Hand-Me-Downs Are Good For The Environment – Really

by Samantha on November 30, 2011

Hand-me-downs are a way of life in my family. No, I didn’t have twins before; I didn’t even have boys, but I did have some very kind and considerate friends who realized that two active little men require lots of clothes. It still fills me with wonder to realize that they’ve gone through three or four pairs of pants in a given day. But I digress.Like my previous post on leftovers, there seems to be two camps here, too. Some folks are put off by the idea of less-than-new clothing for their kids. Others, like me, get excited when I’m given some new/old jeans or another sweater or two for my kids. Hey – as far as I’m concerned, it’s a bonus – not having to buy another item, and saving a bit of cash.

Image courtesy of http://yesloveit.blogspot.com

Unlike my other post which compared two camps of folks, this one on hand-me-downs is really a touch point for discussion on why we have a culture that has become one that is based on planned obsolescence. Think about it. Things don’t last anymore. Consumer goods, for the most part, are made to break. The idea of an “extended warranty” for electronic goods, cars and more proves my point. Why are they required? 

“They just don’t make things the way they used to,” some old-timers may say. Grandpa’s got it right. The concept of “early adopters” when it comes to the latest tech gadgets includes the subtext that the later model – the one that the masses will purchase when they’re comfortable – will be more advanced and therefore better, throwing the former into obscurity – and often the trash can. The rationale of planned obsolescence, in the minds of the manufacturers, makes it okay to produce a product with a limited shelf life. Accordingly, if an item lasts a few years, consider yourself lucky.

Case in point:

  • Many of us don’t think twice about “software upgrades.” After all – they’re supposed to change after a brief period of time, aren’t they?
  • Consumer electronics, such as cell phones, laptops and similar items have been manufactured so that it’s more expensive to fix them or modify them than it is to upgrade…hmmm…
  • Don’t get me started on the topic of children’s toys

In recent years, children’s items in particular have been increasingly manufactured to fail.There was a time where kids’ playthings were made of wood or a similarly sturdy compound. No so these days, although plastic can be quite strong. No, buy a toy from your local department store and I can almost guarantee you that it will fall apart soon after purchase, and if not then, it will within the year.What’s a parent to do? Buy another one, I guess.

We have become a society that doesn’t think twice about throwing out the old and heralding in the new. This philosophy has extended beyond physical items to the intangibles as well (think high divorce rates, May-December romances and more). What are we teaching our children?It has become the norm these days to expect things to fall apart, whether they are physical objects or otherwise. We expect mediocrity, and so, our children do as well. To this end, it’s not a stretch to assume that this philosophy of “good enough” extends into our kids’ daily lives, including schooling, relationships and more. This can’t be a good thing.

Furthermore, the “throw-away culture” in which we live does not encourage our children to be conscious of our environment. As our planet becomes more and more clogged with the remnants of our now-obsolete purchases (including many toys), the idea of living a more sustainable and “green” lifestyle becomes lost.

Image courtesy of http://www.acrd.bc.ca
Recycling, respecting the environment and using less “stuff” are goals that we should all embrace for many reasons beyond the ones stated above. Being a throw-away society is not doing us or our children any good. More pressingly, the planet on which we live is getting crowded awfully fast and at the end of the day, there’s only a finite amount of landfill space to go around. Food for thought. Perhaps those that scoff at pre-owned clothing may want to reconsider for more reasons than are obviously apparent. Hand-me-downs are not that bad after all.


Do you “recycle” clothes and accept hand-me-downs for your children? Why or why not?
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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

championm2000 December 2, 2011 at 2:21 am

Yes…we eat leftover AND graciously accept hand-me-downs! My mother-in-law owns a consignment shop and we go to yard sales. It's eco-friendly; it's economical, and I wore hand-me-downs and my kids can, too :-)

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Samantha December 2, 2011 at 5:03 pm

@championm2000Love consignment shops! You can get some really great deals there. Sometimes the items are almost new – and a lot less expensive.
Thanks for your comment!

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Lovingmama December 15, 2011 at 3:53 am

Most hand-me downs are softer and for a texture oriented kid like mine, they are much more comfortable. I do the happy dance when someone asks if we would like a bag of clothes! Not only do we accept them, but we also pass the good ones on and cut up the "unusables" for projects such as Molly Monkeys, rag rugs, and cleaning rags. I'm ok with some people buying new as long as they share when they are done =)

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Samantha December 15, 2011 at 4:18 pm

@Lovingmama I love hand-me-downs as well! I have some great friends who know that my boys go through clothes at a ridiculous pace, and they very kindly pass along bags of clothes as well, which I am always excited and happy about. I just can't understand why people wouldn't pass on clothes…I do the same – pass along my kids' clothes that are too small for them to other parents who need and appreciate them. Makes perfect sense, I think.
Thanks for your comment!

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Cheryl Leahy (@CJAllDressedUp) January 7, 2013 at 8:08 pm

One of my favorite topics- clothes! I beg my family to toss their hand-me-downs my way, and I go to Goodwill and Savers (thrift stores) to pick up other items that might retail for ten times as much. Kids grow quickly, and I even have items that my son hasn’t even worn before growing out of them! I love a good deal, and that doesn’t stop at just my wardrobe. For holidays/ birthdays, I ask family and friends for gently used items instead of new. The kids love finding their favorite things to see their cousin use! If you know me, you know I am OBSESSED with style and fashion, but it doesn’t have to cost a lot to look hot ;)
Cheryl Leahy (@CJAllDressedUp) recently posted..Gift Guide: Stocking StuffersMy Profile

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Samantha January 8, 2013 at 12:26 am

Cheryl, you’re my kind of woman! I’m just like you – always looking for a deal :) I’m not against buying new; I certainly do purchase new things for my kids. What I am against is waste when it’s not necessary. For example, why pass on perfectly good clothing for your kids just because they’ve been worn a few times? We all know how expensive children’s clothes can be as well as how quickly the kids grow out of them, so might as well take the hand-me-downs when you can and save some money. Plus, it’s very “green” and good for the environment as well. It’s a win-win situation!

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