Heroes

The second half of decluttering that a lot of people might not know about.

Tidying up can be life-changing. Reusing can be world-changing.

The second half of decluttering that a lot of people might not know about.
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Savers

In 2014, Marie Kondo’s best-selling book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" sparked a worldwide decluttering movement.

Her overall message is simple and elegant: When items in our homes have lost their utility or their ability to "spark joy," we thank them for their service and cast them away.

Beautiful, right? Well, kinda.


For many people in a fit of Kondo-inspired decluttering, casting away the things we no longer need means throwing them in the garbage. Instead of our homes, they're resigned to the landfill, where they live out their days decomposing along with old Smash Mouth cassette tapes, tie-dye parachute pants, and Someone With Tiny Hands University diplomas.

Somewhere in that pile is a Sugar Ray cassette single. We guarantee it. Image via iStock.

But if we’re really committed to thanking the items we once treasured for their service, can we, in good conscience, simply throw them away?

If we’re being real here, the answer is no.

A new report from Savers is all about this challenge. The thrift retailer polled 3,000 Americans and Canadians about their habits around waste, reuse, and recycling.

What they found isn't completely discouraging, but there's lots of room for improvement in how we collectively deal with the things we don't want or need anymore.

First up, the not-so-great stuff. It turns out that Americans are not great with recognizing just how much stuff they're sending to landfills each year.

Respondents to Savers' online survey estimated they're throwing out about 4.7 bags worth of waste a year. The actual amount is 8.1 bags — nearly double.

Life pro-tip: Having enough garbage to make angels might mean you have too much. GIF by "The Simpsons"/20th Century Fox.

That's a problem because North American landfills are already pretty jam-packed. Last year, researchers from Yale University added up the actual weight of trash sent to landfills in 2012. Their total — 262 million tons — is more than double what the Environmental Protection Agency estimated we threw out. All of that trash piles up, making our landfills and our carbon emissions bigger every year at a time when we've promised the world we'll try to cut back.

When it comes to clothes and textiles, we can really do better.

Savers' study found that the #1 reason people donate their unwanted clothing is because of "overflowing closets." To make space, we're throwing away a shocking amount of clothing and textiles every year — about 26 billion pounds in total, or 81 pounds per person per year. That's almost an entire Ariana Grande! Or a large labrador retriever! Both of whom are still very good and useful.

See? Perfectly delightful. GIF via "Bang Bang."

That's where the Kondo method comes back into play. While we may be done with jeans that don’t fit anymore, outdated tops, or sneakers with scuffs in the wrong places, it's wrong to assume that they don't still have further work to do. They might spark joy for someone else who finds them in a thrift store. Or, if certain clothes have been loved too much to pass on to another person, their fabrics can be recycled into other things, like carpet padding, playground mats, or even simple cleaning cloths.

Fortunately, we're open to changing our ways.

Of the people who responded to the survey, more than half said they'd reuse clothing once they learned how much textile manufacturing affects our environment. 94% of respondents also thought that children should be taught about reuse along with recycling in schools so they build lifelong habits around sustainability.

These adorable little recyclers are learning what's good. Image via iStock.

We're also eager to be charitable! According to the survey, half of us are willing to donate even more if it helps a nonprofit organization we support.

In a landfill, things disintegrate. In thrift stores, they have a chance to thrive.

If we think about the things we buy and the things we love, they should really overlap as often as possible. We should buy only what we need. We should find noncommercial ways to spark joy and find purpose in our lives. We should reuse, repurpose, and recycle everything we can.

Realistically, our landfills can't grow forever — and Elon Musk hasn't built that Mars rocket yet. The sooner we start thinking about the future life of the stuff we don't want — and how we can give it the best chance to spark joy for other people — the better off we'll all be.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.