What to do with your old t-shirts when it reaches the end of its life cycle

Posted by Shaheena Links on

By now many of us are aware of the impact fast fashion has on the environment. Making one new t-shirt uses more than 1400 litres of water. Up to 80% of this water usage occurs at the cotton cultivation stage, which means there is not much the consumer can do at this phase of the cycle.

Disheartening statistics especially when you consider that the clothing industry produces 100 billion new garments globally every year. The fashion industry annually contributes up to 8% of all global carbon emissions. This equates to more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

On the positive side, South Africans tend to do a bit better when it comes to looking after our clothing. We cold wash and line dry our clothing, minimising wasting any energy.  We also extend the life cycle of our clothes by up to 79% by donating or passing down our pre-worn clothing, which means one less t-shirt being bought. By donating and exchanging we are already making a difference without realising it

If possible and whenever you can afford to do so, it is better to purchase t-shirts made from organic cotton. Not only does organic cotton use +/- 90% less water than conventional cotton, but it is not genetically modified, uses fewer chemicals, is non-toxic and therefore better for wildlife and its habitats. It is also better for the farm workers health, soil health, there is less water pollution and it is biodegradable. There is no fabric that has zero environmental impact, but we can still make the choice to choose better fabric and to take care of the clothing we do own.

So what do we do with our old t-shirts? Other than donating it or handing it down. We all know that recycling is important, but it is the final step in 'reduce, reuse, recycle', it is more labour intensive and a lot of clothing end up in landfills.

Perhaps consider upcycling it if you want to be a bit creative. Here is a list of how you can breathe new life into your old t-shirt:

1. Make chew toys for your dog.

2. Make some pot plant holders or hanging plant holders.

3. Or go vintage tie-dye, don't forget to use eco-friendly inks.

4. Make a bright, colourful quilt.

5. If you are very creative turn them into baskets or weave a rug or sew it into a pillow.

6. Make cute headbands.

7. Decorate your light fixtures.

8. Make a wall hanging.

9. Turn them into tote bags or a backpack.

10. Or really test your craft skills with a rope bag.