5 Sustainable Ways To Reuse and Save Your Kids Clothes From the Landfill

kids clothes

Kids ruin clothes. These sustainable tips and ways to reuse may help keep your kids’ clothes out of landfills.

As the Mother of 3 boys, but also as a nature lover, you can imagine that the amount of waste my kids create may drive me a little nuts. When my 5-year-old starts doodling on one piece of paper that ends up being 30 pieces with one tiny ninja drawn on each page—in comes my lecture about the “poor trees!” and “The Lorax” is read for that night’s bedtime story.

But does it always work? Nope.

So what can I fix? I can control what I feed them, how I dress them, and what I buy them—for the most part—or at least until they’re petulant teenagers.

I’ve been lucky enough that my kids are all about two years apart, so once an outfit no longer fits it automatically goes down the pipeline to the next child. But what about stained tee shirts, pilled sweaters, and holey kneed pants?

For us Mamas who care about the earth and or who are on a budget—these tips should help!

1. Tie-dye

When I find myself with an item with stains (which is always)—I first try to stain remove, but if that’s a major fail, I opt for my “tie-dye bin”—a stack of stained pieces in my closet that I save for a bi-monthly tie-dying where all my kiddos old pieces gain new life and coveted status with fun tie-dyed colors and styles that totally obliterate even the meanest oil stains. People sometimes ask me where I bought the cool tie-dyed clothes my kids wear. Little do they know the outfits are pieces most people would consider garbage! To get great tie-dye tips, hit up Pinterest.  You can even tie-dye using natural materials you have at home like coffee and tea or berries, but the colors aren’t as vibrant as their chemical-based friends. I often even include my kids in this activity, so it’s both craft and function!

2. Patchwork

Pants with holey knees either get cut into shorts (with the remaining leg fabric going into my textile recycling bin), or I patch up the holes with scraps from my textile recycling bin as knee patches. Nothing looks cuter than a little pattern popping out from the knee of a child’s denim pants. This always looks like a stylistic choice and not a quick fix.

3. Upcycling

Nary a cloth goes to waste in my crafty coven. Long sleeves with chewed on or stretched out sleeves become rock n roll tee shirts or tank tops, sweatshirts with destroyed elastic wrists become moto vests, old denim jackets get covered in thrifted patches or pins, there is always a way to make something old cool again.

4. Buy Larger

There is a way one child can wear the same item for more than a year. Simply buy adjustable clothes—long dresses that can turn into minidresses as they grow, pants with elastic waistbands,  leggings that can be scrunched at the ankle til they fit peg-legged, or just order a size up; cool baggy hoodies can turn into fun shrunken hoodies as they become less hip-hop and more punk. C’mon, we all had that stage. Hopefully they’ll skip over the safety pin in the nose.

5. Wash Smarter

Wash your kids’ clothes in cold water, and line dry when and if you can. The less heat that hits your clothing, the longer they will last. Do you know all those balls of lint that come out of your dryer? That’s fabric and thread (and in my household, maybe cracker crumbs and cat hair too) pilling off your clothes. Try to avoid that wear and tear by cycling outfits so each item doesn’t get overused and ruined. The likelihood that they’ll destroy those sweatpants if they were them twice a week instead of thrice goes down exponentially when other pants can come into play!

Pieces that cannot be saved with minimum sewing skills  may need to sashay away.  But remember that there’s not a single thing that cannot be sold or donated. Any item in your household can be sent to GiveBack Box, dropped off at a Goodwill-type store, or given to a friend or neighbor with kids who need the item you cannot use. (See 20 Ways To Ethically Purge Your Old Stuff)


Chloé Jo Davis is the Director of Girlie Girl Army.

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