upcycled rug made from T-shirts

Get rid of stuff in an eco-friendly way

Eco-friendly disposal

I am a firm believer in using any item until it is no longer good to use. If you purchased it or received it as a gift, the best option is to give it full use. This way you lower its impact on the planet as much as possible. It would not be eco-conscious to throw away all your unused items, while they still serve a purpose in order to buy more eco-friendly options. 

To get rid of each item in an eco-friendly way, you should think of my proposed options in this specific order. The goal is always to avoid items going to the landfill or postpone it as much as possible. If the item is still working, sell it, or donate it to someone who will use it. Look into fixing items that are broken. If it can be repaired, get it fixed and use, donate or sell it. Upcycle the items that can not be fixed yourself, or donate it for upcycling purposes. If repurposing is no longer an option, compost or recycle the whole item or parts of it. Only if all of the previous options failed, the very last resort is to trash it. 

At some point in your eco-friendly journey, you will need to get rid of stuff that you no longer have a use for. Things will break, or you just don’t use them anymore. Getting rid of stuff the correct way is very important in your eco-journey. If you just go and throw away whatever you don’t need anymore, you are not really helping our planet much. 

This article is part of a series of articles on how to make your home more eco-friendly, to read the previous articles, you can go here:
How can I make my home eco-friendly? KITCHEN
How can I make my home eco-friendly? BATHROOM
Eco-friendly home: Energy, Lights, and Reusables.
Eco-friendly home: Bedroom, Home office, Miscellaneous

If you are on a budget, I also have a list of 20 actions that you can take that will save the plant and save you money at the same time.


When to start thinking about discarding items

When should you start thinking about discarding old items? The answer is when getting any new item, while shopping, or receiving an item. This might seem exaggerated, but it is essential. If you start thinking of it at the beginning, you will make better choices. You will prefer quality products that will last longer and won’t break easily. Products that can be fixed. Products made of compostable materials that can go into your compost bin, or things that are easily recycled.

How not to trash the planet

Items that still serve their original purpose


You can sell these items online, to your friends and family, make or join a garage sale. Even if you don’t make much money on it, you are making sure the items are still being used by someone who needs them. 

If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of selling the items, you can donate them to someone who really needs or wants them. Again there are plenty of ways to do this. You can donate to a friend or family member who will use them. Alternatively, you can donate to an organization that will distribute the items to people in need, or that will sell them and use the proceedings to a good cause. 

There are so many organizations that do this, that you can even pick a cause of your choice. Do you want to help homeless people, sick kids, single mothers or do you want to contribute to reforesting the planet? Many churches will also have this service. Look for organizations in your area and chose the right one for you. 

Items that don’t serve their original purpose anymore


Find out whether the item that is broken is fixable. You can repair it yourself, or take it to a local repair shop and have it done there. You can fix many items including clothes, home appliances, electronics, shoes, watches, furniture, etc. After fixing it, you can still use it, sell it or donate it. 

There are also stores, even Amazon, where you can return their products after they brake. They will repair them and sell them for low prices. This works mostly with home appliances and electronics like coffee makers, computers, phones, and others.

I remember when I was a child, this was a standard procedure, we would always fix things before discarding them. Most things were so much more expensive than now but also lasted much longer.

Repurpose / upcycle

If it is not possible to fix the item, use your imagination, and see what else it could be used for. Try to find a way to repurpose or upcycle these products for your own use, to give as gifts for friends and family, or even donate once it has a new use.

This might take a bit of practice at the beginning, but there are so many ideas on the internet. Look for “ways to upcycle *item*” on Google and many options will pop-up. 

In our house, we use glass jars from preserves, jams, etc. to store food. We use old glass bottles as vases, we repurposed plastic containers as planters. Currently, I am making a bathroom rug out of old T-shirts. 

