Which is Better For The Environment? Glass or Plastic?

When you look up zero waste, you’re bound to notice tons and tons of pictures of glass jars everywhere. From the trash jar to the jars lining our pantries, glass is pretty popular in the zero waste community.

But what’s our obsession with glass? Is it really so much better for the environment than plastic? 

Which is better for the environment? Glass or Plastic? from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #sustainable #glass #plastic #recycle #zerowaste

Plastic tends to get a really bad rep from environmentalists – that's got a lot to do with the fact only 9 percent of it is recycled. That said, there’s so much more to think about in terms of what goes into manufacturing and recycling both glass and plastic, not to mention its afterlife. 

Which is truly the eco-friendliest choice when you get down to it, glass or plastic? Well, perhaps the answer isn’t as clear cut as you may think.


Let's start by analyzing every zero waster’s beloved material: Glass.

First, it’s important to note that glass is endlessly recyclable, back to its original use. It never loses its quality and purity, no matter how many times it’s recycled…. but is it actually being recycled?

problems with glass:

First up, making new glass requires sand. While we have tons of sand on beaches, deserts and under the ocean, we’re using it faster than the planet can replenish it. 

We use sand more than we use oil, and only a specific kind of sand can be used to get the job done (no, desert sand can’t be used). Mostly, sand is harvested from riverbeds and seabeds.

Taking sand out of the natural environment also disrupts the ecosystem, considering microorganisms live on it which feed the base of the food chain. 

Removing sand from the seabed leaves shore communities open to flooding and erosion. Since we need sand to create new glass, you can see where this would be an issue.

Another problem with glass? Glass is heavier than plastic, and breaks much easier during transit. This means it produces more emissions in transportation than plastic, and costs more to transport.

Yet another thing to consider is most glass isn’t actually recycled. In fact, only 33 percent of waste glass is recycled in America. When you consider 10 million metric tons of glass is disposed of every year in America, that’s not a very high recycling rate. 

There are many reasons glass recycling is so low: Glass put into the recycling bin is used as a cheap landfill cover to keep costs low; Consumers participating in “wish-cycling” where they toss non-recyclables into the recycling bin and contaminate the entire bin; Colored glass can only be recycled and melted down with like-colors; Windows and Pyrex bakeware are not recyclable because of the way it’s manufactured to withstand high temperatures.  

Last but not least, glass takes one million years to decompose in the environment, perhaps even more in a landfill. 

In total, that’s about four major problems with glass that impact the environment. Now, let’s analyze the lifecycle of glass bit closer.

Which is better for the environment? Glass or Plastic? from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #sustainable #glass #plastic #recycle #zerowaste

raw materials: 

Glass is made from all-natural resources, such as sand, soda ash, limestone and recycled glass. However, it is important to note that we’re running out of the sand that’s used to make glass in the first place. Worldwide, we go through 50 billion tons of sand every year. That is twice the amount produced by every river in the world.

Once these raw materials are harvested, they’re transported to a batch house where they are inspected and then sent to the furnace for melting where they’re heated to 2600 to 2800 degrees Fahrenheit. Afterwards, they go through a conditioning, forming and finishing process before becoming the final product.

Once the final product is created, it’s transported so it can be washed and sterilized, then transported again to stores for sale or use. Once it comes to its end of life, it’s (hopefully) collected and recycled. Unfortunately, each year only one-third of the roughly 10 million metric tons of glass that Americans throw away is recycled. The rest goes to a landfill.

When glass is collected and recycled, it has to begin this process of being transported, going through batch preparation, and everything else that follows again.

Which is better for the environment? Glass or Plastic? from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #sustainable #glass #plastic #recycle #zerowaste

emissions + energy:

As you can imagine, this entire process to make glass, especially using virgin materials, takes up a lot of time, energy and resources. Also, the amount of transporting the glass has to go through adds up too, creating more emissions in the long run.

A lot of the furnaces used to create glass also run on fossil fuels, thus creating a lot of pollution.

