While we intend to wear flip flops until the snow hits, we'll probably start alternating them with boots and shoes fairly soon. Fall sales are a good time to shop if you need new footgear, but there's no excuse for tossing even the scruffiest old shoes in the nearest garbage bin — and thence to overtaxed landfills. A sad and unnecessary end!

Happily, there are a number of easy ways to give footwear a new life. If your sports soles have lost their bounce, Nike's Reuse-a-Shoe program will take back and recycle any brand of athletic shoe. Just run your shoes over to the nearest Nike store or mail them to Nike's recycling center in Oregon. Or check out this site for more places to send sneakers out to pasture.

Kids outgrow shoes faster than hermit crabs cast off shells, and often these are lightly worn. And sometimes even older people discover that, ahem, they need a larger size. Donate lightly worn shoes of all sizes to families in need via giveshoes.org.

If your Crocs have curdled, drop them in the nearest SolesUnited location where they'll be recycled into new Crocs that are donated to people in need.

If you have a closet full of the fancy stuff like heels, you've got options. Lightly used dress shoes can be donated to the Cinderella Project, a nonprofit that provides gowns and accessories for prom night to girls in need. Or, see if any of your friends and relations who wear your size is interested in doing a shoe swap. It's a great way to get rid of one pair of shoes while cheaply obtaining another. If those options don't work, check out Earth 911 for the nearest drop off donation center near you.

Story by Jessica A. Knoblauch. This article originally appeared in Plenty in September 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.