Going Green: What To Do With Old T-Shirts

Think about how many old T-shirts are piled up in the back of your closet. Chances are, you have an assortment of ratty, ill-fitting tees from different merchandising events and earlier times in your life. Whether they were free shirts that you never wore (and never plan to), or old favorites that are too worn-out, you probably need to get rid of some old T-shirts at some point in your life. So what are some environmentally-conscious ways to use up your old T-shirts? This article discusses some environmentally-friendly ways to reuse T-shirts you don't want to wear anymore!

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Don't Throw Them Out.

You may look at a torn, stained old T-shirt and automatically consign it to your trash can. Even though they may look like trash, throwing old clothes in the bin is one of the most environmentally harmful ways to dispose of them. Newsweek reports that New York City alone spends $20.6 million per year to transport textile waste to landfills. As they slowly decompose in landfills, the materials release a slew of toxic gases like methane and carbon dioxide, two major greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases erode the earth's ozone layer and contribute to global warming. 

A 2017 State of Reuse Report led by global thrift retailer Savers reports that about 26 billion pounds of clothing per year end up in North American landfills. That's a huge amount of old T-shirts adding up to climate change! As tempting as it may be to toss your old t-shirts away, try one of these more eco-friendly ways to dispose of your old shirts instead. 

Environmentally Friendly Ways To Deal With Old T-Shirts

a group of people donating clothing

Donate Them

If your old clothes are still in decent condition, and you just don't want to wear them anymore, or they don't fit properly, think about donating it to somebody else who may want to wear them. If the clothes are barely worn and in excellent condition and are from a more upscale brand (think J. Crew or designer labels), you might also be able to sell them to a consignment store or on an online resale site like Poshmark

If you decide to donate your old clothes rather than consigning them, it's easy to find clothing collection boxes in your neighborhood on Google. There are also several national charities you can donate to, like Planet Aid and Clothes4Souls. There's also Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and GreenDrop, which have drop-off locations all over the nation. Visit any donation center website to learn more and to find information on how to mail your donations. 

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Recycle The Materials

If your old t-shirts have truly gone through the trials of frequent wear and are totally beyond repair, you can (and we recommend this) think about recycling them. Many fast-fashion brands like American Eagle Outfitters and H&M have in-store recycling programs to try and offset their carbon footprint. You can drop off everything from old tees to textiles like towels, canvas tote bags, and towels. Patagonia, The North Face, and Levi's also offer donation programs that boast incentives to encourage shoppers to recycle. In addition, all three of these brands will readily hand you a discount to use on future purchases to thank you for going green. 

Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (SMART) is a company with a recycling drop-off location finder. So it's just as easy (and a lot better for the planet) to toss your ratty tees in a donation bin as you're headed to the grocery store or the gym as it is to throw them in the trash. 

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Need Cleaning Rags?

Whether you're scrubbing moldy outdoor furniture or cleaning the bathroom, a good old-fashioned rag can always come in handy. But do you really want to use your pretty beach towels or washcloths to scrub the oil, dirt, and grime off the bike you've kept in storage all winter? Cut through the shirt's seams and separate the front from the back to form two rough-and-ready cleaning rags for those necessary but gross jobs. Just drop them off at your local recycling center after a few uses, and they start falling apart. 

Need Hair Curlers?

Rag curls are a super easy, eco-friendly way to curl your hair that your grandmother or mother may have used. Before you're about to go to bed, wrap your hair in small cloth strips and tie them in place. In the morning, you'll wake up with bouncing, beautiful curls. Think about Shirley Temple with her hair full of rags in A Little Princess

Garden Ties

If you don't find tying old strips of fabric into your hair appealing, you may want to transform your T-shirt into garden ties! Cut the shirts up into strips, and use them instead of plastic ties to keep your plants growing tall. Garden ties help guide vines and crawlers up a trellis to help your plants grow in a specific direction and can be used to support growing saplings. 

Make Paint Smocks

Let your kids go all-out with watercolors, acrylics, and paint pens without staining their school or play clothes. Adults can find them helpful too! Wear your old t-shirts for painting, working in the garden, or staining a vintage coffee table. 

Have A Tie-Dye Party

Give new life to old tops with kids. To make the activity extra eco-friendly, you can make your own natural dyes that are safe for children's sensitive skin by using colorful plants or vegetables. Your kids will love it, and you'll get another wear out of old T-shirts. 

Make A Dog Toy For Your Pup

Your dog will love a homemade, eco-friendly toy that smells like his favorite human! Even if your dog destroys it, you can quickly whip up another one without leaving for the pet store! There are many online tutorials3 to guide you through making a range of different styles of dog toys, but one simple technique is to cut old shirts into strips, braid the strips, and knot the ends. Make the braid as thick (and durable) as you want by using multiple shirts and larger numbers of strips. 

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Taking Your Brand To The Next Level With POND Threads

shirts at a thrift shop


Recycling or reusing old t-shirts helps save the environment while offering some fun craft materials. POND Threads is a customer-integrated purchase-activated apparel manufacturer. We manufacture premium athleisure wear as fast as customer demand and take care of every aspect of the process from inception to shipping. Work with POND Threads to take your brand to the next level! 

Looking for premium apparel manufacturers? Work with POND Threads today!