The total fossil fuel energy consumed to make glass in North America, primary energy demand (PED), averaged to 16.6 megajoule (MJ) per 1 kilogram (kg) of container glass produced. The global warming potential (GWP), aka climate change, averaged to 1.25 MJ per 1 kg of container glass produced. These numbers encompass every stage of the packaging life cycle for glass.

If you’re wondering, a megajoule (MJ) is a unit of energy equivalent to one million joules. A property’s gas usage is measured in megajoules and is recorded using a gas meter.

To put the carbon footprint measurements I gave into perspective a little better, 1 liter of gasoline is equal to 34.8 megajoules, High Heating Value (HHV). In other words, it takes less than a liter of gasoline to make 1 kg of glass. 

Which is better for the environment? Glass or Plastic? from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #sustainable #glass #plastic #recycle #zerowaste

recycling rates:

However, if a glass manufacturing facility used 50 percent recycled content to make new glass, then there would be a 10 percent decrease in GWP.

In other words, the 50 percent recycle rate would remove 2.2 million metric tons of CO2 from the environment. That’s the equivalent of removing CO2 emissions of nearly 400,000 cars every year.

However, this would only happen assuming at least 50 percent of glass was recycled properly and used to make new glass. Currently, only 40 percent of glass thrown into single-stream recycling collections actually gets recycled. 

While glass is completely recyclable, unfortunately there are certain facilities that choose to crush the glass and use it as a landfill cover instead. This is cheaper than actually recycling the glass, or finding another cover material for landfills. 

Cover material for landfills are a mix of organic, inorganic and inert components (such as glass). Landfill covers are used to control the offensive smells landfills give off, deter pests, prevent waste fires, discourage scavenging, and limit rainwater runoff. 

Unfortunately, using glass to cover landfills doesn’t help the environment or reduce emissions because it’s essentially downcycling glass and preventing it from being reused.

Make sure you look into your local recycling laws before you recycle glass, just to double check it’ll actually be recycled. Glass recycling is a closed-loop system, so it doesn’t create any additional waste or by-products.

Which is better for the environment? Glass or Plastic? from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #sustainable #glass #plastic #recycle #zerowaste

end of life:

You’re probably better off holding onto glass and repurposing it before you toss it into the recycling bin.

Glass takes a very, very long time to break down. In fact, it can take a glass bottle one million years to decompose in the environment, possibly even more if it’s in a landfill. 

Because its life cycle is so long, and because glass doesn’t leach any chemicals, it’s better to repurpose and reuse it over and over again before recycling it.

Because glass is nonporous and impermeable, there are no interactions between glass packaging and the products inside, resulting in no nasty after taste – ever. Plus, glass has an almost zero rate of chemical interactions, which ensures that the products inside a glass bottle keep their flavor, strength and aroma.

I guess that’s why lots of zero wasters encourage people to save all their empty jars for reuse. It’s great for storing food you get from the bulk food store, leftovers, and homemade cleaning products!

Which is better for the environment? Glass or Plastic? from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #sustainable #glass #plastic #recycle #zerowaste


The zero waste community has a habit of criminalizing plastic. But is it really as bad as they say? 

Let’s take a look, shall we?

problems with plastic:

First, most plastic (not counting the bio-plastics) are petroleum-based, thus making the materials non-renewable and unsustainable to harvest. Drilling for oil has caused many problems, including disturbing land and marine ecosystems.

Also, dealing with oil tends to result in oil spills, which contaminate soil and water and may cause horrendous fires and explosions. 

Secondly, the carbon footprint of plastic is pretty hard to ignore. From the moment raw materials are made into plastic to their disposal, plastic emits carbon dioxide. In fact, the emissions from plastic in 2015 were equivalent to nearly 1.8 billion metric tons of CO2. 

It doesn’t help the factories used to create plastic also run on fossil fuels and produce emissions as well. To be fair though, factories that produce glass also create emissions and run on fossil fuels for the most part.

Another problem? Only 9 percent of plastic is actually recycled. Considering we’ve made 8.5 billion metric tons of it since large scale production began, that’s a very small recycle rate. 

