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You've seen those green containers all over Chicago - asking for clothing and shoes. And you are probably wondering how they work? Well, we went to visit Eva Nielson, founder of The GAIA Movement USA and learned a lot about what they do and how we can help.

Gaia collects gently used clothes, shoes, and other items in their bright green drop-boxes all over town. Each box is placed with permission from the building owner and a city permit. Through their donations, they divert almost 2.5 million pounds of used clothes, shoes and toys from landfills every year. Some of it is redistributed locally and many bales are sent overseas.

The GAIA Movement is located at 89th and Green Street on Chicago's Southwest Side.

Donating Locally

Gaia Movement USA takes a portion of the donations and sorts them further to be donated in the Chicagoland area. They have donated items such as diapers, nonperishable foods, shoes, coats, bags, and clothes to local shelters, churches, hospice centers, and food pantries.

Selling to Thrift Stores and Whole Sale Dealers.

Gaia Movement USA sorts the donated items by type and packs them into large bales to be shipped and sold per pound for an inexpensive price to second-hand wholesale dealers in Central America. These shipments give many people the opportunity to start a business and secure an income while building up the economy in their area. We are proud to be a part of creating hundreds of green jobs and businesses in Central America.

Each bale weighs about 1000 lbs. The bales are stacked and then around 45 of those bales are shipped in a container to go to countries like Guatemala, Nicaragua and Chile. Once there, importers buy them per pound for an affordable price. The clothes go to marketplaces and thrift stores in Central America and can make a good source of income for families. This helps build up the economy by providing jobs and high-quality clothing to families.

In addition to textiles, GAIA has an eco-education center at its Green Street headquarters where they host field trips, gardening workshops and other special events.

Gaia Movement Projects Abroad

As a not-for-profit organization Gaia Movement USA donates funds to environmental projects abroad. These projects are implemented and run by local Gaia leaders in collaboration with DAPP, a Humana People to People organization. Since 2000 we have donated over $1,000,000 between 35 different community and grass root projects in Africa, South America and Asia.

A new collaboration in environmental volunteerism connects Chicago with St. Vincent and the Grenadines as well as Africa. The Richmond Vale Academy and GAIA provide 2 recipients with scholarships for 6 and 10 month residencies where they learn about environmentalism, cultural differences, sustainable methods, permaculture, and renewable resources and security in other countries.

If you would like to learn more about GAIA, host a Drop Box, bring your class for a field trip to their Climate Center, check out their website

1 Comment

Thank you for posting this. There is a Gaia dropbox near my house but I never used it because it always seemed a little dodgy to me and I didn't know anything about the organization. Now I feel comfortable donating to them and it's going to make my spring cleaning/decluttering a lot more convenient.

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