The Gift of a Bra

A bra is one of the simplest commodities in a women's life. A product that for some is easily attained or acquired in abundance. But for other women and girls who are living in poverty striken areas or are homeless, a bra is a luxury item; one that's difficult to come by. As I’ve continued the Kon Mari process and gone about the act of donating my clothes, I wanted to see how my donations could produce some good in this world. With textile waste on the raise, being socially responisble of how i discarded unwanted items was extremely important to me. One item that I was especially unsure of what to do with were my bras. I sought out to find a solution to this issue and much to my surprise, there are several organizations that offer a way to not only donate your bras, but also offers your donations as aid to people in need. In this week's blog post, I share information on organizations I found that are putting your gently used or unwanted bras to good use and keeping them out of landfill

As I’ve continued the Kon Mari process and gone about the act of donating my clothes, I wanted to see how my donations could produce some good in this world. According to the council for textile recycling, the average US citizen throws away 70lbs of clothing and other textiles per year, and the EPA estimates that 5% of landfill space is occupied by textile waste. With statistics such as these, it is important to keep these items out of landfills and into the hands of people in need. One item that I was especially unsure of what to do with were my bras. Throwing them away was not a decision I felt comfortable making so I sought to find a solution that allowed for discarding these items without contributing to waste. To my surprise, there are several organizations that offer a way to not only donate your bras but also offer your donations as an aid to people in need. If you are in the process of tidying up or looking to discard unused/unwanted bras to limit your environmental impact, here are some great options for organizations to consider.

Free the Girls
Co-founded by Kimba Langas and Dave Terpstra; Free the Girls is a non-profit organization providing economic opportunities for women rescued from sex trafficking and helps the women reintegrate into their communities. By donating your new or gently used bras, women are able to start their own business selling second-hand bras in their local marketplace. The women work for themselves and now have an opportunity to pay for school for their children or buy land for their family to thrive. The goal of Free the Girls is to provide TRUE FREEDOM for these women: Economic Freedom, Emotional Freedom, Physical Freedom, and Freedom for her Future.  By collecting bras across North America and other parts of the world, they can provide bras to programs established in El Salvador, Mozambique, and Uganda and new programs like their current project in Costa Rica. Donations are accepted at any of their drop-off locations or by mail. 

Donate Your Bra
Donate Your Bra is a non-profit organization providing bra support for cancer survivor women in desperate situations. They are a distribution center offering bras and other items for breast cancer post-surgery and breast cancer survivor support groups and charities throughout the year. They accept new and used lingerie and recently began accepting swimsuit donations because a suit can be a basic need in some poor countries. Since the company is an IRS Tax Deductible 501(c3) non-profit organization, you can write off donations on your taxes. Donations are only accepted via mail.

I Support the Girls
Helping to assist homeless women and girls, I Support the Girls (ISTG) collects and distributes new/used bras as well as sealed packages of tampons and maxi pads to women nationally and internationally. Started as a passion project by Dana Marlow, ISTG has grown exponentially since its launch in 2015. The goal is to provide Dignity to all women despite their situation. For homeless women, a bra that offers support and feminine hygiene products are hard to come by. ISTG has successfully collected and distributed 350,000 bras and over a million feminine hygiene products and some of their partners include The Coca-Cola Company, Spotify, Lowe’s and many more. They accept new and used bras in good condition including training bras, custom-made bras in large sizes, and tampons and sanitary napkins as long as they are individually sealed. Donations are accepted at any of their drop off locations or via mail and volunteers are always welcome.

The Bra Recyclers
A for-profit founded in 2008 by Elaine Birks-Mitchell and Johnny Mitchell Jr. The Bra Recyclers offers aid to women in need, from breast cancer survivors to those in shelters. As one of the leading bra recycling companies, The Bra Recyclers has been able to recycle over 4 million bras and support over 100 non-profit organizations,Our goal is to ignite a ‘Bra-volution’ to recycle, reuse, or repurpose bras while providing substantial social benefits to women and girls escaping domestic violence, drug addiction, human trafficking and breast cancer survivors.” They accept new and gently used bras including sports bras, post-surgery breast cancer supplies, and new panties. They are partnered with companies around the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico to accept bra donations at one of their many drop-off locations. You can also mail directly to The Bra Recyclers as they offer paid return labels for your package.

Local Shelter
The simplest way to go about donating your bras is to start in your very own community. Local shelters across the United States and other countries will gladly accept gently used or new bras as they are a common need amongst homeless people. It’s important to call first to make sure they do accept those kinds of donations as not every location does. The overall goal is to keep these items out of landfills and into the hands of people in need so you want to make sure that criteria are met.

I’m happy that programs such as these exist but must keep in mind that to help cut down on waste and unnecessary purchasing of bras, it’s important to get fitted for the right bra. A survey found that 80% of women are wearing the wrong sized bra, 70% wore bras that were too small and 10% wore bras that were too large. I highly suggest getting a professional bra fitting done to avoid being part of these statistics. Not only will your boobs thank you but the days of unnecessary spending and ill-fitting bras will be behind you.

I’ve decided to donate my used bras to Free the Girls. I found their mission very empowering for the women and liked the fact that they are providing economic stability; putting the power back in the women’s hands. To amplify the volume of bras I’m able to donate at a time, I’ll be reaching out to my coworkers asking if they have any unused or unwanted bras they’re willing to donate. This is a simple way for me to start a dialogue about issues such as these as well as spread awareness to those who are unaware programs such as these exist. It also gives my colleagues a reason to do some mild spring cleaning on their end.

I hope this read encouraged you to take action and consider donating your bras versus throwing them away. If you have gone through a tidying up process of your own and have found ways to spread some good in this world during the process I would love to hear from you! What organization did you find and how did that act impact you? Are there any tips you can provide that’s helped you during your cleaning process? Comment below and tell us more J

Happy Donating!

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