Stop Throwing Your Outdoor Gear Away

March 4, 2024

Category: Outdoor Lifestyle, Sustainability

Every year, up to 100 billion new items of clothing are produced globally, and every year, 92 million tons end up in landfills. Only a fifth of the total textile waste is collected for recycling, and only one percent of discarded garments are upcycled into new clothing. What’s more, synthetic fabrics such as acrylic, nylon, and polyester are responsible for around 9% of annual microplastic pollution in our oceans.

On average, Americans buy 68 new items of clothing every year that produce 112 pounds of textile waste. While industry-level recycling solutions are necessary to address the problem, here are five ways you can improve your consumption habits and reduce your textile waste.

1. Invest in quality 

While the upfront cost of high-quality clothing might be daunting, it’s often cheaper in the long run. Well-made, durable items are likely to be produced in sweatshops where employees toil in terrible conditions, and they also withstand the test of time. Quality fabrics and stitching are resistant to numerous wash cycles and will retain their properties and shape for years to come. From simple t-shirts to technical jackets, the durability of outdoor clothing is undeniably one of the main reasons why they have gained so much popularity in recent years.

2. Take care of your gear

A hefty price tag is a good motivator for taking really good care of your clothing, but whether you buy cheap or expensive, maximizing the lifespan of garments should be the norm. Always follow care instructions and don’t be a chronic over washer – most items can be worn more than once before being thrown into the laundry basket. 

3. Learn to repair (or where to repair)

A hole in your favorite pair of denim jeans? Patch it up! You don’t even need any special skills. Iron-on patches can be purchased from many retailers, but if you want a professional repair, mending and repair businesses are making a comeback. In addition, some technical outdoor brands offer free repairs (Patagonia on all their gear and REI on their namesake brand). Arc’Teryx, The North Face, and Columbia all have warranty programs and repair services, and while the repairs might not be free, you can be sure that the job will be done well, breathing new life into your gear.

4. Donate (or sell!)

Clothing donation bins, thrift stores, charities – there are plenty of places where your old clothing (clean and in good condition) will be accepted and welcome. Donating not only helps someone in need, but it also takes away the hassle of repurposing or recycling your unwanted items. Alternatively, reselling used clothes is now easier than ever thanks to websites and apps such as ThreadUp and Poshmark. 

Buying secondhand is also a step toward a circular economy (and toward savings), with websites such as GearTrade specializing in outdoor clothing and gear, and both Patagonia and REI also offering used, but good-as-new clothing, for purchase.