For the past four months, my husband and I have temporarily downsized from a big house to a tiny home of 325 square feet. The reason is we purchased, sight unseen, a real fixer-upper in the middle of Washington DC. While renovating, I had the pleasure of meeting a resident in our building, Kaveri Marathe–a lovely young woman with an amazing frugal-earth-changing vision. Hopefully, you will be inspired by what she is doing as much as I have been. Unfortunately, since this article was originally published due to the economics of Covid-19, she has closed the doors on her organization, but her insight gives much food for thought.
TFC– Kavari, my last four Frugal Catholic articles were about— make it do, do without, use it up, and wear it out. As I have discovered, Texiles does exactly that. Can you explain what Texiles is and why and when you started this company?
KM—Texiles is a startup clothing recycling service dedicated to eliminating clothing waste in the landfill. We offer customers a home pickup of used clothing and household linens and encourage them to include items in their pickup bag that they would otherwise throw in the trash, like garments with holes or stains or underwear.
Americans throw out 80 pounds of clothing every year, even though 95% of that content is recyclable. I started Texiles to prevent usable material from ending up in the trash and to educate consumers about the harmful impact of the fashion industry on the environment and factory workers and their role when they make purchasing decisions.
I started the company in September of 2017, and we are currently offering pickups in the DC area. However, we hope to add a few drop-off points soon and expand into neighboring Maryland and Virginia within the next year.
2. TFC— Who does it benefit?
KM—Our service benefits the environment by keeping clothing and textiles out of the trash. In the landfill, these materials can biodegrade slowly, releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and leaching toxic chemicals found in modern dyes into the groundwater. It also helps the environment by reusing material instead of manufacturing that material from scratch. It requires over 700 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to make one t-shirt! By recycling used cotton, that water is saved.
We also benefit society by donating some of the clothing and linens we receive to local charities, such as Dress for Success, a charity that helps economically disadvantaged women; Thrive, a homeless shelter; and the Humane Rescue Alliance, an animal shelter.
Finally, we help our customers by offering them a convenient and responsible method for disposing of their clothing.
3. TFC— Are lice and bed bugs a problem?
KM—So far, not at all! (Keep your fingers crossed for me on that front.) I require that customers launder everything before putting clothes into the pickup bag, which has prevented any infestations.
4. TFC—In what ways have owning this company affected your style of living frugally and dressing frugally?
KM–-I’m glad you asked this because this has been one of the biggest benefits to me personally so far. Once I became aware of the environmental cost of manufacturing new clothing and the harmful labor conditions in the fashion industry, I decided only to shop secondhand, do clothing swaps, or wear hand-me-downs. (I make an exception for underwear!) Initially, I thought this would be a sacrifice as, previously, I would often make shopping pitstops when I had free time. Quitting shopping, though, was actually quite liberating–it made me much more conscious of the underlying emotions that were triggering my shopping habit as well as the vast amount of clothing I already had. Most importantly, I no longer feel the urge to shop idly or that I’m somehow missing out by not shopping.
5. TFC—What advice can you give my readers regarding purchasing recycled clothing from consignment stores or thrift shops?
KM—Thrifting is so much fun! I think the best part about shopping second-hand is the thrill of the hunt. There’s no better feeling than finding a truly unique garment for an amazing price: it’s much more satisfying than shopping for something new, even on sale.
Some people worry about the quality or cleanliness of items at thrift stores, so my advice is always to take them home and wash them right away. Also, look online for tips on getting out stains and musty smells.
6. TFC—How could The Frugal Catholic readers do something similar to help their environment?
KM—I think following the classic Reduce, Reuse, Recycle model is the best thing you can do when it comes to clothing.
1. Reduce your consumption. Think carefully before shopping for something new and see if you can borrow something or get by without it. There’s a great company called Rent the Runway, I recommend trying, that rents out fancy party dresses.
2. Reuse what you already own, i.e., shop your closet! Most people typically only wear 20% of the clothes in their closet regularly, so before heading out to the stores, head to the back of your closet.
3. Recycle what you don’t want, don’t trash it. Even if Texiles isn’t yet in your city, take your old clothing to a Goodwill or other charity that accepts clothing donations. Many Goodwill locations have recycling partners so that you can include your “unwearables” (clothing with holes, stains, etc.) in your donation.
4. Finally, educate your friends and family! Most people don’t know that 95% of clothing material can be recycled or that many charities will accept unwearable garments.
Martha Wild King, M. Ed., Author
The Frugal Catholic: Learn to live on less to give and save more.