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Too Many T-Shirts

Blog post by Plant Chicago intern Athena Clark

Have Too Many T-Shirts? Thinking About Donating Them?


If you’re like me then you have way too many T-shirts. I have T-shirts from volunteering, from different high school and college events, from my favorite bands, … the list goes on and on. Besides the few that I use when I work out, the majority just sit in the back of my closet collecting dust. With the extra time spent hanging around the house, with the COVID-19 pandemic raging on and winter months looming, I’ve decided to clean out my closet and all those T-shirts. But, what to do with them?


Let’s start with some fast facts on textile waste and donation practices in the United States…

  • Textiles make up a huge portion of the US waste stream. The EPA reports that Americans generate 16 million tons of textile waste a year, equaling just over six percent of total municipal waste (plastics make up 13 percent of our waste stream)

  • 11.3 million tons of textiles were sent to the landfill in 2018.

  • Goodwill, which reports that it offers many opportunities for the clothes to be resold, reports that roughly five percent of donated clothes are sent directly to landfills

And all of a sudden, I’m rethinking my initial plan. I can’t just send it straight to Goodwill or Salvation Army; at least not with those facts clouding my conscience.


Don’t stress! I did the digging so that you don’t have to…

Before throwing away or donating your old T-shirts consider upcycling them into something new and useful! Like…

Bigger sizes work as tote bags and smaller sizes work as produce bags!

And finally, if you don’t want your t-shirts to go to the landfill but aren’t feeling particularly crafty, have them turned into a quilt or blanket!

Keepsake will turn those t-shirts into something to keep you cozy and warm while supporting the deaf and hard of hearing community through their employment practices. Take a look at their mission statement:

“We started our non-profit in 1998 with one goal: to provide meaningful employment to a community that experiences high rates of unemployment. True to our mission, nearly every one of our employees is deaf/hard of hearing and count on our organization to create a work environment where they can succeed. Our greatest source of pride is not the 10,000+ custom t-shirt blankets we've made over the years. It's the 115+ deaf employees that have joined us along the way.”

No matter what you decide to do with your pile of t-shirts remember to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!

  • Reduce the volume of textiles you purchase.

  • Reuse textiles until they’re at the end of their usefulness and then consider upcycling.

  • Research how to recycle textile waste in your area!


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