Not many of us think too much about the impact our clothing choices have on the environment, but we should!

Old clothes and textiles make up a huge portion of the world’s trash, and they shouldn’t have to.In America alone, 11 million tons of textiles are thrown away every year. This is about 66% of the textile produced worldwide in a year!

When it comes to jeans or other items made of denim, the idea that a lot of them end up in landfills or as trash is kind of preposterous. We always think of things that end up in the trash as useless or worn out, but that’s often not the case for jeans.

Why do jeans get trashed? And why they shouldn’t

Denim is renowned for its sturdiness and its ability to last, so it only makes sense that you should be able to get years of use out of these items.

Let’s admit it though, sometimes the turnover rate of which we go through a pair of jeans is shorter than a year or two. Who among us doesn't have a pair of jeans we wear regularly – and another pair that is just taking place in our closet that we're thinking of throwing away?

Some of the major reasons that jeans might end up being thrown away are they either no longer fit, are no longer in style, or they might have worn through or gotten torn in places that render them unwearable. None of those reasons mean that the jeans are useless, however, there are many ways that the fabric can be recycled or reused.

If you are looking to live a less cluttered life and clear up some closet space, it does make sense to get rid of old jeans. If, however, you are also looking to start living more sustainably and reduce your carbon footprint then you need to think about recycling or upcycling these old jeans.

If you want to reuse or repurpose an old pair of jeans and keep them from going in a landfill, here are three easy ways to do so.

1. Turn your old jeans into jean shorts (or other DIY projects)

This is an oldie but goodie. If you have a pair of jeans that have gotten very worn in the cuffs or have holes in the legs or if you just want a change, you can give them a new life by taking a pair of scissors to them and turning them into shorts.

There are a ton of tutorials and creative patterns that you can use to turn an old worn, pair of jeans into a pair of hot but functional pairs of shorts for the summer. Just Google "jean shorts" and you are sure to find one that you can use.

There are also several other fun and creative DIY projects that you can do to reuse your old jeans. Shorts aren't the only "vintage" item that is often made from old jeans, so are denim skirts.  Turning your jeans into a skirt requires you to make a few strategic cuts and more sewing than shorts, but this is still a relatively easy project to undertake.

Several other interesting home crafting projects allow you to make use of used denim from old jeans. Recycled denim bags are particularly popular, probably because of the sturdiness of denim and the timeless look that a good denim item can have. The toughness of denim also makes it a good choice for items such as oven mitts and coasters.

2. Turn your old jean over to a recycling program

As we noted, jeans last a long time and they can be repurposed into other things. Denim is a fabric made of cotton, which makes them particularly easy to upcycle. You can try to look for a recycling program in your area that will take your old jeans and create something new with them.

You can look for organizations such as Blue Jeans Go Green, which collects old denim items that use it to create cotton fiber insulation. These are then donated to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity for use in affordable housing products.

Of course, you can always donate your old jeans to a charitable organization like Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Some organizations that help with disaster relief like the Red Cross will also accept used clothing.

By donating to these organizations, especially If the jeans are still in relatively good shape, you can be sure they will find a new home and a purpose and be kept out of landfills.

3. Turn over your old jeans to store-based recycling programs and get discounts

Some retailers, recognizing the need to reduce their ecological footprint offer recycling programs where you can turn over old clothing to them, and jeans are the most popular targets of these programs.

If a local retailer has a clothing recycling program, you might want to take your old jeans there. They recycle the material, often using it to create new articles of clothing, and give you either cash or a store discount in exchange.

Levi's, one of the world's oldest and largest denim brands, has in-store recycling initiatives all over the world. All you need to do is take any article of denim, including jeans, to their stores and turn it in to get a 20% discount on any item in your store.

Denham also has a clothing recycling program where they will take old clothing items off your hands. The items, including the jeans, have to be from their store however but you will also get a 20% discount on your next purchase.

H&M also has a clothing recycling program. They will accept any item of clothing, including jeans, and they don’t have to have been purchased at H&M. You can get a 15% discount for your next purchase at the store.