The glass recycling rate is 33 percent, which isn’t fantastic compared to other countries (there’s a 90 percent glass recycling rate in Switzerland, Germany and other European countries), but still higher than plastic.

When it is recycled, plastic can only be downcycled, meaning it becomes an item of lesser quality. It will never be the same item again. 

Eventually, this leads it to become a waste item that is no longer recyclable and destined to end up in a landfill, or the environment.

Not to mention, plastic takes 450+ years to decompose in the environment, 1000 years in a landfill.  Compared to glass, which takes 1 million years to break down, these numbers may seem kind of low. 

However, it’s important to remember unlike glass, plastic leech toxic chemicals into the environment as time passes. Plastic doesn’t truly break down either, but instead becomes microplastics which pollute our waterways and even contaminate our very soil and the air we breathe.

Altogether, that’s about six major problems with plastic that impact the environment. Lets look at plastic’s life cycle a little bit closer.

Which is better for the environment? Glass or Plastic? from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #sustainable #glass #plastic #recycle #zerowaste

raw materials:

First, oil and natural gas are the major raw materials used to manufacture plastics. 

Plastic production often begins by treating components of crude oil or natural gas in a “cracking process” where these components are converted into hydrocarbon monomers, such as ethylene and propylene. 

Even more processing leads to various other monomers, such as styrene, ethylene glycol, terephthalic acid, vinyl chloride and several others. These monomers are then chemically bonded into chains called polymers. 

The different combinations of monomers yield various different kinds of plastics, all with a wide range of characteristics and properties. There are seven major plastics that are used widely such as Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE), High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE), Polypropylene (PP), Polystyrene (PS) and other plastics (ex: nylon).

Which is better for the environment? Glass or Plastic? from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #sustainable #glass #plastic #recycle #zerowaste

emissions + energy:

All these different plastics serve different functions, though some are easier to recycle than others. As you can imagine, creating all those plastics takes a lot of energy and resources.

In fact, in 2007, researchers Peter Gleick and Heather Cooley estimated that satisfying the existing bottle water demand alone required the energy equivalent of between 32 and 54 million barrels of oil. And that’s just bottled water! This means producing plastic bottles each year releases more greenhouse gas emissions than over a million cars on the road.

From production to end of life, plastics have a surprisingly carbon-intense life cycle. When they’re transformed into products and transported to market, they emit greenhouse gases either directly or via the energy required to accomplish them. 

Even after you dispose of plastic, be it through dumping, incinerating, recycling and composting (for certain bio-plastics), all release carbon dioxide. The emissions from plastics in 2015 were equivalent to nearly 1.8 billion metric tons of CO2

Researchers only expect this number to grow. They project the global demand for plastics will increase by some 22 percent over the next five years. Just to break even, we’ll have to reduce emissions by 18 percent. 

However, on the current course, emissions from plastics will reach 17 percent of the global carbon budget by 2050. This budget basically estimates the max amount of greenhouse gasses we can “safely” emit without making global temperatures rise more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

In other words, there’s really no room for increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Which is better for the environment? Glass or Plastic? from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #sustainable #glass #plastic #recycle #zerowaste

recycling rates:

It doesn’t help that only 9 percent of plastic is actually recycled, either. Humans have created 8.5 billion metric tons of plastics since large-scale production began in the 1950s, and most of it is in a landfill or our environment.

You can imagine how this impacts carbon emissions. While it certainly would be better to have a higher recycling rate for plastic, it’s definitely not the end all solution.

After all, plastic can only be recycled so many times. In fact, it’s technically downcycled into a lesser quality item, meaning it can never be the same thing more than once. Eventually, it becomes unrecyclable altogether and ends up as a waste product.

Which is better for the environment? Glass or Plastic? from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #sustainable #glass #plastic #recycle #zerowaste

end of life:

It should also be noted that plastic takes a very long time to disintegrate and break down. A plastic bottle for example, takes 450+ years to disintegrate, and a thousand years if they’re in a landfill. 

