I wanted to start this week’s newsletter with some reading recommendations from news around the world this week and last. I know I missed Earth Day (don’t kill me), but it’s because I was spending some time contemplating about my own impact and about how every day should be earth day.
Here are my reading recommendations in case you missed them in the vastness of the Internet:
Vox had a long article on this bacteria that’s being developed that can digest plastic. They also highlighted some incredible developments in fighting plastic waste, including turning plastic into jet fuel.
New York Times had an amazing in-depth article about the impact of your diet on the planet.
Forbes highlighted some retailers who are doing a shitty job with packaging - this really resonated with me because this is what I work on all day every day!
Lumi (a packaging maker) did a whole special in their Instagram story last week about new materials for earth week - it’s worth exploring to see some of the awesome things that are happening out there to fight all that waste during the unboxing experience.
Maine banned single use foam materials - yet another reason to love Maine!
NPR had a wonderful story about plastic at the grocery store. Pretty depressing but an interesting read (or listen if that’s more your style).
WWD did a whole special last week on sustainability - every day they had several interviews with various leaders in sustainability in fashion and beauty, and I loved it! I’m compiling some excerpts for y’all, so stay tuned :)
My main topic this week is Marie Kondo! I might be a little late to the party, but I’ve been watching this for the past couple of weeks, tearing up at how beautiful it is that these people really do experience such a noticeable change after tidying up their spaces. But more relevant to this newsletter is that the main thing I think about is all the waste that’s produced. The show perpetuates this idea that there is an “away” and is even rewarding people for the piles of stuff that they’re able to let go of (picture Marie squealing in delight when she sees all the trash bags ready to go out the door). Sure, it’s no longer in the tidier person’s home, but a pile of old forks doesn’t just find its way in the world. And sadly mama Earth is not able to get rid of all the plastic that is definitely not sparking joy for her. So today I want to touch on what happens to everything that’s given or thrown away because for me, that’s the crux of the matter.
Sadly, 85% of what’s given away ends up in landfills. 85%!!! This is crazy. Since Marie Kondo’s show started airing, Goodwill centers across the country have noted increases in donations by at least 20%. Optimistically, this means there’s a wider selection of clothing at Goodwill that hopefully appeals to the audience shopping there; pessimistically, this means way more going to the landfill than ever before. If it’s not sparking joy for you, it’s probably not going to spark that much joy in a donation center, either.
To donate more thoughtfully, there are some things you can do instead of bringing trash bags of crap to Goodwill or Salvation Army (which I have done pretty much every time I’ve moved, which has been every year since I was 14).
A golden rule of donating is to think of what you’d actually buy from a thrift store.
Some of my other tips:
Clean all of your clothes and neatly fold them and organize them into general categories. Trust me, no one wants your dirty, sweat-stained t-shirt from high school or a single sock.
Pack up plates or silverware nicely - it doesn’t have to be luxe, but at least put things in a box or tie together forks with a rubber band. Things in a set are much more likely to be donated than individual items (again, when have you ever gone out to buy just one fork?)
Pick the right donation center - and follow the rules. It WILL go into the landfill if the donation center doesn’t accept it. Housing Works or Habitat For Humanity is more likely to accept home goods, Goodwill or Salvation Army for clothing. Books can go to Operation Paperback or your local library, old towels or sheets to a pet shelter (in NYC you cannot donate pillows, mattresses, sheets, or towels because of the risk of bed bugs).
I know it might make you feel better to pile up all your old batteries and pens and send them to one of these donation centers, but they just don’t want them. So be honest with yourself and find the right place for them to go.
There are also so many alternatives to donating, though it’s much more taxing and time-consuming to manage. I’ve made a list of what to do with different categories of things below that should help you bring only the things that are most likely to go into good hands from a donation center.
Clothes + Shoes - there are so many resources out there today. It’s definitely a part-time job to manage your sales, but at least you can be assured that everything is getting to someone who really wants it.
Specifically for bags - Rebag is amazing, though it’s very tightly curated and is stingy on what they’ll accept.
For furniture - Craiglist is obviously an option but there are so many more!!
NextDoor - I highly recommend this neighborhood-specific site where you can post about anything from crime to meditation groups. I see people selling stuff successfully every day on the forums, plus it’s a great way to build community.
1stDibs - this is definitely more geared towards antiques but you can also find some great deals on here if you’re looking for furniture yourself (and you really hunt past the gazillion dollar cabinets)
Having a yard/stoop sale - Fred and I are gearing up to move in the next month or so and we’re so excited to sit on our stoop and sell (or give away if we’re really desperate) some stuff we have that we feel will be easily taken on the streets of Brooklyn.
Beauty products - surprisingly there are ways out there to sell half-used beauty products.
eBay has a bustling market for all of this - if you go hunting you can even find limited edition Smuckers from the 90s (and people buy them and pay good $$ for them!!)
Glambot is also amazing - you won’t get a lot of money for your products, but then nothing is going to waste, which makes me happy!
This should definitely be your last option, but there are so many places working to recycle things in interesting ways and they should definitely be on your radar.
TerraCycle is working with tons of partners to help recycle everything from old toothbrushes (made of plastic) to razors to chip bags (not recyclable). Check out their programs - FREE for you to use!!!
If there’s not a program that matches what you’re trying to get rid of, check out their Zero Waste boxes. You buy a box (geared towards a certain category) and fill it up to send back. Costs $$ but not a lot!
So many brands have take-back programs now to upcycle used clothes - this doesn’t mean when you buy from them that you’ll be wearing old things but they’ll turn it into new fibers and make new things, meaning less consumption of raw resources. Win-win! This is just a few examples but SO many people are doing this, and if you demand it, then companies will start to consider it obligatory to develop these textile recycling technologies even further.
Nike takes back shoes from any brand and also turns them into surfaces for athletic activity (think tracks or turf fields).
For Days - I’ve mentioned them before but they take back all old t-shirts and give you credits to get fresh ones. They’re not taking new members right now so use my code to sign up!!
Eileen Fisher takes back clothes from her own brand - they’ve collected one million garments since beginning the program in 2009!
Patagonia - take back all Patagonia products (they’re the BEST). On another note everyone should read Yvon Chouinard’s book about founding Patagonia and instilling it with all of his values.
H&M is now taking back textiles from any brand
Lastly, you can definitely find some ways to repurpose your own old things! Some things we do in our own house (just some ideas):
Use old glass milk jugs and any old glass jars to drink out of, for flowers, or to pack leftovers in
Use old candle containers to old pens or coins or makeup brushes
Use old t-shirts as rags
Stack books to use as a nightstand
My dad uses wine crates as planters, which I’m obsessed with because it’s cute and sustainable (though my dad definitely is just doing it because he’s lazy and didn’t want to buy new planters - but whatever his motivation it was a great aesthetic and sustainable choice!)
On that note, I hope you all got something out of this newsletter today - would love to hear about your experiences getting rid of things, whether positive or negative, and if you’re too lazy to get rid of things yourself, I’d be happy to help you!! So let me know.