This CEO is calling for a radical waste reduction in the apparel industry.
By Kathryn Deen
Clothes are not trash. That’s the message Dan Green is working to spread because quite frankly, the United States is doing a bad job of recycling clothes, he says. Green is on a mission to keep clothes out of landfills by radically changing how unwanted clothing is collected and reused.
Green co-founded Helpsy, the only clothing collection company in the U.S. that has earned both Certified B Corp and Public Benefit Corporation distinctions.
Helpsy collects clothing, shoes, and accessories for reuse, recycling, and upcycling to help local communities, nonprofits, and the planet. The company keeps more than 30 million pounds of clothes out of the trash each year, diverting over 250 million pounds of carbon emissions annually.
More Than Recycling: Helpsy’s Impact on Jobs, Communities, and Carbon Emissions
“Together with our 1,200 East Coast partners, we convert discarded clothing into thousands of American jobs and millions in payments to businesses and community organizations,” Green says. “We prevent the emission of hundreds of millions of pounds of carbon dioxide and the use of billions of gallons of water while saving municipalities more than $1 million in waste disposal fees each year.”
A former portfolio manager on Wall Street, Green co-founded Helpsy with friends Alex Husted and Dave Milliner. Together they bought 11 companies primarily in clothing collection since 2017. They also invested in technology to modernize systems and utilize data to predict when and which collection points should be serviced to maximize the community’s satisfaction and minimize the economic and environmental costs of running trucks around.
“We exist to extend the life of clothing,” Green says. “We need to get out and let more people know that there are alternatives to the trash. It’s still unfortunately very normal for people to throw clothes in the trash — and we’re hoping to make that less and less socially acceptable.”
Beyond Goodwill: The Future of Clothing Reuse Starts with Helpsy
Helpsy collects unsold goods from a couple hundred thrift stores, does a few hundred drives each year with municipalities and charities, and in a newer initiative, it sells sorted, branded clothing to about 600 thrift stores.
“Clothing is the only major stream of waste that is growing on a per capita basis in a real way,” Green says. “We have to get over the mental hurdle that reuse does not destroy your brand and in fact enhances your brand.”
Green says the company has had big ups and downs. One stumbling block was when Helpsy tried to do direct-to-consumer e-commerce but did not get enough response to continue it. As for a bright spot, Helpsy realized its goal of providing benefits and stock options for all 145 of its employees. In another highlight, Helpsy expanded its reach with facilities in New York, Boston, and New Jersey, as well as trailers in Maryland and South Carolina.
“My family is very deeply rooted in social justice and making sure you leave the world a better place — that’s the point of your life,” he says. “We look forward to a future where used clothing is the first place people shop.”