09/15/2016 12:00 EDT

These Seniors Can't Travel, So This Mobile Mall Brings Clothes To Them (And Reduces Waste Along The Way)

Canadian seniors might live on fixed budgets and face mobility issues, but that doesn't mean they don't still want to be fashionable. But not only can clothing be inaccessible, the clothing industry is also among the world's most wasteful, polluting and deadly.

Garment workers in developing world sweatshops face terrible conditions to produce clothing that the average Canadian buys and then throws out to the tune of 14 kg of textile waste a year, which is 490 million kg total. That's a lot of clothes, though less than the average American, who throws out 32 kg of clothing, or the equivalent of 200 men's T-shirts.

One of the best ways to reduce waste, of course, is to re-use and recycle, which is what New Circles does.

That's why The Huffington Post is turning the second phase of its ongoing Reclaim waste reduction campaign toward the fashion industry.

One of the best ways to reduce waste, of course, is to re-use and recycle, which is what New Circles does.

The charity runs Toronto's largest clothing bank, GLOW — aka Gently Loved Outfits to Wear — which gives away contemporary used clothing in a retail setting so that eligible low-income residents, including Syrian refugees, can still "shop" for outfits for themselves and their families.

But that doesn't help the elderly who can't travel to GLOW for mobility or financial reasons, so since 2008, New Circles has been coming to them.

The New Circles Seniors' Mobile Mall travels to six Toronto Community Housing seniors' residences with racks of clothing so that residents can pick new, gently-used outfits.

seniors clothing Toronto senior "shops" for clothing at New Circles Mobile Mall

"We knew a lot of seniors couldn't come to our space because of transportation and mobility limitations, that’s how it was born. We chose six buildings in our community that we just saw a huge need for, there was a lot of seniors who were isolated," explains Poppy Phioukham, New Circles' clothing manager, adding that they specially select "great quality clothing" and serve between 800 and 1000 people.

"In Toronto the senior population is only growing, we have to think about all the services that we can provide to seniors, especially in low-income or priority neighbourhoods," she says.

"I think of clothing as being a basic necessity just like food, just like shelter. I think it’s an important piece to the health and happiness of seniors."

"The pop-up shop comes twice a year and I look forward to getting some pants" - Vida Austin

Indeed, even the shopping aspect becomes a social activity. New Circles brings refreshments and hosts healthy living workshops, and the seniors get to mingle with others in the building, often hanging around long after the event is over. So along with being fun, it diverts clothing waste from landfills and gets seniors into some nice, new-to-them duds.

"The pop-up shop comes twice a year and I look forward to getting some pants," says Vida Austin. "This jacket that I'm wearing, I got that there, and I wear it all the time because I had a stroke and my arm gets cold sometimes. I can't wear anything really really hot, but I need something to cover my right arm. “

"It's something to look forward to. It's easy, it’s reasonable, well, it's free," she laughs.

"Yeah, I love it."

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