If you compare that to how long glass takes to disintegrate, you might think it’s a better outcome. However, it’s important to note plastic releases toxic chemicals into their surrounding environment as they break down, unlike glass.

We have plenty of room to improve on our recycling game, but recycling plastic certainly isn’t the end-all-answer to our plastic problem. 

Ultimately, replacing fossil-based energy with renewable sources would have the greatest impact on plastic’s greenhouse gas emissions overall. While it’s a bit idealistic, transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy would reduce emissions from plastic by a whopping 51 percent.

Which is better for the environment? Glass or Plastic? from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #sustainable #glass #plastic #recycle #zerowaste


Glass and plastic both have their pros and cons.

The best thing we can do is reduce our reliance on anything single-use! If you use it once and then place it in the recycling bin, try to find another solution.

Of course there are exceptions, and there’s no way we’re going to completely eradicate single-use, but we can definitely make a HUGE dent in it by being a little more conscious with our purchases.

Generally speaking try to avoid buying new plastic and still prefer to buy glass. I try to opt for packaging that contains mostly recycled content, because are we really recycling if we don’t buy products made from recycled content?

And, you should definitely reuse your glass bottles and jars!

sources and further reading:

















Guest Post: Ariana Palmieri is the founder of Greenify-Me.com, a blog dedicated to zero waste living and sustainability. Her work has been featured on MindBodyGreen, Green Matters, The Penny Hoarder and several other publications. Get her free e-book "10 Ways to Reduce Trash" by signing up to her newsletter and learn how to reduce your waste today.

Is Recycling Worth It?

Ah, recycling the one thing that everyone grabs onto in the hopes that they are a GOOD environmentalist. Did that read too negative coming from this website?

You know me, I love positivity and I love talking about small actions that people can take to be more eco-friendly, but I’m tired of hearing people say, “I love the planet! I RECYCLE!” like that’s the only thing that matters.

Is recycling even worth it? Tips for being a better recycler from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #recycling #ecofriendly #sustainable #reducereuserecycle

Don’t get me wrong, recycling is great, and I think it’s important, but we can’t stop at recycling.

There are two other words in the phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” and we just glance over the first two like they don’t even matter. And, that’s totally not our fault. That’s what’s been drilled into us since we’re kids for one very important reason.

If I’m a business which of these words will sell more products?

  1. Reduce

  2. Reuse

  3. Recycle

If you picked #3, you’d be correct! If your only goal was to make a huge amount of money and encourage consumption, what better way than recycling?

Recycling is green and good for the planet, but it doesn’t hinder sales. In fact, it’s been proven to increase consumption.

Is recycling even worth it? Tips for being a better recycler from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #recycling #ecofriendly #sustainable #reducereuserecycle

A study was done at a sampling table. If there was a trash can by the drink sampling table, people would reuse the first cup to sample the different flavors. If there was a recycle bin by the drink sampling station then people would use a new cup every time.

When we recycle we get this really good feeling, it makes us happy. We feel like we’re AMAZING all the while glazing over the fact that we need to first reduce and reuse.

This is because we don’t think about a products life span. Most people just think, “I like it, I get it,” never stopping to consider where that item came from or how it was made, etc.

We tend to put a lot of blind faith in recycling without recognizing that recycling has a lot of issues….

Everyone tends to view recycling as a charity, but it’s a business. In order for something to be recycled there has to be a demand in the market for that product.

Often times, especially plastic, it’s cheaper to use virgin materials than it is to use recycled materials.

I made a video series that goes over all of my thoughts on recycling.

  • Why the recycling system is broken

  • How we can improve recycling

  • What is recycling contamination and how we can fix it

  • A breakdown of materials and the right way to recycle things like paper, glass, plastic, steel, and aluminum

  • Why I have hope for the future of recycling!

I want to write a bit more about solutions and my hopes for the future of recycling because I’m your favorite source of environmental positivity - obvi. ;) And, I’m actually glad that China stopped accepting our trash.

