Posts Tagged ‘zero waste’

Where to Donate Almost Anything (and Save it from the Landfill)

Clean Your House But Keep Clutter Out of the Landfill

Okay, I did the KonMari house declutter. Now where does all this stuff go?

A question I see people struggling with lately is “where do I donate my stuff?” With the success of the Marie Kondo Netflix show, we’re all getting inspired to clean house a bit. While there’s nothing wrong with toting it all out of the house in one go, some people prefer to find an ideal charitable recipient for their stuff. And what do you do with stuff that isn’t accepted by the usual charities? I’ve been compiling this list as I discover new places.

In the case of almost everything, there’s a better place for it than the landfill.

What do I do with…

Packing materials

Many UPS stores will recycle your bubble wrap and packing peanuts. Some small businesses that ship stuff will also take packing materials donations.

Vintage lace clothing and linens

The Lace Museum in Sunnyvale, California collects these and sometimes sells them for fundraisers. The nonprofit museum is hoping to raise enough money for a permanent museum location.

Donate broken jewelry

I asked this question on a local Facebook group and got connected with a teacher at an elementary school who runs a jewelry studio. She gladly took a bag of costume jewelry that was missing clasps, etc for the students to take apart and create something new.

Donate formal dresses

First, a cause close to my heart! Prom, bridesmaid, quinceanera dresses can go to local charities such as The Princess Project. I started volunteering with them this year, and it’s such a fun cause. The chapter that I work with collects dresses and jewelry under 8 years old. There’s very likely a prom dress donation organization near you.

Send wedding dresses to a good cause

While collecting dresses for The Princess Project, I got asked about donating wedding dresses. This is a tricky one since there are fewer nonprofits dedicated to wedding dresses. Here are the ones I found around the United States.

In Massachusetts, Brides Across America

In Maryland, choose from fairytalebrides.org, cherieamourbridal.com and brides4haiti.com.

Michigan brides can donate to thebridesproject.org to support cancer research.

Virginia, the nonprofit St. Anthony’s Bridal accepts wedding dresses. 

In New York, http://bridalgarden.org helps disadvantaged children.

In Oregon and Washington, adornedingrace.org and bridesforacause.com.

Charities that take cosmetics

First of all, send all those mascara wands to Appalachian Wildlife Refuge. Other used cosmetics should be tossed if they’re old, but if they’re new they can go to women’s shelters. Call and ask first!

Donate clothes and household items

My go-to is usually to donate to a locally-run thrift shop because I believe they do good in the community. There’s also the strategy of putting it all out on the curb and posting a “curb alert” on Craigslist. Neighbors will come help themselves to your free yard sale and you’ll have way less to haul off to the donation center. The downside is no tax write off, but the convenience factor seems to outweigh that for a lot of people.

Recycle old mattresses

Some Goodwill locations will recycle mattresses free or for a small fee. Goodwill of Silicon Valley says that 90% of mattress materials can get repurposed and tens of thousands of mattresses get diverted from the landfill every year through Goodwill’s disposal program.

Recycle broken electronics 

Cables and small electronics such as cameras and cell phones can be brought to Best Buy for free recycling. Local computer shops will often take old laptops for free recycling as well. 

Donate old towels and blankets

These are often accepted at dog rescue organizations. I found a neighbor through the Nextdoor app who works with a rescue and gave bags of old towels to her. I made sure to trim any ripped or frayed edges before I dropped them off.

Donate old books

My strategy to purge books is to canvas the neighborhood and patronize the Little Free Libraries, but that takes dedication. I can’t unload my entire box of antique books at one lone Little Free Library, you see–they need to be parceled out around town. I’ve read that prisons and women’s shelters take books but I haven’t tried this myself. Books that are musty or outdated can be composted or recycled. It feels weird at first to dispose of books, but sometimes it’s the only option.

Donate magazines

Working in the magazine industry, I amassed a collection of magazines that was ever-growing. Since Reuse comes before Recycle, I wanted to offer the magazines to someone who could collage with them first. The very first memory care center I called wanted them for their residents.

where

These alternatives to donating to Goodwill are often where your donated items can do the most good. I know many people try to avoid donating to Goodwill in favor of smaller local charities, but it’s way better to bring stuff there than to throw it away. Goodwill also does fabric recycling, so it’s a great solution for clothing with holes that can’t be resold! I drop off bags there a few times a year.

Do you have a suggestion for the list? Please leave it in the comments! I’ll be updating this post as I find more places.

The 13 Stages of Zero Waste Living

If you’ve read my blog you know that I like to make Earth-friendly choices whenever possible. As it turns out, there’s a name for this trend called Zero Waste. It’s where people like me aim to reduce the amount of trash they create while making more sustainable choices overall. Looking at how my own habits keep changing, I made a list of the stages a person might go through on a Zero Waste Journey. Which stage are you in?

Stage 1

What’s zero waste?

Stage 2

You learn it’s about sustainable living and think, oh, I already do a lot of that stuff. Like recycle and shop at Whole Foods. So I’m good.

Stage 3

After watching your zero waste friends bring their own utensils to restaurants, you get inspired by them and want to adopt their crunchy, hippie chic ways.

Stage 4

Now once you start, you can’t stop. You’re shopping in the bulk section, composting, and bringing reusable bags to the grocery store. You are conquering this zero waste thing! Oh honey. Little do you know, you’re just getting started.

Stage 5

When you forget your reusable bags, you pack groceries in your purse and then take five trips to hand carry the rest to the car.

Stage 6

You shudder when you see plastic straws at restaurants. Upon seeing styrofoam takeout containers, you consider leaving a scathing Yelp review.

Stage 7

You put on a disguise when you go into a fast fashion retailer, hoping no one you know will recognize you.

Stage 8

You start buying clothes by looking at the fiber content and thinking, could I compost it when it wears out? Which fabric will eventually mulch my strawberries better–strips of organic cotton or wool?

Stage 9

You notice when your friends don’t compost and offer to help them learn how. Those banana peels aren’t going to turn into soil by themselves, Karla.

Stage 10

You start picking through the trash after your housemates throw away things that don’t belong in the landfill. Congratulations, you’re a basic zero waste bum now.

Stage 11

You break the ice at parties by starting conversations about composting toilets.

Stage 12

Coincidentally you don’t have as many invitations as you used to, but you don’t notice because you’re so busy making your own body lotion, toothpaste, lip gloss and non-toxic household cleaner, perfecting your sourdough bread recipe, weeding your organic vegetable patch, installing solar panels and tending to the family of goats you just bought.

Stage 13

While on vacation, instead of souvenirs you collect filthy plastic bags blowing around the streets of San Francisco to take home and recycle. Your family might refuse to be seen with you, but at least the ocean fish will respect you and be your friend.