Trading Your Old Clothes in for Cool New Ones Is a Dream Fashion Brands Are Making a Reality

Photo: Getty Images/Thomas Barwick
The fashion industry is doing more every day to change its reputation as one of the chief sources of pollution and waste in the world. (Finally.) H&M is expanding its eco-conscious offerings to help meet its goal of using 100-percent sustainable or recycled materials by 2030. Casual-cool clothing brand Re/Done is creating new jeans out of old denim, and Urban Outfitters has a line dedicated to repurposing secondhand clothes. There's still a long way to go, but all these are starts that deserve a slow-clap as they address one major issue: 84 percent of unwanted clothing ends up in landfills or incinerators...even when it's donated instead of thrown out.

This week, two more mega brands joined the good fight: Online consignment shop thredUP and sustainable womenswear line Reformation, which launched a new joint recycling program on October 2.

Now, savvy shoppers can visit thredUP's website and order a thredUP x Reformation UPcycle kit. Once you receive yours, you fill it with clothing you're ready to part with (from any brand!) and send it back to the company. The clothing will then go through its regular resale vetting process—they'll return pieces that don't meet their quality requirements to the customer or recycle them responsibly so they don't end up in a landfill. For clothing that passes the test, shoppers can choose between a certain monetary amount or Reformation credit. ThredUP expects to continue rolling out similar initiatives with other brands throughout 2019.

Although this is one of the most recent (and buzziest) initiatives, it's not the first (big brands like Gap and American Eagle do a similar recycling program with the nonprofit Blue Jeans Go Green) but it's the most extensive in terms of what types of clothing it takes. Plus, it's definitely a step in the right direction toward creating a closed-loop system for clothing. Another fashion brand really pushing boundaries in this area? The recently launched T-shirt company For Days. Its self-sufficient model is based on a subscription service that allows consumers to buy shirts from them...and then return them once they're done for new ones. Collected tops are then upcycled into new garments.

Sustainable startups like For Days are meeting the demands of shoppers who set out to be conscientious with their consumption, for sure. The same can be said for recycling programs like thredUp x Reformation. Something else they do that, though, that's equally important to solving fashion's pollution problem: They incentivize shoppers who don't come from an eco-conscious place to still make sustainable choices. Either way, trading in clothes you're over for something new is a pretty sweet deal, amirite? And not just for you, but the planet.

There are tons of easy (and free!) ways to live more sustainably, without completely giving up straws

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