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It's Time for Back-To-School Shopping! Here's How to Green Your Routine

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For many of us, back-to-school shopping feels less like a guilty indulgence and more like a beloved yearly ritual.

During the holiday-season toys are king, and Halloween is all about the candy, but going back-to-schools means new school supplies and a new fall wardrobe, including backpacks, sneakers, fall sweaters and winter coats. It's also the time of year when parents find out that their children have grown five inches taller, jumped up two full shoe sizes, and decided to only wear clothes in their new favorite color!

Data from the National Retail Federation shows that our emotional attachment to back-to-school shopping pays off big-time in retail sales. They are already predicting that this year's back-to-school shopping season will bring in $83.8 billion in revenue, 22 percent higher than the $68.8 billion from 2011, with grade school and college kids combined.

On an individual level, this means that the average parent with K-12 kids is on track to spend more than $688 on back-to-school clothes and supplies this year. Of back-to-school shoppers, 52 percent will go to retail stores, and only 14.4 percent of shoppers will go to thrift stores. Most tellingly, only 53.3 percent of parents with grade-school kids will have their children wear "old" clothes from last year.

Reading between the lines, all that back-to-school shopping can equal a great deal of discarded clothing that has either been outgrown or is now uncool and unwanted.

The statistics about textile waste are staggering. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 13.1 million tons of textiles are discarded each year. Around 2 million tons are re-cycled and re-purposed, while the remaining 11.1 million tons are deposited directly into landfills. Individually, the average American trashes nearly 65 lbs of textiles each year.

This makes me think - how can we, within our own communities, raise awareness and activism about textile waste? And how can we help individual consumers, like you and me, become more aware that every new T-shirt, backpack, or pair of jeans, means another item of textile waste that might go into a landfill?

Last month, we applauded the textile recycling campaigns developed by Levis and Marks & Spencer. Both have created fun, inspiring campaigns for their consumers, of how to raise awareness of the urgency of the issue of textile waste.

And just a few weekends ago, USAgain held our very own, first-ever Homecoming Goes Green dress give-away event, here in our hometown of West Chicago. We gave away over 150 barely-used, like-new dresses to local teenagers, to wear to their high school Homecoming, or even save for prom. We also asked these teens to deposit one item of unwanted clothing that they would want to be diverted from landfills. By offering a fun afternoon experience, and providing an educational message as well, we hope that these teens will develop positive recycling habits that last a lifetime.

With a little creativity and greenspiration, we can reduce and divert the 11.1 million tons of textiles that are placed into landfills each year, by reducing consumption, reusing what we already have, and recycling textiles that we no longer need.

Do you have a creative, exciting idea for how to raise awareness about textile recycling in your own community? Or how to help your friends and family remember the "one in, one out" rule of thumb, to give-away or recycle one item of clothing, for each new item of clothing you purchase? We're eager to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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