Ready to Rewear

Mainstream retailers give your old duds new life
Erika Villani, Plenty
Utne Reader March / April 2007
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Aluminum, glass, paper, plastic, and . . . T-shirts? Now you have good reason to clean out your closet, as more and more clothing companies are finding ways to recycle or reuse that pair of pants you never wear (or wore so much they fell apart).

It's not an entirely revolutionary idea: Nike has been recycling footwear since 1993, when it launched the Reuse-A-Shoe program. The company encourages customers to mail old sneakers to a Nike recycling center, where they're ground into materials that cushion playground surfaces and create tennis courts.

And in late 2005, Patagonia, known for its ecoforward policies, began recycling Capilene undergarments through its Common Threads program. 'Our goal is to take responsibility for our products, from their inception to their end,' says Patagonia spokeswoman Jen Rapp. When customers drop off their old garments, the fabrics are shipped to a recycling plant in Japan, where they're broken down and spun into fresh fibers. Patagonia weaves those fibers into new long underwear and T-shirts. Even accounting for the environmental impact of shipping to the recycling plant, Patagonia reports a 76 percent decrease in energy use and a 71 percent decrease in carbon dioxide emissions compared to using virgin materials.

The impulse to reduce and reuse is spreading to other companies. Last year, Banana Republic introduced its Drop Your Pants campaign, a partnership with charity organization Goodwill: For a limited time, if you donated a pair of used pants to Goodwill through a Banana Republic store, you'd get a discount on new merchandise. And Martin + Osa, a grown-up brand developed by campus favorite American Eagle Outfitters, has trademarked the request 'Please Dispose of Your Old Clothes Properly.' To help you do just that, they're running a denim donation program: Take any old pair of jeans to Martin + Osa, and the store will donate them to participating charities.

While Banana Republic and Martin + Osa are quick to point out that they're not 'green' companies, that hasn't stopped them from dabbling in decidedly green marketing campaigns. In past years, Banana Republic's parent company, Gap Inc., has flirted with organic cotton and teamed up with natural body-care company Kiss My Face to create a line of earth-friendly lip glosses and lotions, while Martin + Osa provides shoppers with reusable bags and wraps purchases in paper bearing the company tagline. They might not be green companies, but they're obviously taking notice of their green-leaning customers. And isn't it nice to be noticed?

Patagonia-Common Threads
Any of Patagonia's Capilene garments that are at least 95 percent polyester can be recycled ( Take them to any Patagonia store, or ship them to Patagonia Service Center, Attention Common Threads Recycling Program, 8550 White Fir St., Reno, NV 89523.

Martin + Osa-Denim Donation
Drop off any brand of old jeans to a Martin + Osa store (, and they'll find their way to participating charities. There are five Martin + Osa locations in the United States, with plans to open more this year.

Nike ( accepts any brand of sneakers, provided they don't contain metal components. Check the website to find the nearest drop-off center, or mail sneakers to Nike Recycling Center, c/o NikeGo Places, 26755 SW 95th Ave., Wilsonville, OR 97070.

Reprinted from Plenty (Dec./Jan. 2007), the magazine that makes it easy to be green;

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