Our friend Kermit the Frog sang of the hardships of “being the color green,” blending in with everything around you, but by the end of the song he came to the understanding that being the color green was OK and many beautiful things in life are green.
Now “being green” is an action term — meaning your actions are environmentally friendly to the earth and little to no harm is done in the process. It’s easy to be green in Sheridan. Recycling drops are available throughout the community and curbside recycling is available through the city of Sheridan.
Glass, plastic, paper, cardboard and clippings are all easily recycled, textiles not so much. In 2012, 84 percent of unwanted clothes in the U.S. went into a landfill (Newsweek). Clothing will not “compost” even natural fibers go through an unnatural process to become clothing and will produce gas methane as they degrade. Polyester, nylon and acrylic are essentially a type of plastic and will take hundreds of years to biodegrade.
Currently, Americans are trashing more clothes than ever. Over the past 20 years, the volume of clothing tossed has doubled from 7 million to 14 million tons, equaling 80 pounds per person (EPA). Quickly changing fashion trends and poor quality garments account for the increase in clothing turnover.
The journey of unwanted clothing in America (and Sheridan) is interesting. Sheridan is a very generous community and a number of thrift stores benefit from those donations. The Green Boomerang Thrift Store (benefits the Hub services and programs) volunteers sort through clothing and shoe donations, checking for stains, missing buttons and zippers, rips and odors. Items that do not meet store standards are then recycled to the local Salvation Army. The Salvation Army will process and bale the clothes in 1,000-pound bundles and ship to Seattle textile recyclers. In Seattle, the items are reprocessed and then shipped to Central America, where they are resold.
Clothing items not fit are recycled into cleaning rags (about 30 percent) for industrial use and 20 percent of the clothing is made into “shoddy” cut up fabric used for insulation or carpet padding. So, we are now seeing an increased attempt to recycle our ever-growing textile handoffs.
I have had the opportunity of seeing first-hand the “sales” of used clothing in both Guatemala and Nicaragua. Huge piles of clothing are brought into the central markets to be sold to the locals. Many of the women in the villages are skilled seamstresses and can mend, hem and even add local embellishments to the garments.
Amanda Munford, the manager of the Green Boomerang, and I had the opportunity to attend the National Association of Resale and Thrift Stores annual conference this June. What an experience! In the past five years, there has been an explosion of new thrift, consignment and vintage stores opening across the states. This gives the public more opportunities to recycle textiles and help a nonprofit in the process, or consign to put a few dollars back in your pocket.
Thrifting has become a trend with our millennials. The “hunt” for the perfect outfit at a great deal can be exciting, especially if you find a gem. Recently, a couple came into the Green Boomerang with $10 each. Their challenge was to buy an outfit (down to the shoes) for each other and then go out on a date sporting their “new clothes.” They had fun shopping, helped the Hub, and then had a great evening.
How can you help? Please continue donating to the local Sheridan thrift stores. Shop in our thrift stores. I take pride in telling folks, “Hey, I got this at the Green Boomerang!” Purchase less, but buy items at a higher quality. Volunteer — many of these local shops depend and rely on volunteer help and will give volunteers added benefits, The Green Boomerang gives volunteers store credit for every hour they volunteer.
Please call Terri Hayden at (307) 672-2240 if you would like to help.
Terri Hayden is the Director of Volunteer Services at The Hub on Smith.