Sustainable clothing in Pittsburgh: A guide to smart shopping and Earth-friendly donations

Being good to the planet is always in fashion.

Eco-fashion: It's about being good to the Earth and finding your own fashion niche.

Eco-fashion: It's about being good to the Earth and finding your own fashion niche.

Photos courtesy of Planet Aid, Three Pigs Vintage, and Patrice McKenzie

Earth Day offers a chance to focus on how we contribute to a sustainable community — and that extends to all parts of our lives, including fashion.

The average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles every year, according to the Council for Textile Recycling. Just 15 percent of post-consumer textile waste is recycled, leaving 85 percent to sit in landfills.

In honor of Earth Day, and striving to live every day like it’s Earth Day, here are some tips for how to fill and empty your closet in a more sustainable way.

Shop sustainably

Where we source our clothing matters. Investing in second-hand pieces and local brands with an eco-friendly mission contributes to a more sustainable cycle of fashion.

Bonus: These pieces will help you carve out your own unique style niche.

Score thrift shop finds

Thrifting is a great way to define your own style.

Thrifting is a great way to define your own style.

Courtesy of Patrice McKenzie

Thrift shopping can be intimidating based on the sheer volume of clothes. For stylish resources on how to navigate the thrifting world, check out local thrift fashion bloggers, Patrice McKenzie of Thrift Out Loud and Christen Malone of The Thrifty Yinzer.

“When we throw our old clothes away, they most likely go to landfills and just sit there,” McKenzie said. “When we donate our clothes or support thrift stores, we are able to revive former threads into new ones and also contribute to a better environment.”

Check out McKenzie’s Where Do You Shop? post for a list of local thrift shops, the qualities that differentiate them, guidance about fitting rooms, and pro-tips on special discounts.

Also add to your list: Thriftique in Lawrenceville, a large, exquisitely organized store.

Thriftique’s Spring Thrift & Designer Sale

Score 25–50 percent off gently-worn clothing, shoes and accessories at Thriftique, a thrift shop favorite in Lawrenceville. All proceeds benefit the National Council of Jewish Women Pittsburgh. Saturday hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where:Thriftique at 125 51st St. (Lawrenceville)

When:April 21, 2018 at 9:00 a.m. to April 22, 2018 at 4:00 p.m.

Pick up something vintage

Vintage shops house second-hand clothing options, as well. They are more curated than thrift shops and carry pieces at least 10 years old.

The vintage clothing scene in Pittsburgh is robust. In 2016, Racked published a list of the Steel City’s best vintage clothing shops. With the addition of Mello & Sons in Lawrenceville, Royal in Bloomfield, and local online vintage destinations, such as Basil and Three Pigs Vintage, there are no signs of the Pittsburgh’s vintage clothing landscape slowing down.

“The focus is on salvaging vintage clothing and honoring its history while giving it new life,” said Sadie Shoaf, founder and head stylist of Three Pigs Vintage, which sells vintage clothing and re-created works of art. “This mission allows us to avoid fast-fashion trends that ultimately lead to a lot of waste and clothes being discarded for the next best thing.”

Nisha WN style

Nisha Blackwell, of Knotzland.


Buy eco-conscious clothing

For first-hand pieces, Pittsburgh is home to several eco-conscious brands to keep you stylish without a cost to the environment.

Brands such as Idia’Dega, Flux Bene, The Edie Company and Knotzland (Nisha Blackwell, founder of Knotzland, is a Who’s Next Class: Style honoree) use sustainable practices to source textiles and produce clothes.

Get rid of clothes

When it’s time to clean out your closet, step away from the garbage can. Here’s how to make sure your clothing doesn’t end up in a landfill.

Donate clothes in good condition

Those pants that don’t fit right or that shirt that isn’t your style anymore might be a perfect fit for somebody else. Rather than throwing those pieces in the trash, extend their life by donating them.

As a rule of thumb when donating clothing, check the organization’s website prior to drop-off for guidelines on clothing conditions and sometimes specific requests for needed clothing.

There are many options in the greater Pittsburgh area to donate clothing, including:

  • The East End Community Thrift, or “Thrifty,” in Garfield, accepts clothing in good condition. This volunteer-run location has provided “quality, low-cost, used clothing” for 25 years with no signs of stopping.
  • Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania will accept gently worn clothing and shoes, and there are more than a dozen drop-off locations in the greater Pittsburgh area.
  • Dress for Success Pittsburgh is a destination for donated women’s work wear. The mission of Dress for Success is “to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.” They accept a variety of women’s clothing including business casual pieces, scrubs, work pants, steel toe boots, etc. in good condition.
These yellow bins accept torn and stained clothing.

These yellow bins accept torn and stained clothing.

Courtesy of Planet Aid

Donate clothes in bad condition

What about clothes with tears or stains?

Garments not suited for donation can be bagged and dropped off at your local Planet Aid Pittsburgh yellow bin. Find your local bin here.

“We have approximately 500 bins in the area and can recycle up to 50,000 pounds per month,” said Anthony Legnine, Operations Manager of Planet Aid Pittsburgh. You can combine your well-worn clothing with clothing suited for donation, making Planet Aid bins a one-stop textile and clothing recycling spot. “The people in Pittsburgh are very generous … The Pittsburgh area recycles 40,000 pounds per month on average.”

Host (or attend) a clothing swap

Whether you invite your friends over for a clothing trade or attend a bigger meet-up, clothing swaps offer a social way to recycle clothing while acquiring a new wardrobe.

“It is an opportunity to re-home the garments that you know someone else will enjoy,” said Rebekah Joy, a local, sustainable textile artist and co-host of an upcoming clothing swap at the Ace Hotel.

Joy, along with co-hosts Aubree Petronelli and Lindsey Waltonbaugh, organized this swap as a fundraiser for East End Cooperative Ministry’s Sew Forward program. Swappers empty their reusable tote bag(s) of clothing and refill with clothing brought by fellow swappers.

Swap some unwanted clothes for some new ones

At this public clothing swap hosted by Rebekah Joy, Aubree Petronelli and Lindsey Waltonbaugh, bring your reusable tote bag full of gently worn clothing in good condition to swap out for a new wardrobe. There will be an optional $10 donation benefitting the East End Cooperative Ministry’s Sew Forward.

Where:Ace Hotel - Second-floor ballroom at 120 S. Whitfield St. (East Liberty)

When:April 29, 2018 from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

How much:$10 suggested donation

Sell gently used clothing

You can even make some extra cash with your unwanted clothing.

Resale shops, such as Buffalo Exchange in South Side, Avalon Exchange in Squirrel Hill and Clothes Minded in Bloomfield are a way to recycle non-damaged, on-trend, seasonal clothing for cash or trade value.

Be sure to check the shop’s selling guidelines before your visit to improve your chances at some cash.

Buffalo Exchange’s Annual Earth Day $1 Day Sale

Shop this annual sale of men’s and women’s clothing for $1. The $1 items are cash only. Arrive early as the $1 items go quickly, and remember to bring your own (reusable!) bag. All proceeds benefit The 5 Gyres Institute and their research and education work surrounding ocean plastic pollution.

Where:Buffalo Exchange at 1214 E. Carson St. (South Side)

When:April 21, 2018 from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Earth Day Sale at Kid to Kid

Enjoy 25 percent off gently used children’s clothing and shoes at Kid to Kid Pittsburgh, a baby and children’s resale shop in Ross Township that collects quality, gently used children’s clothing and shoes, ages 0 to 14 years, for cash or store credit.

Where:Kid to Kid Pittsburgh at 7440 McKnight Rd. (Ross Township)

When:April 21, 2018 from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.