Is recycling even worth it? Tips for being a better recycler from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #recycling #ecofriendly #sustainable #reducereuserecycle

the FUTURE of recycling:

If you remember from the post on eco-anxiety, getting a good view of the future is one of the ways to encourage positive change and help others see what they’re fighting for.

banish single stream recycling:

Many countries have different bins for different types of materials. In the US most of us have a single stream which means we dump all of our recycling into one bin because that’s supposed to make it “easier.” Of course, this leads to contamination, and I think it makes recycling harder.

Many people don’t know what is and isn’t recyclable. When there’s only one bin, a lot of wishcycling happens.

Wishcycling is when you put something in the bin HOPING that it will be recycled even though it won’t be.

Think Christmas lights, water hoses, dead animals, dirty diapers, bowling balls, shower curtains, shredded paper - yes these are all very common items at the recycling plant. And, no, none of them are recyclable.

When you put something in the recycle bin WISHING for it to be recycled, you do more harm than good.

Recycling is a business! When incorrect materials arrive this can clog the machines, slow down the workers, stop the machines, and create contaminated bales of recyclables that no one will purchase. I.e. result in all of the correct recyclables being landfilled.

Yep. A rogue contaminated recyclable can cause an entire BALE to go to the landfill.

The best way to avoid this is to look up what your waste hauler accepts on their website.

But, I think switching to multi-stream recycling system would really help too. If you had multiple bins and if they only accepted certain items it would take a lot of the guess work out.

If you had a bin that said Plastic 1-5, tins and cans, glass bottles, cardboard and paper. The likely chance of throwing in a bowling ball or hose is a lot less likely since each bin is so clearly labeled. This is also how most of the world recycles, and it seems to be working out a bit better for them!

Is recycling even worth it? Tips for being a better recycler from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #recycling #ecofriendly #sustainable #reducereuserecycle


I love the idea of turning eco-friendly living into a game. There are so many ways to do this effectively.

Think getting a smiley or frowny face on your electric bill or anonymously comparing the neighborhood’s electricity consumption to see how you stack up. This encourages people to save energy because they want to be the best!

Many electric cars rate your driving. When you see a score, you want to improve it! This means you’ll be driving more efficiently and saving energy.

The same thing is happening with our recycling. Waste Management has cameras on their truck so they can see how contaminated the residents recycling is. If you’re doing an excellent job of recycling, they’ll put a smiley face on your bin! If you do poorly, they’ll put a frowny face and more information to help you recycle better.

Is recycling even worth it? Tips for being a better recycler from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #recycling #ecofriendly #sustainable #reducereuserecycle


We honestly need more regulation when it comes to recycling. Recycling varies wildly from town to town, county to county, state to state, sometimes it feels like block to block.

The best way to combat this is to get some generic rule out there for everyone to follow. Let’s regulate the most commonly recycled items and make sure that everyone knows how to recycle at least the basics! Then make it CLEAR on every waste management companies website what else they accept above the regular.

Is recycling even worth it? Tips for being a better recycler from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #recycling #ecofriendly #sustainable #reducereuserecycle

design for it:

Why aren’t product designers creating products with the end of life in mind? Waste, trash, it’s all poor design. We can design ourselves out of this problem fairly easily.

If we had better regulations and standards on what is actually (not metaphorically - yes companies use the excuse it CAN be recycled all the time even though they know just because it CAN theoretically be done, doesn’t mean it’s scaleable, cost efficient, or practical) recyclable, we could present different types of options to designers and then they could work backwards knowing that their product will have second life.

Is recycling even worth it? Tips for being a better recycler from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #recycling #ecofriendly #sustainable #reducereuserecycle

corporate responsibility:

Lastly, we need more corporate responsibility. We need companies willing to step up and take their products back, offer warranties, aiding in repairs, and generally facilitating the circular economy. I’m excited that many companies are stepping up to take control over end-of-life.

