Decluttering is bad for the planet. Here’s how to do it sustainably.

by Susan Shain
from Mic Media
August 19, 2021

Picture your neighborhood garbage truck. Got it in your mind? Now picture 29,000 of them, lined up end to end, stretching from Sacramento to San Jose, California. Then, finally, picture all those trucks, brimming with trash and dumping it all in a landfill, every single day.

In the United States, that’s not hyperbole; it’s reality. Every year, we send nearly 150 million tons of waste to the landfill — an amount equal to roughly 2.5 pounds of trash per person, per day. In 2018, that included 9 million tons of clothing and shoes, 9.6 million tons of furniture, and 1.6 million tons of small appliances. That’s bad news for the planet, considering landfills account for 12% of global emissions of methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas responsible for at least a quarter of today’s global warming.

If you’re thinking, “I don’t contribute to landfills! I donate my unwanted things!”, you should know that indiscriminate donating is sometimes the opposite of helpful. Thrift stores run by the National Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, for example, are only able to sell or give away about half of what they receive, says CEO Dave Barringer. While the remainder is sold to secondary vendors, like online booksellers and overseas clothing markets (which, side note, can be problematic), roughly 5% of St. Vinnies’s donations still end up in landfills.

Though 5% might not sound like much, consider the fact that the four largest U.S. thrift chains — St. Vinnies, Goodwill, The Salvation Army, and Deseret Industries — receive approximately 4 billion pounds of clothing each year, according to Barringer. Clearly, being more thoughtful about what we donate — not to mention what we consume and recycle — could have a positive impact on the environment.

Read the rest on Mic Media.