These Sustainable Retailers Will Reward You For Recycling Your Clothes

It's no secret anymore: clothing waste is a big environmental problem. Clothing production has doubled between 2000 and 2014, and the world produced 16 million tons of textiles in 2016 — only 15% of which got recycled, according to an EPA estimate. Each American, for their part, disposes of 70 - 80 pounds of clothes on a yearly basis. (Did you even think you had that much space in your closet?) This means that 85% of our textile waste goes into landfills; taking up precious space and natural resources and taking eons to decompose. What we do recycle, however, will have nine symbolic lives — it will be re-sold, likely multiple times over, or repurposed and used in anything from art to housing insulation.
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The next question comes naturally: what's a clotheshorse to do? The answer seems simple: recycle your unwanted clothes, no matter the shape they're in. Rachel Kibbe, co-founder of the New York-based clothing recycler Helpsy, emphasizes the point: "Never throw anything out," she says. But the simple answer begs another question: how? Are we supposed to schlep contractor bags full of hole-y t-shirts and single socks to the nearest Goodwill, knowing it's all too damaged to re-sell? Bring three tote bags to the super-picky local consignment store and walk away a mere two garments lighter? Kibbe wants us to think of textile disposal as recycling, not donation. "When you call something 'donation,' people feel like they need to self-sort, and they don’t give away all of their clothes." But even your most weatherbeaten garments can have a second life, so stop before you let them hit the refuse pile.
Luckily, a lot of our favorite brands are aware of the problem, and they are making efforts to help you recycle your old clothes and put a dent in this big issue. A number of environmentally conscious retailers have set up donation bins in their stores, and will reward customers with gift cards and coupons for every donation they make. Some have even set up programs to buy items back from customers for a low price, and then re-furbish and re-sell them in company-owned and operated stores.
We're rounding up all of the brands that will help you recycle your clothes, and will reward you with store credit so that you can responsibly replace those things in your closet you're totally over with something special that you're going to cherish for a long time.
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PSA: If you can't make it to one of these retailers, Kibbe advises you to find a donation bin — one of those boxy behemoths that dot street corners and parking lots all over the country. (Fashionista broke the news earlier this week that New York's Department of Sanitation has published a comprehensive map of reputable clothing donation sites all over NYC, from stand-alone bins to thrift stores.) Because if you're going to shop for new clothes — and let's face it, if you're reading this article, you're probably going to shop for new clothes at some point — go the extra distance you recycle your old ones first.
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H&M Group
The H&M group actually consists of nine brands, some of which have probably made a significant dent in your wallet over the years (H&M, & Other Stories, COS). Since instituting a recycling program in 2013, H&M Group has collected 78,000 tons — tons — of clothing, through customer donations at their brands' stores around the world.

After selling the textiles to an agency that sorts them for re-use or recycling, H&M donates .02 euro per kilo (that's very roughly one cent per pound) to individual charity organizations, with the remaining balance going to the H&M Foundation, a charitable non-profit funded by H&M's founders (but with no business affiliation with the company itself). H&M has the lofty goal of using 100% sustainably sourced materials by 2030.

How to donate:
Bring any unwanted clothes to an H&M or & Other Stories location anywhere in the world and get 15% off per donation.
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Eileen Fisher Renew
Eileen Fisher
Where to start with Eileen Fisher? Our fangirl-dom of this minimal brand knows no limits. She, um, recently collaborated with the guys from Public School?! *drops mic* In the glitzy, maximalist 1980s, Eileen Fisher founded a brand inspired by the simplicity of a kimono. Social consciousness has been a foundation of her business from the get-go, touching on everything from employment practices to sustainability.

As if this wasn't enough, the company has purchased back over one million Eileen Fisher garments since instituting a buy-back program in 2009. Customers receive a $5 credit for every Eileen Fisher item returned, and the pieces are sold at special Renew retail locations, on the Renew website. sprinkled throughout various Eileen Fisher stores, and sold at periodic pop-ups throughout the year. The pieces that don't make the cut for re-selling are turned into actual works of art — one-of-a-kind pillows and wall hangings that are sold at ABC Carpet & Home and the Cooper Hewitt Design Store, in addition to the Renew retail locations.

