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Reuse your old underwear and hosiery

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Ripped or old pantyhose don't need to be thrown in the trash. Worn-out bras or those that just don't fit anymore don't either. They can be used to make a purse, as garden ties, for cleaning rags around the home, as strainers, or even cleaning your outdoor pond.

How to reuse your bras and underwear

Most of us aren’t likely to buy a bra-purse or solar underwear, so how do we green-up these items? Simple! Reuse them.

  • Reuse the elastic: By cutting off the elastic portions of the bra or underwear, you can use them for other sewing projects. Alternatively, tie your used elastic between two stakes to help support the weight of large tomatoes.
  • Repurpose the fabric: Your underwear or the cups of your old bra may be usable as bits of fabric in a quilt, for patching holes in other clothing, as rags, or as material for various craft projects. And the stuffing might come in handy when padding other craft projects, too.
  • Make a bra-extender: If you’ve got one bra that’s worn out, and another that’s a bit too small around, merge them to create the perfect garment. Just cut the hook portion off the worn bra and use it as a bra-extender on the good one.
  • Compost it!: If your bras or underwear are made from natural fibers, like cotton or wool, they can be thrown into your compost heap or worm bin where they’ll be broken down into healthy fertilizer for your garden.
  • Create an evening purse: Not as strange as it may sound, if you add a bit of ribbon and some glue, as suggested at Craftbits, you can make your own wallet or handbag out of used bras!

How to reuse your hosiery

There are numerous ways to reuse old hosiery. We’ve collected the best and most ingenious!

  • Put them to work in the kitchen: As long as your hose don’t have holes, you should be able to use them to strain various things while cooking—tomato sauce, jam, and more!
  • Transform them into large elastics: Most nylons are stretchy, so give them a new life as giant elastics around garbage cans (to keep the bag in place), tying together bundles of newspapers for recycling, and the like. Or keep a pair of old hose in the trunk of your car for holding down the trunk lid (like a bungee cord) should the need should arise.
  • Use them as stretchy containers: Stockings can be used to hold wrapping paper and posters—anything long that’s in need of a little protection. Or drop onions into the toes to hang them in a cool dry place.
  • Make them into stuffing: Cut used pantyhose into small bits and use them to stuff pillows, crafts, toys, or quilts.
  • Make toys for animal companions: Put a tennis ball in the end of one leg and tie a knot to make a great play-thing for your dog. Fill the toe of the other leg with catnip to make a treat for your cat.
  • Use them for cleaning and polishing: Roll up a pair of nylons and tie it together to make a scratch-free scrubbing pad for cleaning sinks. Use the same method to create a sponge for applying polish or varnish to furniture and floors, as well as to shoes. Or use the same sponge to remove nail polish from fingers and toenails.
  • Clean your pond or fish tank with them: Stretch old nylons over a clothes hanger and attach that to a pole to use for skimming leaves and debris from the top of your outdoor water feature.
  • Find small items: Lost a contact lens, piece of jewellery, or other small item? Attach the toe-end of a pair of nylons to the end of your vacuum cleaner, secure with a rubber band, turn the machine on, and gently pass it over the area in question. You should find your item attached to the stocking filter on the vacuum.
  • Create scented sachets: Fill the toes of your old pantyhose with potpourri or dried fruit to create a scented sachet for drawers or the bath.

Reusing your hosiery helps you go green because…

  • It cuts down on the amount of discarded clothing and textiles that end up in landfills each year.

Between 1993 and 1997, bra sales enjoyed a 50 percent boost to $39.3 billion per year, while total apparel sales rose only 20 percent over that same period.[1] By the year 2000, shipments in the lingerie industry were in the $3.68 billion range.[2]

And of course, as people purchase new, they throw away the old. An estimated 10.6 million tons of textiles were generated in 2003, with the average American discarding about 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per year—85 percent of which ends up in landfills.[3] Women's lingerie is made of a variety of materials, including cotton, satin, silk, lace, and nylon, with cotton and nylon being perhaps the most troublesome.

Cotton concerns

One detrimental environmental impact of the underwear industry is the harvest and production of conventional cotton, which is considered to be the world's most pesticide-intensive crop. While only 2.4 percent of farmland worldwide is dedicated to cotton, it accounts for 24 percent of global insecticide sales and 11 percent of global pesticide sales.[4] In total, $2 billion worth of chemicals are sprayed on global cotton crops each year, almost half of which are classified as hazardous by the World Health Organization.[5]

The various chemicals used to treat conventional cotton can harm beneficial insects and soil micro-organisms, pollute ground and surface water, and adversely affect the health of humans and wildlife—including fish, birds, and livestock. Additionally, up to 70 percent GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds are used in conventional cotton farming in the United States.[6]

Nylon nasties

Nylon, another synthetic material used in lingerie (as well as in carpets, tires, auto parts, and various other products), has also been shown to have adverse environmental effects.[7] The United States produces over 2 million tons of nylon annually, a process that requires over 2.2 million metric tons of adipic acid, which in turn requires the oxidation of cyclohexanol or cyclohexanone by nitric acid, a process that produces nitrous oxide (N2O), an ozone-depleting greenhouse gas.[8]

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