One man’s trash…

I have this contradictory feeling about stuff. I’d like to think I could get rid of things I own and live a minimalist lifestyle… but then the thought of throwing things out and ending up in a landfill gives me shivers. I like to think I recycle, compost, and donate as much as I can before putting something in the garbage as a last resort. But even that isn’t the end goal. Recycling is a great concept, but when that’s your solution to buying products in single-use packaging and eating out of take-away containers, it’s not going to save the planet. There’s a reason the 3Rs start with Reduce. This is probably the hardest part of going zero-waste; making the decision not to buy something in the first place. Clothes have always been a challenge for me. I am in a profession where I am expected to dress up for work each day; I like to dress comfortably on the weekend; I spend my free time being active outdoors. Each of these requires different types of clothing. And I’ll admit, I get excited about new clothes, even though new clothes often mean getting rid of old clothes to make space. Although I donate my old clothes, these don’t always end up being purchased. Textile waste is a huge contributor to our landfills. As a way to get around this, my friends and I host clothing swaps.

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We bring bags of clothing we no longer wear, hang them up around the room and “shop” each others clothing. We have no formal negotiating; people try things on and if more than one person likes an article of clothing, we make compromises. Just in the last clothing swap, I picked up a pair of brown ankle boots, a great dress for work, and a comfy cardigan, among other things. These were things my friends didn’t find themselves wearing anymore, or perhaps didn’t fit them anymore, yet were a great addition to my wardrobe. They were like brand new clothes that I was excited to wear to work the next day. And it was nice to see clothing I had once loved now loved by friends, rather than sending it into the abyss of a donation centre. By the end, half the clothing was still unclaimed and then donated, but it felt good to divert some of that waste from the landfill.

This weekend, my friends started a new kind of swap – a “stuff swap”. We were asked to bring “stuff” from around our house that we didn’t use anymore, with the intention of clearing out our homes, but also maybe finding some treasures. Within a couple hours of scouring my house, I was surprised how easy it was to compile a few bags – an  blender we no longer used, an old kettle we had replaced with a digital one but never gotten rid of, some books we’d read and puzzles we’d done, and a tent we’d been meaning to donate. Needless to say, we were excited to see what others might bring.

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In the end, we came home with a few more things than we had anticipated, but we did exchange 4 full bags of our “stuff” for a handful of “new to us” things. In our friends’ trash, we found a beautiful vase, a cookbook, a rustic wooden box, and an old Polaroid camera. All in all, it was a really fun way to spend the afternoon – shopping, wine, and good friends.

Ideas of what else to do with textile waste? I’d love to hear it.

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