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GASP’s Earth Week of Actions: Prioritize Recycling & Reusing

This Earth Week we wanted to reiterate that the benefits of recycling cannot be understated. It reduces the amount of waste sent to our landfills, conserves natural resources, and prevents pollution by reducing the need for new raw materials.

And that’s just the shortlist.

Unfortunately, not all municipalities in our region offer weekly pickup of recyclable materials. If you live in one of these neighborhoods, don’t despair: There are many resources in our area where you can take your recyclables.

Because it DOES make a difference.

Recycling & You

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, for example, reports that residents and businesses recycled more than 5.47 million tons of resources in 2018 (the most recent data available).

And those recyclables cut more than 9.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions from our air. This number is also equivalent to more than 2 million passenger vehicles taken off the road for one year.

Here’s what you need to know if you want to up your recycling game:

The Importance of Reusing

While recycling bottles, cans, and other materials is so important, so is reusing – we’re talking about buying second-hand and so-called upcycling of everyday items like clothing.

Why are we talking specifically about your clothes? Because they make a bigger environmental impact than you might think. 

In the United States, the number of garments purchased by Americans has tripled since the 1970s. Globally, more than 80 billion items of clothing are purchased each year – the majority of which will be thrown in the trash. 

The World Resources Institute estimates that the so-called “fast fashion” industry each year releases about 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. 

Or to put it another way: In the United States, the number of garments purchased by Americans has tripled since the 1970s. That’s helped lead to a whopping 85 percent of textiles going to the dump each year. And consider this: The equivalent of one garbage truck of clothing is burned or dumped in a landfill every second. 

The air quality impact is stunning – the World Resources Institute estimates that the fashion industry annually releases about 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide.

Fortunately, there are many ways each of us can help combat fashion-related waste and pollution. The first is to alter your buying habits. 

Here are six other ways you can reduce the carbon footprint of your clothing:

  1. Be mindful of what clothing you are throwing away. If possible, mend or repair clothing and buy second-hand instead of something new. 
  2. Ensure your clothing lasts longer. This one is easy – just wash and dry your clothing at lower temperatures and line dry when you can.
  3. Look at those tags if you must buy new. Select garments that are well-made and avoid synthetic materials like polyester, which releases nearly three times the carbon emissions of cotton.
  4. Normalize second-hand shopping. Check out local thrift, vintage, and consignment shops for new-to-you clothes.
  5. Consider donating. There are so many places that accept gently used clothing here locally – so drop them off at a thrift store or nonprofit like Dress for Success. 
  6. Know that even stained and torn clothing can be repurposed. If your clothes are beyond repair, don’t toss them out – recycle them. Through what’s called textile recycling, otherwise unwearable clothing items are collected and made into other products. Locally, the University of Pittsburgh now has a number of locations to collect textiles. You can read more about that on the Pitt Sustainability website. 
  7. Support companies that are sustainability champions. Before you make your next purchase, do some research. Check out their website and social media presence to determine if your favorite clothing company takes sustainability seriously. Locally, check out stores like Calligramme, Flux Bene, Idia’Dega, Kelly Lane, Knotzland Bowtie Co., Mossy Lane, and Three Pigs Vintage. Did we forget one of your favorites? Email us at amanda@gasp-pgh.org and we will add it to the blog!

Here are some local resources to consider:

To learn more about clothes recycling opportunities, check out these organizations and programs:

Editor’s Note: What sustainability-conscious local companies do you support? Drop us a note in the comments below. And for Monday’s Earth Week action, check out:

GASP’s Earth Week of Actions: Take Action to Stave Off Food Waste

GASP’s Earth Week of Actions: How to Reduce Your Impact on Air Quality When You Go Mobile

GASP’s Earth Week of Actions: How to Get Involved, Use Your Voice & Be in the Know About Air Quality

GASP Earth Week of Actions: Everyday Choices That Can Help Improve Air Quality at Home & Work

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