By Pete Athans
Living on an island means we don’t have access to a lot of services and conveniences. We like that.
A 35-minute ferry ride delivers us into what feels like the bowels of Seattle, ejecting ferry-riders beneath a highway underpass, a continuous stream of cars, buses and trucks humming above. Just around the corner from the hum of the waterfront is one of The North Face’s first stores to open in the U.S.
I’ve worked for the company for nearly 25 years, and I still love walking into this special Seattle space. Beneath all the plaster you still have a sense of the original post and beam construction, probably used for shipping or as a warehouse years ago. Today, I’m even more proud to step into the store, with my family, carrying our used clothing that we aren’t able to sustainably throw away on our small island. In fact, most people have a tough time finding places to discard used clothing in this country. But we now have 10 new locations in some of North America’s largest cities, where you can drop off your used and worn-up clothes and shoes. You’ll get a $10 discount on your next purchase at The North Face store.
The North Face has initiated this much-needed clothing and shoe recycling program, called “Clothes the Loop,” in a partnership with I:CO an international textile and shoe recycler that breaks materials down into 400 categories for carpet padding, stuffing for new toys, and fibers for new clothing. I:CO currently processes about 500 tons of used items every day in 74 countries. They have collection points all over Europe and in the USA. All proceeds from the Clothes the Loop program will benefit The Conservation Alliance, which protects wild places for their habitat and recreational value.
If your clothing can still be worn, first see if you can find a charity nearby that could use your togs. Better to have them re-worn then processing them in a shredder. My wife, Liesl, and I are developing, along with Rebecca Rockefeller, a mobile app called Trash Backwards that will give you reduce, reuse, and recycle options for any article of clothing or item in your home or office. If you type “clothing” into the app, you can find the nearest charity or recycler to you, or a cool tutorial on how to repurpose items like T-shirts into an ipod armband or a sweater back into reusable yarn. In the Adventure & Sport category, you can learn where to recycle your outdoor gear.
When my family travels to the Himalaya, we always bring a few extra duffels of clothing and shoes. We work with communities in Upper Mustang who are in dire need of good shoes.
Since children grow so fast, it isn’t hard to pass on our own children’s lightly worn fleece, outerwear, hiking boots, hats and gloves to kids in remote mountain communities. It’s the least we can do in a high mountain environment where people only have access to poorly made Chinese apparel.
If you have sturdy shoes to give to the cause, for adults or children, shoes with treads that will stand the test of mountain terrain, send them our way and we’ll get them onto the feet of the good people of Mustang. We can pick them up if you’re in the Bainbridge Island or Seattle area, or you can mail them to us at:
Trash Forwards, 6027 NE Baker Hill Road, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110.
Word has it that Americans throw out 70 lbs of clothing per year. We can reduce that statistic, if we’re more mindful of our textile waste. We know the textile industry adds tremendous environmental stress on our planet. But by donating our reusable clothing and then recycling what’s un-wearable, we can reduce the demand for virgin materials in new clothing and conserve the energy that goes into making fibers for fabrics.
For us islanders, this new drop box at The North Face will be a welcome destination for fabrics and apparel we’ve been stockpiling in our homes in hopes that a recycler would appear in our midst. Goodwill takes resell-able clothing, but your jeans that have holes in the knees and gloves that are nearly shredded from outdoor use are welcome at the Clothes the Loop bin.
Hope to see you there, recycling your hole-y socks and dented hats.