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Opinion: Think twice about what you donate

Those in need deserve better quality clothing to keep them warm

Illustration by Rena Medow
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By Nikitha Martins

Wet, damaged grey sweatpants with a logo that says “Yum” across the back have served their purpose and won’t help people who need clothing to keep them warm and dry during winter.

While the intentions of people who donate clothes might be pure, not enough people reflect on the condition of their clothing or other textiles when they give them away.

I’m at fault too

I’ll admit I’ve set a large bag of clothes outside my house for a Big Brothers truck to come by and take without considering if I’m offering someone my old ripped and worn out clothes.

If your clothes are too shameful offer to a friend, don’t give them to someone who’s in need of sensible clothing.

Blanket BC’s intentions are pure, donators may not be

Blanket BC has started its annual campaign at stations along the Canada Line, collecting blankets and other articles of clothing that are donated to individuals living on the street. The timing of the campaign makes sense as it runs at a time when the weather is cold, nights are bitter and the difference between having a coat, hat and gloves and not wearing these items could mean life or death.

Many homeless people have benefited from clothing donations. But many of us lack self-awareness of how we can help. Simply getting rid of clothing we know is damaged or torn doesn’t help anyone.

It’s not that people who donate clothing aren’t doing it for the right reason. But the quality of the donations doesn’t always match good intentions.

Effects on environment

Based on numbers by the Recycling Council of Ontario, Canadians, on average, throw out about 37 kilograms of textiles a year. The rise of clothing consumption has led to an increase of textile waste around the world.

The waste and overconsumption has taken a toll on water consumption. It takes 6,800 litres of water to produce one pair of jeans.

Canadians are consuming too much clothing.

Yes,  there is a need to donate clothing but consider this: most shelters will send unusable clothes to the landfill.

Alternatives to support people in need

Supporting homeless people should be a long-term goal. Donating to a charity to support its work can help solve a deeper issue by better funding for homelessness services. More affordable housing is the best way forward.

When it comes to getting rid of clothes, there are other options like clothing swaps or sending them to retailers to re-sell.

As for the torn-up sweater in the back of the closet, try to recycle it. But if you can’t, consider making smarter decisions when purchasing clothing in the future.

Look at the fabric that makes up the clothes you buy. In the future when baggy jeans and crop top sweaters go out of style, the environment will be grateful if they’re made out of recycled material.

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