Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Living the Green Life

Be a Friend of the Environment: September 2021

Get There Green! 2021 -- take part from September 20 through 26 during Climate Week to promote and celebrate green methods of transportation. Bike, walk, carpool, use mass transit, an electric vehicle, or another way to Get There Green! (leaves DEC's website). During this week, everyone is encouraged to use green transportation for as many trips as possible.
Sign up for DEC Delivers

Enter email address:

The calendar turns to another month and we are moving into fall. While this is a great time of the year to get outdoors and enjoy our environment -- consider spending a bit of time indoors to clean out your clothing closet and prepare for the seasons ahead. As leaves will be falling off of the trees, before we know it, sweater weather will be here. Get your clothes ready and do so in a green way.

Closet clean out -- save green

From clothing swaps, to hand me downs, to mixing and matching and adding fun accessories -- clothes you already own can get a new look and extended life. Planning is key to saving green -- the environment and money that is. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Inventory what clothes fit and what items you have before making new purchases.
  • Two clothing textile drop-off bins
    Donate unwanted items to local charities or donation centers/bins.
    Before you go, check what items they are currently accepting.
    Do not put clothes into your personal recycling bins. They can become tangled in equipment at waste processing facilities and be a danger for workers. Read about textiles and how to Recycle Right NY (leaves DEC's website).
  • Make new items from items you no longer find useful. Turn old jeans into new shorts or even a new bag! T-shirts can become no-sew reusable bags in a few simple steps. Check the internet for "no-sew" techniques so you can give your clothes new life.
  • Give your old clothes an update. Add an iron-on or fabric paint to give life to a plain t-shirt. Use buttons and iron-on or sewed patches to make an item different and "new."
  • Organize a clothing swap with family, friends, or neighbors. Pass down clothes that are still useful and in good shape. Swap backpacks and school supplies for even more savings.
  • Shop online thrift stores. This is a convenient way to buy secondhand items from a variety of brands.
  • Wash clothes in cold water and avoid drying with high heat to keep colors vibrant and to extend the fabric life. Reduce your energy use by line drying some items outside, when the weather permits, or indoors on a clothes rack.
  • Avoid dry clean only clothes as they are often harder to care for. Dry-cleaning uses chemicals that are not as friendly to our environment as regular machine washing and drying at home.
  • Try natural laundry stain removing solutions -- 1/4 cup of baking soda, 1/4 cup of white vinegar, a drop of Castile soap, and 2 cups of cold water (hot water sets stains). Mix. Spray on a stain, rub it in, let it sit, and then scrub it off. Toss it into the washer if needed.
  • Dye it! Have something white that's stained? Try a fun craft project like making your own natural dyes (examples: onion skins, turmeric powder, or berries) and tie-dying stained items.

Did you know that?

  • Recycling textiles reduces greenhouse gases (GHGs). GHGs from textile production totals 1.2 metric tonnes of CO2 -- more than emissions from international flights and maritime shipping combined.
  • Textile recycling = job creation. The potential market value of all these discarded materials is almost $130 million. Over 1,000 jobs would be created in New York State if these materials were reused and recycled instead of being thrown away.
  • Cotton is the most pesticide-dependent crop in the world. By recycling textiles, you are helping to reduce toxins from pesticides, herbicides, dyes, and other harsh chemicals used in production.

Too many clothes and other textiles end up in landfills and incinerators. Don't just change clothes -- change habits. DEC provides additional information on textile reuse and recycling.

Be a friend of the environment: September tips

Out of the box - have too many cardboard boxes? Recycle them if they are dry and free of debris or get creative with them to entertain the kids. Stack boxes to form a skyscraper, combine to build a fort, or create over-sized dominos with cereal boxes. Have a big box and lots of creativity? Save it to start working on a Halloween costume -- a robot, tree, or other creation is waiting to be made. Of course, when you no longer need your creations, recycle whenever possible or pass on to another child for more hours of enjoyment.

People outside at a farmers market with fresh vegetables

Farmers market fresh -- take time to visit your local farmer's market for fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, and unique finds. It is a great way to shop for items with little or no packaging. Don't forget to bring your own bag for your purchases. Local items usually involve less transportation than those that have been shipped long distances.

Consider canning -- Want to extend the life of your garden-fresh fruits and vegetables? Try canning. Can items such as peaches, tomatoes, and green beans. Or make your own pickles, tomato sauce, or jams/jellies. Learn how to can properly to do so safely. Once you purchase your canning jars -- they can be reused many times -- reducing waste. Canning allows you to save money, eat fresh, and reuse, helping our environment.

Stir the...compost pile -- turn often and remember to add summer food scraps and other remnants from gardens. These summer and fall additions will provide you with a nutrient-rich mulch-like substance to use around your home.

Share your harvest -- have more produce from your garden than you can use? Share with family, friends, and neighbors. Also, check with a local food pantry -- they may welcome donations of fresh, seasonal produce.

Like our compost tip? Then visit this page next month when we explore preparing for fall -- from clearing out your garden to leaf disposal we will provide tips to help do so in a green way. And don't forget to share your green wardrobe ideas with us using #LiveGreenNY.

You Asked, We Answered!

Q: Anywhere to recycle pillows?
Check with animal shelters or wildlife rehabilitation centers to find out if they will take pillow donations. Another option would be to reuse or upcycle pillows:

  • use the stuffing to fill other pillows, stuffed animals, or to create throw pillows;
  • reuse it as a pet bed; or
  • make it into a kneeling pad while gardening.

Q: Can I donate ripped or torn items?
These items are accepted for textiles recycling but, in general, only items in good condition are accepted for donation. However, you should check with the facility to make sure what items they do and do not accept. Some places will take ripped or torn items and send them for textile recycling. Make the most out of ripped or torn items by:

  • cutting up old t-shirts to make wiping cloths;
  • saving old sheets and towels to cover floors or furniture during projects;
  • stripping the old item for parts - buttons, zippers, etc.; or
  • using old jeans to patch up newer ones.

Q: Do you have educational materials about recycling textiles?
Learn more about recycling textiles on our website and about other items you can recycle. Don't forget to keep up on how you can be a friend of the environment as we update the Living the Green Life page each month.

Q: What about shoes?
Donate footwear that is in good condition. Check with shoe manufacturers to see if they have a recycling program. Secondhand sports equipment stores sometimes accept sports footwear. Some footwear is also acceptable in textiles recycling programs. Check the list before putting items in textiles recycling bins.

Q: What are the textiles turned into when they are recycled?
45% are reused as clothing, 20% are recycled into fibers, and 30% are reused as wiping cloths. Examples of what other recycled items can be turned into:

  • Plastic bottles can become a park bench
  • Paper can become a new newspaper, paper plate, egg carton, kitty litter, or sheetrock.
  • Magazines - packaging
  • Cardboard boxes - paper bags and new cardboard boxes
  • Cans = cans, bicycle, and car parts
  • Glass = can be recycled repeatedly into new glass
  • Plastic = laundry bottles may be buckets, toys, or stadium seats
  • Carpet, fleece, winter jacket fill may be from a recycled water or soda bottles