Q. What should I do with old clothing that is no longer wearable? I hear that running shoe manufacturers grind up old shoes and incorporate them into new products (for sports flooring). Is there anything similar for old clothing? – D., Washington DC

A. There is indeed—march your green self and those dud duds right over to Goodwill. Sorry to give you such an obvious answer, but the 100-year-old charity really is your best bet. When Goodwill receives textile donations that are too worn out to be given to secondhand shops, they sell them to textile recyclers. There, the fabric fibers can be transformed into polishing rags for industrial use, insulation and padding, car mats, fancy cotton-fiber paper, and lots more. Proceeds help fund employment programs for disabled and disadvantaged people, says Lauren Lawson, Goodwill spokesperson.

You’ll still want to chuck anything that’s wet, mildewed, or covered in substances that could interfere with recycling—so don’t try to give Goodwill that rag you used to clean-up a motor oil spill or the fatigues you wore in an ill-fated paintball battle. But as long as the fabric is clean and dry, Goodwill will see that it’s either reused or recycled. And for the record, many smaller charities have similar policies, too. So next time anyone tries to tell you that your once-beloved Def Leppard concert tee is worthless, you can tell them definitively that they’re just plain wrong. Yeah!

Story by Sarah Schmidt. This article originally appeared in "Plenty" in September 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008