Unexpected Ways Chicago Families Can Recycle

These organizations accept donations including clothes, crayons and more.

Sure, we recycle newspapers and cans to help save the planet. But raising today’s green child not only focuses on environmentalism but on altruism as well.

There are endless ways to repurpose items. Check out these ideas where green equals good. Some of these recycling ideas are unexpected and others offer a twist on an original.

The important thing is to skip the landfill, promote awareness of the earth, especially with Earth Day coming up, and help lead your child toward a life of responsible renewal.

Everyday items


Working Bikes Cooperative gives “new life to old bikes and independence to those who ride them.” Each year, thousands of bikes are diverted from the waste stream and rehabbed for local and international distribution. The bikes and wheelchairs go directly to Chicago city programs, refugees and day camps. You can make a purchase, donate old bikes or volunteer. Drop off at one of the city and suburban locations or at its warehouse and store at 2434 S. Western Ave., Chicago.


Donate your gently used shoes to benefit children and adults in the world’s most impoverished areas with Share Your Soles. Numerous Chicagoland drop-off boxes are available including their warehouse at 11201 S. Cottage Grove Ave., Chicago.

Have gym shoes too worn to wear? Through Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program, they can be recycled into Nike Grind, a material used to help build sports surfaces and playgrounds. One local example of this technology can be seen at Chicago Public Schools’ Hanson Stadium. You can drop off at Nike stores in Chicagoland.


Looking to retire your business attire? Dress for Success offers career wear to low-income women to assist in their search for employment and self-sufficiency. You can donate clothes by appointment only at their Chicago office, 70 E. Lake St., Suite 900, Chicago.

Donate your old formal and bridesmaid dresses to Chicago high school students who can’t afford a prom dress. The Glass Slipper Project also provides accessories for the perfect ensemble. Though the project has been postponed until 2023 due to COVID-19, follow the Glass Slipper Project’s Facebook page for updates when events will continue.


Sales of your donated books can help promote literacy programs for Chicago students of all ages. CDs and DVDs in good condition also accepted. Open Books is located at 651 W. Lake St. and 905 W. 19th St., Chicago. Also check your local library for drop-off of gently used books and media.

Community gardens

Have a green thumb? Go beyond your backyard and get involved at one of Chicago’s more than 600 community gardens. The Peterson Garden Project (at Peterson and Campbell in North Park) is located on land from an original World War II Victory Garden. As Chicago’s largest community-allotment vegetable garden, there are more than 157 plots tended by community members. Volunteers and students also tend several garden plots and donate their produce to local food pantries and homeless shelters.

Unexpected items


A new cut for you can help provide a hairpiece to a financially disadvantaged child suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. Visit WigsforKids.org for more information.

Hair is a “booming” business with its natural, organic fibers that collect oil. Help protect the shorelines and local waterways. Donate your hair to Matter of Trust, which is made into booms for containing and collecting oil spills.


Be a champion again. Awards Mall offers a trophy recycling program to benefit charities. It will refurbish the trophy, re-engrave the plate and supply it to nonprofits for their deserving athletes.


Crazy Crayons has saved more than 120,000 pounds of crayons from landfills and employed developmentally disabled individuals through this recycling program. You can mmail in broken and unused crayons (you pay shipping and handling).

Coffee grounds

Organic and rich in nitrogen, coffee grounds are an ideal way to fertilize rose bushes and other vegetation. Sprinkle on the base of plant, tree or lawn and water area.

Have something not on the list?

Excess Access links surplus with needs. If you have something specific to donate, they’ll find a home for it.

Follow Chicago Parent on Instagram.

- Advertisement -


Strangest Theme Parks in the World You Won’t Believe Are Real

Explore the world's strangest theme parks! From real construction equipment to underground adventures, these parks still offer thrills.

Watch Free Outdoor Family Flicks at Chicagoland’s Movies in the Park Events

Grab some snacks and enjoy these fun family flicks at a park in the city and suburbs.

Where to See Dinosaurs in Chicagoland

Amaze the little dino lovers in your family by taking them to one of these dino-mite spots.

Skip the Crowds at These Six Lesser-Known Illinois State Parks

These state parks have all the scenic views and nature fun, minus the crowds. Plus, they’re just a drive away!

- Advertisement -