Zero-waste home pantry

Donate to repurpose

If you don’t want to do this yourself: you don’t have the imagination, the time, or just use for any of it, you can still donate these items to people or organizations who make their living by repurposing used items. This might be not such a common practice the in United States yet, but I hope this will change in the future. Try to find someone that will repurpose or upcycle these items, you might be lucky. 

Where I live, there are individuals, for-profit, and not-for-profit organizations that will collect used and broken items from your home, and they will upcycle the items and sell for profit or a cause. There are organizations that will collect specific items like plastic, glass, etc. And others that will collect just about anything.

There are successful companies in Chile that sell repurposed items such as glasses (for water, beer, even wine or cocktails) made of bottles, jewelry made of plastic waste, lamps made of any trash material possible, and even yarn made of clothes in really bad shape.


Some items (whole or parts) might be possible to include in your composting or worm bin. Compost any item made of natural not synthetic materials like wood, bamboo, plant-based or animal-based fibers, natural textiles, and others.

If you are interested in having a worm bin in your house or apartment, I have written a complete beginner’s guide to vermiculture. Get inspired here!

Vermicomposter on the balcony


If fixing, selling, donating, or upcycling is not an option, your next choice should be to recycle the whole item if possible. If not, at least recycle parts of the item. To recycle, you need to clean the item if it’s dirty. Take it apart if it is made of more than one material. Finally, take it to the correct recycling center if there is no pickup service available to you. Many locations will have their own recycling programs and policies. Please research well how can you recycle each item in your area.


If nothing else worked, your last resort is to send the item to landfills. I hope we all do our best effort to avoid as many items as possible to send to landfills. When you throw away any item, it does not really go away. It will be here, on our planet for a long time, decomposing very slowly. Unfortunately, it will be creating greenhouse gases like methane while in the landfill. 

Bonus: 7 ways to discard clothes

Many of us will need to discard clothes and will have a hard time on how to do it. I offer here 7 different ways of what to do, so you do not trash any clothes ever again.

Old clothes in good shape 

  • Repair: Clothes can be repaired, mended in order to extend their life. You can do it yourself if you are skilled and have a sewing machine. You can also take it to a clothes repair shop.
  • Donate to a charity: Goodwill, The Salvation Army, Dress for Success, American Red Cross, Vietnam Veterans of America and many other charities will receive clothes to donate directly to people in need or to sell and use the proceeds to a cause.
  • Upcycle yourself: make a bathroom rug out of old T-shirts, make reusable bags for produce shopping, make T-shirt yarn (T-yarn) and then crochet something with it, make a memorial quilt or a stuffed animal with clothes of your loved ones.
Zero-waste home: reuse old T-shirts to make produce bags, eco-friendly disposal

Old clothes in bad shape

  • Compost: If you are sure of the material of the textile, you can compost cotton, hemp, linen, and other natural plant-based or animal-based fibers.
  • Use them as rags: you can cut the textile into smaller pieces and use them around your house for cleaning. I remember my mom always used to do this, we used old shirts to clean the floors. 
  • Recycle: there are companies that recycle old clothes into fibers and make new products. Some of them will even give you a discount when you bring old clothes to their recycling program. The brands that have recycling programs are for example Levi Strauss & Co., H&M, or The North Face. There are other smaller organizations that only focus on textile recycling, please search in your local area.
  • Donate to an animal shelter: Most of the animal shelters will receive clothes in bad shape to use around the shelter to clean or keep the animals warm. Call your local shelter to find out if they will receive a donation.

To learn about eco-friendly fabrics, read this article!

This is a series of articles on how to make your home more eco-friendly, read the other articles here:
How can I make my home eco-friendly? KITCHEN
How can I make my home eco-friendly? BATHROOM
Eco-friendly home: Energy, Lights, and Reusables.
Eco-friendly home: Bedroom, Home office, Miscellaneous

I am not using any affiliate links, everything I recommend is because I like it and think it is useful. Feel free to search for different options in the same products category.