Costumes, Recycling and Sustainability

There’s plenty of talk in the media and popular culture these days about recycling, sustainability of our natural resources and the overall effect on the environment in which we all live.  One aspect of this discussion that doesn’t get as much attention is how costumes fit into the equation.

For many people, costumes are a fun outfit or accessory used infrequently during special occasions like Halloween, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, 4th of July or around the Christmas/New Year’s Eve holidays.  But what can we do with costumes once these events have passed or kids have outgrown their disguises?

Here are a few ideas of how to repurpose or reuse costumes without disposing of them in the trash:

1. One Outfit for Multiple Characters.  A vampire cloak can be quickly turned into a magician’s cape by trimming the collar.  An Adult or Child Disney Princess outfit can easily double as a medieval or Renaissance maiden.  The looks of some popular movie characters are remarkably similar – For example: the tight leather suit Trinity wore in The Matrix movies from 10 years ago is pretty close to Selene from the recent Underworld films.  Use your imagination to transform a costume you already own into one you would otherwise purchase new.  You’ll save some money and feel good about doing so by not acquiring more stuff.

2. Hand Me Downs and Gifts to Neighbors or Friends.  It goes without saying that when a child grows up, their clothes no longer fit and there’s little reason to hold onto them besides sentimentality.  The same applies to costumes, but these are often in good condition as they haven’t been worn as much, so think about giving them to your friends and neighbors if they have kids in the same size or age range, provided your youngster doesn’t have brothers or sisters that could use these dress-up outfits as well!

3. Resale on the Secondary Market. eBay and Craigslist are popular websites where you can find just about anything you’re looking for and you might be surprised how much money you can get back for a used Spider-Man, Batman or Harry Potter costume if you describe it well enough and take a new picture or two. Again this will ensure the ensemble doesn’t just end up in a landfill taking up space.

4. Donation to Charity. Find out if Goodwill or the Salvation Army will accept costumes that they can then offer to shoppers at their store locations or distribute to needy families.  This is a great way to feel good about reducing the clutter in your closet without simply tossing it in the garbage.

5. When All Else Fails, Recycle.  If you simply can’t find another person or organization to take the costume you’re no longer using off your hands, try to recycle it as much as possible.  Many masks are made of plastic, so see if that can be assembled with your other kitchen recyclables for weekly pickup.  Fabrics can always be cut into smaller swatches for patch repairs of other clothing, or the outfit’s next life may be as a dust rag for cleaning chores. Again, try your best to avoid getting rid of these items before thinking of other ways they can be used.

If you put some of these suggestions into practice, both your wallet and conscience will be appreciative for the effort you’ve put forth.  Are there disguise reuse tips that you encourage but we didn’t mention?  Leave a comment below and share with us so our readers can take advantage of as many costume recycling strategies as possible.  It’s up to all of us to preserve the world as best we can.  Costumes may be a fun and silly diversion from everyday life, but they don’t have to be frivolous and wasteful!


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