We’re seeing this a bit with Terracycle. Companies are committing to having their products repurposed, but I would really like for companies to take it further. I’m especially excited about Loop which is returning to the milk man model.

I think this is just the beginning and more companies will be moving to circular models as long as we keep encouraging them!

I really hope that you enjoy the videos!

Where to Recycle and Donate Your Old Clothes

Have you been bitten by the KonMari bug? I assume you know what the KonMari method is because Marie Kondo took the world by storm AGAIN when her TV show on Netflix, based on her best selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, launched this winter.

If you’ve been living under a rock and/or unfamiliar with the tidying guru, the first place you start your untidying journey is in the closet!

Where to Recycle and Donate Your Old Clothes from www.goingzerowaste.com #secondhand #recycle #zerowaste #clothing #textilerecycling #upcycle

According to the chief design officer for California Closets, the average person wears only 20% of their clothing 80% of the time. The idea is that we whittle it down to just the 20% we love and wear ALL the time.

As you go through your closet, you’re probably left with a lot of items that don’t spark joy and you’re not sure what to do with them.

I’ve rounded up a list of places for you to donate and recycle your old clothes.

You might want to box them up and drop them off at your nearest thrift store, but I’d really urge you not to. This is a great blog post by my friend Leah from Style Wise.

She’s the manager at a thrift store and talks a bit about the complexities of dropping off all of your clothes. Not everything we drop off at thrift stores is going to be sold, recycled, or even put on store shelves.

There’s not enough space, depends on styles, depends on quality, and whether or not the thrift store has partnered with a textile recycling facility.

What’s most important is to make sure we’re donating items is in GOOD CONDITION.

Where to Recycle and Donate Your Old Clothes from www.goingzerowaste.com #secondhand #recycle #zerowaste #clothing #textilerecycling #upcycle


If you have clothes in good condition, maybe call up some of your friends and host a clothing swap. If you’re looking for tips on hosting your own clothing swap, check out this post where I chatted with Martha Stewart.


If you have clothes in good condition and in current styles, you might want to consider selling some of your clothes. You can do it on apps and websites like Poshmark, eBay or check out Bunz an app for sharing, swapping, and trading in your local area.

RELATED: Learn more about the Bunz App and the Sharing Economy!

If you want to take a more hands off approach, you could also bring your clothes to a local consignment shop. You can take a look at some of my favorite consignment shops in my Going Zero Waste Guide to the Bay Area.


When it comes to donating, try to find specific charities for specific items. I talk about this at length in my book 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste.

Women’s Work Wear:

Have work attire? Check out Dress for Success.

“Dress for Success is an international not-for-profit organization that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.”

Where to Recycle and Donate Your Old Clothes from www.goingzerowaste.com #secondhand #recycle #zerowaste #clothing #textilerecycling #upcycle


If you have a bra that’s a bit too tight or a bit too big, check out I Support the Girls. It’s also a great organization to donate your leftover pads and tampons, if you still have a stock pile from when you switched over to zero waste period products.

“I Support the Girls collects and distributes donations of new and gently used bras, and individually sealed tampons and maxi pads to women and girls nationally and internationally.

“Whether they be homeless, refugees, in transitional housing, or fleeing domestic violence, women and girls should never have to compromise on dignity.”

Men’s Work Wear:

Looking to donate men’s suits? Check out Career Gear.

From their website, “We promote the economic independence of low-income men by providing financial literacy training, a network of support, professional attire, career development tools, job-readiness and essential life-skills training that help men enter the workforce, stay employed and become role models and mentors to their families an communities.”

Where to Recycle and Donate Your Old Clothes from www.goingzerowaste.com #secondhand #recycle #zerowaste #clothing #textilerecycling #upcycle


Are you looking to donate your wedding dress? Can I recommend Brides Across America?

From their website, “Brides Across America (BAA) is a non-profit committed to loving one another by gifting weddings and wedding gowns to our military & first responders.

Whether it's for love of country or love at the altar, our military and first repsonders deserve our very best. Since 2008, Brides Across America has played a role in making their dreams come true by giving a military or first responder bride a free wedding gown during an “Operation Wedding Gown Event”.

