Donate & get a tax benefit
The easiest way to recycle/reuse textiles is to simply donate your old clothes, towels and bedding to Goodwill, the Salvation Army or another worthy charity. If you choose this route, itemize each piece (you might just lay out the items in neat stacks and take a photo) and get a receipt so you can write off the donation on your taxes.
To the highest bidder
Or, instead of a tax deduction, you could earn a little cash for yourself. Selling your gently used items on consignment, Craigslist or an internet auction site like eBay is a great way to clear out your closets and make some dough.
Keep it local, though -- the energy and emissions created by shipping the items can quickly cancel out the benefits of reusing them. For this same reason, consider selling your clothing or linens as "lots" -- usually 5 or more related items that are purchased as one unit.
Sell it yourself
If you have the time and energy and want focus your efforts on your own community, have a garage sale (or yard sale -- or hey, if you're in England, a jolly old "car boot sale") with some friends or neighbors! Multi-family yard sales -- as well as those with clubs or church groups -- are a greater draw to potential customers, plus people won't have to stop and start their cars over and over in order to hit several sales in the same vicinity. Get some great advice on how to have a successful garage sale here!
Want to do even more good? Use the money from your sale to purchase carbon credits, offsetting some of the pollutants your car and lifestyle releases into the atmosphere. (Find out more about how and where to buy carbon credits here.)
When the stuff is too far gone
Are your fabrics too old or damaged to give away or sell in good conscience? Put them in your rag pile. Rather than using tons of paper towels, reach for one of your rags instead. If you wash them in a load of items you were going to launder anyway, no additional energy will be used. In fact, you'll be saving the energy it takes to manufacture and transport rolls of paper towels!
Other ways to use old clothes and towels:
- use them in all kinds of craft projects
- cut them into small pieces and use them to stuff throw pillows
- offer them to a local school to use as smocks
- give them to your child so he or she can learn to sew
- use one as a flag on the back of your car/truck to warn drivers if you're carrying long boards, lengths of pipe or other hazards
Remember -- each time you have something you's usually throw away, don't ask yourself if you can re-use it -- the question should be how can you re-use it?