea, I strongly recommend the American Red Cross as an alternative!

The Salvation Army has an exhausting list of services (exhausting in a good way). These are some of the ones I pulled from their website:

  • Emergency Disaster Services
  • Community and Family Serviceworks
  • Street Youth Services
  • Homeless Services
  • Addiction Services
  • Women’s Shelters
  • Maternity Homes
  • Hospitals

And more. Much like with the American Red Cross, there are many ways to give to the Salvation Army. They even have the added convenience of scheduling a pickup for you. Thus, you don’t have to do the whole song and dance of putting five bags of clothes in your trunk, convinced that you’ll donate them tomorrow…when in reality they sit there until next Christmas.

Goodwill

Mission Statement: Goodwill works to enhance people’s dignity and quality of life by strengthening their communities, eliminating their barriers to opportunity, and helping them reach their full potential through learning and the power of work.
Charity Report Rating:
20/20
Funds to Programs: 89%

The Good

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Goodwill not only sells donated clothing, it also seeks to empower and employ individuals who might otherwise struggle to find opportunities.

This includes employing people with disabilities, criminal records, or lower levels of education. As such, when you donate to Goodwill, you are donating to a charity that is not only in the business of recycling clothing, but also in the business of employing individuals whom other companies might reject.

Additionally, many Goodwill locations will take the clothing they cannot sell and send it to textile recycling facilities. At those facilities, clothing is either resold into other used clothing markets, cut into rags, or processed into soft-ware filling for insulation, furniture, etc.

The Not-So-Good

Because Goodwills are locally run, there aren’t blanket policies for how stores handle 1) unusable clothing and 2) employee salaries.

Loopholes in the Fair Labor Standards Act allows companies to pay disabled employees less than minimum wage, and the decisions about who gets paid less happen on a regional basis. While Goodwill seeks to combat this with their mentorship and learning programs, there is something questionable about paying less than a living wage – particularly because the way in which a given disability affects work may not correlate with the wage deduction.

Again because Goodwills are locally controlled, they do not all send unsellable clothing to recycling facilities. Some of them then sell it to foreign sellers, who glut the market and drive up prices. Others, particularly in more rural areas, don’t have the resources or time to recycle, and your unusable clothing ends up in a landfill.

Recycling

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

But what to do with clothes that are past wearing? Depending on the type of textile we’re talking about, you might have several options!

National

The below options will accept your used clothes and textiles at any of their donation centers. You can search donation center/bin locations on their websites.

American Textile Recycling Service: http://atrscorp.com/services/our-programs/

Planet Aid: https://www.planetaid.org/

Greenmarket Clothing Collection (NYC): https://www.grownyc.org/clothing

Local

A quick internet search or a few phone calls should let you know if there’s any local charities you can donate old textiles to. A few common options are listed here.

  • Animal shelters (old towels and sheets)
  • Youth Art programs (scrap cloth, rags, large t-shirts)
  • Cut your old sheets/towels into cleaning rags rags

I’m sure there are plenty of large or local organizations that I missed. If you have a preferred clothing donation charity, please mention it below! I’m all for updating these articles to reflect the best, most relevant information. And I’m sure other readers want to hear your suggestions!

RESOURCES

American Red Cross acceptable items: https://www.gogreendrop.com/acceptable-items

Charity Report: https://www.bbb.org/new-york-city/charities-donors/

Dress for Success donation guidelines: http://3xokx41zp3859n32sf9l2o17-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/DONATION-GUIDELINES-2019.pdf

Salvation Army programs: https://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/home/#whatwedo

2 comments

  1. Good info – I really like that at least one will pick up from your home. I have seen collections bins in different locations for America’s Thrift but know nothing about their mission (so good to know from your article!)

    If you have gently used kids’ clothes, sometimes you can find a mom who is happy to take what your kids have outgrown. Also, some areas have periodic clothing swaps you can take items to.

    Liked by 1 person

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