What to do with your outgrown baby clothes (sustainably)
If you're anything like me, you spent hours upon hours during your pregnancy picking out the perfect clothes for your baby. But now that they're here, you realize that they'll only wear each outfit for a few weeks (if you're lucky) before they outgrow it. So what do you do with all those clothes?
While it can be tempting to just toss those outgrown items in the trash, there are more sustainable options for getting rid of them. Here are some tips for doing just that. And remember, there's no need to feel guilty about getting rid of clothes your child has grown out of – it's all part of the cycle of life! So let's get started.
What's wrong with trash?
Fabric and textiles are the #1 most polluting industry on earth, next to oil. What?!!! This is partly because the majority of fast fashion clothes made today are either made from heavily treated crops (like cotton) or from petrochemicals (aka plastic,) and fabric dyes dump literal tons of poisonous chemicals into waterways. But the hazard is also in part because those clothes, especially the synthetic/polyester ones, don't biodegrade in landfills once we get rid of them. And 84+% of clothing, despite our best efforts, still winds up in a landfill. Considering the climate crisis is the number 1 challenge our children will face in their lifetimes, we would do well to think twice before chucking those tiny pants in the trash.
What's wrong with donating them to Goodwill?
Thanks to our collective addiction to fast fashion, Goodwill is positively overwhelmed with donated clothes. What they can't sell at one store moves on to bulk centers where garments are sold by the pound. And what's still leftover will be shipped overseas, either to countries that don't want them, or, you guessed it...landfills.
Here's the sustainable way
SORT IT OUT
Ok, but you've got a giant box of outgrown baby clothes at the back of the closet and you feel paralyzed by the thought of getting rid of them. I get it, it's intimidating.
Some of it is perfectly good, some of it is trashed beyond recognition, and the last thing you want to do is drag them back out into daylight and sort through them. Let's take it slow, though, and remember--
THIS IS FOR YOUR CHILD'S FUTURE AND IT'S TOTALLY WORTH IT!
First, take a look at the condition of the clothes and make 2 piles. If the clothes are stained or ripped, chuck them in the "let it go" pile. But if they're still in good shape (they don't have to be perfect, just able to be worn--free of stains or rips) move them into the "new life" pile.
LET IT GO PILE
These are the clothes you'd be embarrassed to hand down to even your very best friend--they're ripped, they're stained, they're hopeless. But they're not ready for the trash! Here are some options (in order of sustainability) for this pile:
Leggings are so cute and so cozy, but they are infamous for getting weak in the knees. If your child's leggings are ok except for blown-out knees, just chop them off above the hole and BOOM! You've got shorts. Put them back in the closet and congratulate yourself for saving the planet from one more pair of outgrown pants! Next? Take the bottom half of the leggings and cut them into Kleenex-size squares to use as "facial tissues" or kitchen rags.
If you're crafty, consider cutting the salvageable pieces out of the clothes and storing them for a later project. Pinterest has a TON of great ideas for up-cycling old clothes.
If the clothes are made from natural materials, simply cut off any buttons, zippers and non-natural materials, toss them in your compost bin or pile, and let nature work its magic.
Did you know that almost all textiles are recyclable? Use earth911.com's Recycling Locator to find a drop off facility near you. There are even a few big retailers now like H&M, Zara, Madewell and Levi's who will accept used clothes from any brand for recycling. Your baby's old clothes will go on to become other things like insulation for houses, carpet padding, or yarn.
NEW LIFE PILE
This is a stack of perfectly good and wearable clothes that are ready to move on to another babe. We're going to sort these into two more piles.
Are they sentimental enough that you'll wake up in the middle of the night in 5 years and berate yourself for getting rid of them? Here are some options:
- Archive them for future generations. Wash and dry them thoroughly (moisture is NOT your friend!!!) and store them in either archival storage boxes or acid-free tissue paper. If you're lazy like I am, a large glass mason jar will do the trick.
- Turn them into keepsakes. Several businesses on Etsy can turn your baby's old outfit into "keepsake memory bears" or other toys that your child can continue to enjoy for years to come
PASS THEM ON
If you're ok with parting with them, here are the best (and easiest) ways to pass them:
- Sell them online. Kidizen is a free app with a massive community of folks buying and selling their children's clothes. They make it super easy to photograph the clothes, upload them, and make a little extra cash that will deposit directly into your account.
- Find a friend whose child is 6 months-1 year younger than yours and make them "your person." Likely they will be thrilled to receive free stuff, and might even just drive over and take them off your hands immediately.
- Search Facebook for your local "buy nothing" group. Photograph the entire lot of your outgrown-but-wearable clothes, list them as "porch pickup" and you'll be amazed how quickly someone snaps them up.
- Find a local women and children's shelter. But call first-they don't always need clothes and it would place an undo burden on them to drop things off without asking.
So, before you box up your little one’s clothes and haul them off to Goodwill, try out some of these tips for keeping your baby's clothes out of the landfill and in circulation.
It might take a bit more effort on your part, but it will be worth it when you can pass along those adorable outfits to the next lucky child and know that you helped make their world a little bit greener in the process.
Ready to shop for long-lasting, heirloom quality baby and toddler clothes? Look no further than Beya Made. We offer stylish and sustainable clothing options for children sizes 0-4T. Shop now and start making a difference for the planet!