To date we have gifted over 20,000 wedding dresses and over 20 free weddings. Each year we host dozens of Operation Wedding Gown giveaway events at participating bridal salons nationwide. Events are held in July (around Independence Day) and November (around Veteran's Day).”

Where to Recycle and Donate Your Old Clothes from www.goingzerowaste.com #secondhand #recycle #zerowaste #clothing #textilerecycling #upcycle


Do you have some formal gowns, clutches, or sparkly earrings collecting dust in the back of your closet? Check out W Girls, Project G.L.A.M.

From their website, “WGIRLS Inc. created Project Granting Lasting Amazing Memories (G.L.A.M.) to provide economically disadvantaged young women with prom dresses and accompanying accessories so they are able to enjoy the rite of passage of high school prom. To date, WGIRLS Inc. has outfitted over 14,000 young women in need for prom."


Have a few extra coats? Maybe one or two your kids have outgrown? Check out One Warm Coat.

From their website, “One Warm Coat is a national non-profit organization that works to provide a free, warm coat to any person in need.

“One Warm Coat supports individuals, groups, companies and organizations across the country by providing the tools and resources needed to hold a successful coat drive. Coats are distributed in the communities where they were collected, to children and adults in need, without charge, discrimination or obligation.

Since One Warm Coat’s inception in 1992, we have worked with our volunteers to host more than 31,000 coat drives and have given away more than 5 million coats.”

Where to Recycle and Donate Your Old Clothes from www.goingzerowaste.com #secondhand #recycle #zerowaste #clothing #textilerecycling #upcycle


I feel like kids are best known for one thing - growing quickly. There are numerous charities and organizations that accept gently used kids clothing and toys.

For something a little less location specific, try your Ronald McDonald House chapter or your local Women’s and Children center.


Have some shoes in good condition? Check out From the Sole.

From their website, “We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on collecting, refurbishing and giving away shoes & clothing to the homeless in New York City and other metropolitan areas.”

Where to Recycle and Donate Your Old Clothes from www.goingzerowaste.com #secondhand #recycle #zerowaste #clothing #textilerecycling #upcycle


Now, what do you do when you have a bunch of clothing that isn’t fit for swapping, selling, or donation? Then it comes down to textile recycling.

Now, with all recycling, I’m a little wary. Recycling is not a charity, it’s a business and it relies on having a market to sell the products.

So, just because we can recycle it doesn’t mean it will be recycled. This is why it’s better to reduce, reuse and THEN recycle.


Cotton t-shirts make great rags. Think about cutting your tees into a squares of fabric for cleaning, napkins, hankies, etc.


If your clothing is made from natural fibers like cotton, wool, silk, etc. you can compost it. However, the threads used to stitch it will 99% of the time be synthetic.

Where to Recycle and Donate Your Old Clothes from www.goingzerowaste.com #secondhand #recycle #zerowaste #clothing #textilerecycling #upcycle

Textile Recycling:

  • If you’re in San Francisco, there’s a textile recycling program run through the SF Department of the Environment.

  • I:CO is working towards closing the loop in the clothing industry and recycle textiles into yarn, shoe soles, etc.

  • Blue Jeans Go Green is dedicated towards recycling denim and turning it into insulation in homes. Madewell, Jcrew, Rag and Bone, they pop up in stores all across the US.

  • Regrind your shoes with Nike regrind and turn them into basketball courts or tracks.

  • Check out your local reuse center like the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse a lot of towns have these, so maybe check around to donate scrap fabric.

  • Terracycle has a zero waste box specifically for textiles but it is spendy!

fixing the cause:

While donating and recycling is great, I can’t leave this blog post without mentioning that we should change our consumer habits.

It’s important to reduce the amount we buy, hone in on our personal styles, shop only with lists, implement a buy ban like waiting thirty days, and stop shopping as a hobby.

I hope you’ve found this blog post helpful and will use it as a reference the next time you clean out your closet!