One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and some of the most commonly discarded home goods are no exception. Believe it or not, everyday items ranging from old mascara wands to used bras and eyeglasses can be donated to help people (and animals) in need.
Curious what kind of things you’re tossing that you could be donating to a greater cause? From books to unused airline miles and more, here are seven items you probably didn’t realize you could donate to charity.
Dried-Out Mascara Wands
If you thought your dried-out mascara wands were reserved for the trash can, then think again. Turns out that your old mascara wands can be repurposed to remove harmful debris (like fly eggs and larva) from the fur of wild animals, including ducks, rabbits, and opossums. The Wands for Wildlife program was launched by the Appalachian Wildlife Refuge, a nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation center in western North Carolina, and asks supporters to send in their used mascara wands to help save the lives of wild animals.
The initiative is currently on pause because of the coronavirus pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t wash your old wands in warm soapy water (to remove any leftover mascara) and tuck them away so you can drop them in the mail at a later date.
Why toss your old bras when you can donate them to someone in need? Free the Girls is a nonprofit organization that donates gently used bras of all styles, including sports bras, nursing bras, and camisoles, to sex trafficking survivors so they can earn a safe income selling them in the second-hand marketplace. Simply fill out this form and drop your bras in the mail (or at one of their drop off locations), to do your part to help empower girls and women rescued from sex trafficking.
Unused Airline Miles
Instead of applying all the airline miles you’ve racked up towards a cheaper flight, consider donating them to a children’s charity. Nationally, the Make-A-Wish Foundation needs more than 2.8 billion miles, or 50,000 round-trip tickets, to cover every travel wish each year, and so they launched the Wishes in Flight® Program to ask supporters to donate their unused airline miles to help. Once donated, your miles will never expire and are used for wish kids and their families to travel to destinations around the world.
If you regularly fly American Airlines, you can also donate your unused miles to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). American Airlines AAdvantage members can donate their AAdvantage miles to support American’s Miles for Social Good program which supports a slew of UNICEF’s children’s charities, as well as organizations that work to support veterans, military members and their families.
Why waste valuable square footage storing your old books from college when you can donate them to someone who really needs them? The Prison Book Program (PBP) accepts book donations by mail and then sends them to inmates for reading material. If you don’t want to let go of a treasured book, no worries. You can also purchase a book requested by a person in prison via their program’s Amazon Wishlist and have it automatically shipped to the PBP headquarters.
If you’d prefer to donate your old books to someone pen-pal style, Operation Paperback sends books to troops overseas. Once you’ve registered to become a volunteer shipper on their website, simply input the book genres you have on hand and their system will generate a customized list of addresses you can send them to.
Before you toss out an old pair of prescription eyeglasses or sunglasses, consider sending them to someone without health insurance or access to adequate medical care. VSP’s Eyes of Hope program collects and distributes new and gently used eyewear to help people in need across the globe. If you’re a VSP member, you can simply drop your old pair of glasses in the donation box the next time you’re at the eye doctor. Or, you can collect multiple pairs and ship them straight to their headquarters in one big batch using the handy prepaid shipping label they provide on their website.
If you have kids (or nieces and nephews), then you already know how quickly they accumulate stuffed animals. Instead of watching them collect dust in a big toy bin, consider donating a few to a child in need. SAFE (Stuffed Animals for Emergencies) collects gently used stuffed toys and distributes them to organizations, including police and fire departments, who can use the donations to soothe children in traumatic or emotional situations. Used stuffed toys are accepted through SAFE chapter members, or you can clean them yourself and mail them directly to one of their Urgent Needs locations.
If you’re sitting on an old cell phone or two at home, it’s time to put it to good use. Cell Phones For Soldiers (CPFS) recycles donated cell phones of any type (and from any carrier), and uses the proceeds to provide cost-free communication services and emergency funding to active-duty military members and veterans. You can either drop your old phone off at one of CPFS’s donation centers, or mail it in using the preaddressed self-paid label on their website. If you have ten or more phones to donate, CPFS will pay for your shipping — so be sure to ask your friends and family if they have any old cell phones that they’re willing to donate.