Zero Waste Tip #9: Responsible Minimizing

9. Let the dumpster be your final resort, and find creative ways to donate items when it’s time to part with them!

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve hauled a lot of stuff to the dumpster over the past few years. However, this is a critical lesson that ties into both zero waste living and minimalism, and one that I’ve been really trying to challenge myself to adhere to.

As you begin to de-clutter and make steps towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle, the question that inevitably follows is:

What do I do with all my junk?

For years, I allowed myself to load up my car with things I no longer wanted and drop them off at my local thrift store or Goodwill. However, it eventually dawned on me that I wasn’t saving all these things from the landfill – I was just dumping the responsibility of getting rid of my trash to Goodwill instead. They weren’t going to sell those jeans with holes in them, the toys that were broken and taped back together, the shoes with soles falling off the bottom. They were going to toss them in the giant dumpster.

Once that light bulb switched on, I resolved to start doing my research. First, research products before I purchase them to ensure that I’m buying quality items that don’t eventually end up in the landfill. And finally, when I am ready to let go of an item, research to see if there’s anyone else who might actually use it for good instead. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure!

Here is a compilation of some amazing companies that will actually give your trash a second chance at life. I will continue updating this master list as I find more.

How to combine Minimalism and the Zero Waste Movement
This is the prepaid mailer I received from Marine Layer! Super sturdy and large enough for about 5 tees.
  • Re-Spun by Marine Layer: This company will give you a prepaid mailer envelope for you to send them old t-shirts (any condition), which they break down into fibers, create new yarn, and then use that to make new clothes. For every t-shirt you send in, they’ll give you a $5 credit to use towards a purchase on their website ($25 maximum).
  • Blue Jeans Go Green by Zappos for Good: If your old jeans are at least 90% cotton, you can donate them by creating an online account with Zappos, printing a free shipping label, and dropping off your box at any UPS location. Your denim will be transformed into housing insulation! Levi’s also participates in the Blue Jeans Go Green program; they’ll give you a 20% off coupon for dropping off your old jeans at your local store (see details here).
  • Soles4Souls: Send in used shoes here to support a micro-enterprise program that helps people step out of poverty in developing countries. Shoes can be mailed in for free or taken to one of their drop-off locations.
  • Worn Wear by Patagonia: Patagonia clothes in any condition can be mailed back for them to recycle.
  • Wands for Wildlife by Appalachian Wildlife Refuge: Send your old mascara wands here to be used for removing bugs and larva from rescued wild animals and birds.
  • Best Buy: Bring old electronics to your nearest Best Buy store to either trade in (if eligible) or recycle. They even offer coupons for some new items when you recycle old gear.
  • Home Depot: Take your old rechargeable batteries, cardboard, and compact fluorescent light bulbs to your local Home Depot so they can be recycled.
  • Advance Auto Parts: Receive a $10 gift card for bringing in your old car battery to be recycled.
  • Fayetteville Public Library: Donate gently used books to your local library.
  • ReStores by Habitat for Humanity: Here’s a good place to donate gently used furniture, appliances, housewares or building materials. They’ll sell your items and use the money towards Habitat for Humanity’s work around the world.
  • Furniture Friends: If you’re local to Northwest Arkansas, consider donating used furniture (in good condition) to this organization, who works to provide international students and families with furniture upon their arrival to NWA.
  • Brick Recycler: This company collects donations of used LEGOs in any condition, and they’ll give them to children around the world to be reused.

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