It can be hard to find a bra that fits you properly. It can be even harder to ditch a bra that's the wrong size or worn out, because that means—gulp!—buying a new one. In reality, wearing a bra that doesn't fit you can hurt more than it helps. When you finally break free, consider one of these sustainable solutions instead of throwing your bra into the trash and sending it to a landfill.
This organization holds donation drives across the U.S. and in five other countries to collect bras and menstrual hygiene products for girls and women in homeless shelters. So far, they’ve collected and distributed 350,000 bras to homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, refugee resettlement homes, foster care agencies, LGBTQ agencies and homes for pregnant teens. You can look for a donation drive at an established affiliate location or mail your gently-used bras to their headquarters.
Forget the Met Gala! This organization puts on a party of its own, The Bras for the Cause Gala, to raise money for breast and cervical cancer research in Iowa. Unlike other groups on this list, Bras for the Cause doesn’t want your plain bra. Decorate it with all manner of sequins, clay, fabric or household knick knacks before you mail it in, and it could be featured at the gala. All bras are displayed and auctioned off, with proceeds going towards monetary grants for cancer research. Register to decorate a bra here before the October gala.
If your bra doesn’t fit quite right, consider passing it on to someone else in need. The Bra Recyclers distributes bras to women in need, and also funnel unwearable bras into proper textile recycling facilities. Rather than letting your bra go to a landfill, print out a label and send it off, and if you have them, send in new, unworn underwar, too—the Bra Recyclers has a sister initiative called the Undie Chest.
Sex slavery is a grim reality that plagues women all over the world, and establishing independence after being freed from trafficking is an enormous challenge. Free the Girls distributes donated bras to survivors and helps them set up secondhand clothing businesses in their communities. The organization poses the question, "What are these women being rescued to?” and aims to answer that question with economic freedom.
The global bra market is worth over 16 billion dollars annually. When you throw out a bra, that’s like throwing money away. The Bra Recycling Agency—or, clever, the BRA—collects bras that are unsuitable for wear and processes them to be recycled. Bras, as it turns out, make great carpet cushion, particularly the red carpeting that you see at big events. Ordering an e-kit from the BRA is easy, and then the agency takes care of sorting, component separation, metal extraction, and final freight to carpet cushion manufacturer.
There’s a good chance clothing retailers in your area accept clothing donations (a few options on this list), and maybe even give discounts in exchange for your recyclables. Keep an eye out for Soma boutiques in your area. The lingerie brand partners with I Support the Girls for bra drives that distribute bras to shelters in the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
Local franchises like NYC lingerie boutique Journelle have bra drives regularly, too. Consider asking your local lingerie shop to set up a collection point for a hometown bra drive. And next time you buy lingerie, look for an eco-friendly brand that uses sustainable production practices and biodegradable components like cotton.
Donate Underwear Too!
Along with bras, you can find sustainable ways to get rid of your old underwear, too. Some donation centers don’t accept used underwear, but Planet Aid boxes will, as long as all pairs are freshly washed. You can also try at-home solutions to give your underwear a second life. Compost 100% cotton or silk underwear, after removing the elastic strap. Or, use worn-out underpants as wash rags—they make gentle, no-scratch washcloths for your car!