How to donate:
Bring your unwanted Eileen Fisher pieces into any Eileen Fisher retail location (and if you don't live near a store, you can mail your pieces in) and receive $5 per garment.
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The North Face
Outdoorsy types have sworn by the North Face since the brand's inception in 1966, and it's recently become the stuff of hypebeasts thanks to collaborations with Supreme and Junya Watanabe. They also accept clothing donations (from any brand, in any condition) at all of their retail locations, which they then hand over to Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based non-profit that creates sustainable jobs and provides disaster relief through clothing and footwear donations.

The brand also just launched Renewed, an online store for refurbished North Face garments. “As we address the impacts of our products over their entire lifecycle, recommerce is an important next step in opening new markets and minimizing our impact on the planet," says sustainability director James Rogers.

How to donate:
Bring unwanted clothes from any brand into any North Face location and receive $10 towards your next North Face purchase totaling over $100.
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Levi's
The denim-makers have been in the game the longest, patenting the modern jean in 1873 by applying rivets to denim, an already-common workwear material at the time. They've also been innovators in a host of social responsibility efforts, from early workforce integration efforts to HIV-related healthcare services at the heigh of the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s.

In 2005, they co-founded the Better Cotton Initiative, a business working to reduce the environmental impact of cotton production, and their collection of low-water-use jeans was launched in 2010. They have also offer recycling services in their stores, sharing a 20% off discount for every donation. The donated items are recycled for use in community-building projects, such as libraries, hospitals and schools.

How to donate:
Bring any unwanted denim — that's anything made from the stuff, not just jeans — into any Levi's location and receive 20% off a single item.
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For Days
After working as the head of product at Gap's (RED) initiative and founding the beloved eco-luxury retailer Maiyet, Kristy Caylor wanted to make greater strides in creating a sustainable wardrobe. Last year, she founded the LA-based For Days, a subscription service that allows members to "buy" basics and then exchange them for new ones indefinitely. Members pay a one-time fee to sign up, and then $8 for every swap — an arrangement that will continue forever.

"Aspirational minimalism is really exciting, but it also can be kind of a downer," says Caylor. "What if there was a way to have the things we want, when we want them, but we're not accumulating junk?" Her solution: when customers send back their worn and undonate-able clothes, the GOTS-certified organic cotton products are shredded and re-purposed into new yarn. In addition, For Days has a Take Back program — they'll send customers a recycle bag to fill with unwanted garments and $4 credits towards memberships for each donation received.

How to donate:
Sign up for a free For Days trial kit and receive a Recycle Bag with your first order. Upon signing up for the program and returning the bag, customers' accounts will be credited $4.
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Patagonia
A longtime bastion of sustainability, Patagonia has offered free or inexpensive repairs on its garments since the earliest days of the brand in 1970s, in an effort to keep pieces in customers' wardrobes for longer periods of time and thereby lessening the need for new purchases. (Repair services also improve the longevity of future designs, as technicians can see what problem areas can be improved on.)

The earliest iteration of Patagonia's well-known Worn Wear program appeared in 2005, and in 2017 they launched WornWear.com, enabling gently used Patagonia clothes, collected from customer donations, to be sold online. It's also a touring entity, with events around the world in which customers can bring their Patagonia goods in for repair, and even learn how to make the fixes themselves, with an average attendance of close to 1,000 people per event.

How to donate:
Bring used, worn Patagonia gear into any Patagonia store and receive store credit towards your next Patagonia purchase. Credit ranges from $10 - $100 depending on the item.
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Madewell
The always-on-point retailer has become our go-to for colorful, easy wardrobe staples and a serious joie-de-vivre that has us looking forward to opening their newsletters. They've also really nailed denim, offering both expertly tailored classics and more experimental fits at test-it-out prices.

True to their dungaree-loving form, the denim specialists at Madewell are also experts at recycling the stuff. They will take any and all jeans — new, used, from every brand — at donation boxes at any Madewell location. They partner with Blue Jeans Go Green, a company that repurposes denim for housing insulation, which is then used in homes built by Habitat for Humanity.

How to donate:
Bring your unwanted jeans into any Madewell location — for every pair you donate, you'll receive $20 off a new pair of Madewell jeans.
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