The period of time between Thanksgiving and New Year is one associated with giving: We give thanks, we give cheer, and we give gifts. There’s nothing wrong with giving or receiving material items — the tradition itself is meant to demonstrate to the people who matter to us that we appreciate them.
But what comes with gift-giving is waste. In that same period from the end of November to the beginning of January, Americans produce 25% more trash than during any other time of year. As the holiday season arrives, we as Penn students and as Philadelphians must be conscious of what we’re throwing away. When we can, we must give away items that we would have ordinarily trashed or hoarded, because even the smallest donations can make a difference.
As the fashion industry moves quickly from runways to stores and then to consumers, the fashion that was initially new and chic ends up stored in forgotten drawers, in the bottoms of closets, or is simply thrown away. With huge sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, consumers buy these cheap and stylish clothes for loved ones or themselves: Even if they may fade or break after a couple of wears, fashion still sells.
Particularly as students who generally do not have permanent homes at Penn and move around a lot, it is common to throw things out at the end of the semester.
Instead of getting rid of old clothes — or any other object of use that you don’t seem to need anymore — give them to local shelters or thrift stores. Philly AIDS Thrift accepts almost everything (clothing, electronics, even cars), and gives the proceeds from resold items to local organizations involved in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Drop off food, clothing, personal care items, and educational needs like notebooks and pens at the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission if you want to help Philadelphia’s homeless be fed and sheltered. Penn itself even has Goodwill donation bins (they’re in front of Rodin College House) for your unwanted shoes and clothing.
Students can and should donate all year round. It’s especially important, though, in the winter months: Those without places to stay must survive in extreme weather conditions without shelter. Death by hypothermia and frostbite, despite having killed fewer Philadelphians in recent years, is still a real danger for the thousands of people who find themselves without homes during the winter. Donations of coats, jackets, scarves, boots, and other unneeded items intended to keep people warm can genuinely save lives.
There’s no need to feel guilty should you receive fast fashion as gifts or if you find yourself with more belongings than you need. This holiday season, donate belongings that no longer bring you any use to not only reduce the waste we produce, but also so someone else in need can stay warm this winter.
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