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Proper Green: How "Used" Is "Too Used"?

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Take care to donate items that still have a second life in them.

Dear Proper Green,

I’ve been cleaning items out of my house and have accumulated a lot of things I want to get rid of. Some things are old and some are new (unwanted Christmas gifts). I want to donate as many of the items as I can, but for some of the used stuff, I’m wondering what is an acceptable level of wear?

-Mercy N., San Antonio, TX


Dear Mercy,

Way to live green — cleaning out the clutter in your home and donating your items instead of sending them straight to the landfill! After the holidays is a great time to survey what you have, since gift-giving may have left you with an accumulation of duplicate items, or, as in your case, gifts you don’t want or can’t use (not to mention old items that have been superseded by shiny new replacements).

Of course, any new or like-new item is probably great for donating to a secondhand store, while broken items should be upcycled or recycled if possible, and otherwise put in the trash.

But judging the level of wear between new and broken can get tricky, especially for items such as clothing and shoes. If you’re seeking to get rid of clothing or shoes because they’re starting to look shabby, then they might not be fit to donate. Safer reasons for giving up your wardrobe would be you’re tired of the style, or they don’t fit anymore. Make sure they’re clean and without major stains. Though not required, it would be courteous to have them folded neatly rather than crumpled up and wrinkled. Items with multiple pieces, such as toys or board games, should include all their pieces. Be honest in your assessment and try to apply Goodwill’s phrase for acceptable items: “gently used.” If in doubt, opt for repurposing or recycling.


What are some post-holiday items you will be donating this month? Tell us in the comments below.

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Proper Green
Proper Green
Proper Green is Recyclebank's green advice column. From promoting good manners in a green world (because ideas about what constitutes proper behavior and th... more
  • Javier M. 3 days ago
    New article on 1-1 and 1-8, maybe another tomorrow?!
  • Sue M. 3 days ago
    instead of wrapping paper...make cloth bags to put gifts in and reuse each year.
  • Chris L. 7 days ago
    I donated decorations I did not use this year and only packed up for storage what was used. Also, went through my craft supplies. Have donated unused items to the children across the street. They are able to use these items for school projects or weekend crafts.
  • John D. 9 days ago
    Recyclearticle per the legacy comments, but hey it's another sign of life!
    So "If this article 'sticks' up yonder like it has thus far we should use it as the communication portal" change?
  • Barbara W. 9 days ago
    NEW article: Proper Green: How Used is to Used"?
    Points and everything!
  • View More