Heroes

9 reasons you shouldn't throw away clothes, and 4 things you can do instead.

Textile waste is a real problem that so often goes overlooked.

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Savers + Value Village

It's springtime! The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, and everyone's ready to clean out their closets.

There's something about warmer weather — it seems to make us want to do a complete makeover on our wardrobes and get rid of clutter around the house.

When it comes to unwanted items, sometimes it just feels good to purge and start fresh. No doubt there have been times when you've thrown things in the trash instead of taking them to a donation center. Perhaps you didn't have the time to drop it off, or you thought it was too far gone to be donated.


You're not alone. According to the 2017 State of Reuse Report, North Americans throw away roughly 81 pounds of textiles (clothing, towels, bedding, etc.) a year per person. Think of it this way: That's more than 26 billion pounds (!) heading into landfills each year across the U.S. and Canada alone.

Image via iStock.

Still not convinced? Here are nine more reasons to not throw away clothing.

1. Every time you toss a piece of clothing in the trash, you're costing your city or town money.

According to the EPA, it costs an average of $45 per ton to dispose of waste in a landfill. A fashion-focused city like New York City pays $20.6 million per year just to dispose of textile waste. That's a whole other level of wastefulness.

2. Your used clothes may be more usable than you think.

According to Savers' most recent study, 62% of people who admit to throwing away textiles do so because they didn't think a donation center would take them. This is an unfortunate misconception.

3. 95% of used textiles can be recycled or repurposed.

Take a minute to pick your jaw up off the floor. Yup, those are the stats from The Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART). Since people tend to think no one can use clothes with holes, used undergarments, or that shirt that got burned in a freak cooking accident, they don’t bother trying to recycle them. But just because it may not be wearable doesn't mean it won't serve a purpose. These items can have a second life as dishrags or even insulation.

4. Taking clothes to donation centers helps your local community.

Image via iStock.

In terms of giving back, the Savers survey found that 78% of people would prefer their charitable giving to benefit a local cause rather than a national cause, and 76% consider donating clothing and home goods "charitable giving." The textiles you bring to your local donation center will directly benefit members of your community.

5. The apparel industry is the second-largest industrial polluter in the world.

According to Forbes, the production of clothes (just clothes, not all textiles) is responsible for 10% of all carbon emissions on the planet. And since we know production won't stop, we should do what we can to offset these stats by reusing, recycling, and buying fewer clothes.

6. Clothes release toxic gas when they decompose in landfills.

As clothing joins the rest of the garbage in landfills, it breaks down and releases toxic greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane into the environment. In fact, landfills are the third-largest source of atmospheric methane on the planet.

7. It takes so much water to make a pair of jeans.

Up to 1,800 gallons, to be exact. That's more water than you can or will drink in five years. Just some food (or water) for thought.

8. It takes more energy to make a new pair of jeans than leaving the lights in your house on all night.

Sorry, clothes hounds, but this is reason enough to patch those tried and true jeans in your closet.

9. Fast fashion (garments typically worn less than five times, then thrown away) is a major contributor to clothing waste.

You know those cheaply made clothes that don't really hold up well in the wash, so you toss them after about a month or two? They produce 400% more carbon emissions per item per year than that one great outfit-making piece of clothing you wear 50 times and keep for a year or more.

Ready to do your part to support a nonprofit or charitable organization in your community while saving the planet? Here are a few ways you can make a difference by reducing textile waste.

1. DON'T throw away your clothes (whether they are good quality, used, or worn out). DO bring them to your local donation center.

Savers found that 96% of the people they polled are willing to drive up to 30 minutes to donate their unwanted clothing. So not only is it good to do, it's easy.

2. Have a clothing swap party!

Image by J R/Flickr.

Hate the idea of sorting through your clothes and lugging them somewhere without an immediate payoff? What if you could exchange them for new (to you) clothes and party down with your friends at the same time? That’s the sheer delight of a clothing swap party: You get to discard the clothes you no longer want and return home with ones you like, all at no cost to you.

3. Shop thrift.

Thrifting is on the rise, and millennials (as usual) are leading the charge. Most cities also have consignment shops where you can sell lightly used clothes or exchange them for other lightly used clothes (which, let’s face it, always seem cooler than our own). That's like recycling squared!

4. Find ways to reuse and repurpose your own clothes.

30% of the clothes you donate will be repurposed into a commercial or industrial wiping cloth. If you have worn, stained, or torn clothing and textiles, why not just make your own rags for cleaning or arts and crafts?

Curtailing your clothing waste and reducing your carbon footprint can be an adjustment, but all it takes is a little bit of effort to change how you see what's in your closet.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Freya from Maya Higa's YouTube video.

Ever wonder what an ideal date for a lemur would be? Or a lizard’s favorite Disney princess?

Thanks to one YouTube poster with a passion for animals and an endearing sense of humor, all questions shall be answered. Well, maybe not all questions. But at the very least, you’ll have eight minutes of insanely cute footage.

In a series titled “Tiny Mic Interviews,” Maya Higa approaches little beasties with a microphone so small she has to hold it with just her thumb and forefinger. And yes, 99% of the animals try to eat it.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Cellist Cremaine Booker's performance of Faure's "Pavane" is as impressive as it is beautiful.

Music might be the closest thing the world has to real magic. Music has the ability to transform any atmosphere in seconds, simply with the sounds of a few notes. It can be simple—one instrument playing single notes like raindrops—or a complex symphony of melodies and harmonies, swirling and crashing like waves from dozens of instruments. Certain rhythms can make us spontaneously dance and certain chord progressions can make us cry.

Music is an art, a science, a language and a decidedly human endeavor. People have made music throughout history, in every culture on every continent. Over time, people have perfected the crafting of instruments and passed along the knowledge of how to play them, so every time we see someone playing music, we're seeing the history of humanity culminated in their craft. It's truly an amazing thing.

The pandemic threw a wrench into seeing live musicians for a good chunk of time, and even now, live performances are limited. Thankfully, we have technology that makes it easier for musicians to collaborate and perform with one another virtually—and also makes it easier for people to create "group" performances all by themselves.

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That's right, Betty White left us a message of gratitude shortly before her passing. It's brief, but how lovely to see and hear her speak to her millions of fans one last time. Few celebrities are as universally beloved as Betty White was, and though we knew she couldn't live forever, it would have been fun to see her celebrate her 100th birthday. Now, at least, we get to experience her joy and warmth with a few last words.

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