Thrift-shop Paul Bunyan says don't throw away clothes – here's what to do instead


His hat was knitted from 70 T-shirts. His pants designed out of 43 pairs of jeans. And his beard was created from recycled wigs.

Meet the Paul Bunyan standing at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Eco Exhibit at the State Fair.

He's 15 feet tall, and as the agency says, is a reminder for Minnesotans to "recycle, reuse and repair" their clothes instead of throwing them in the trash.

We trash a LOT of clothes

Minnesotans throw away nearly 12 grocery carts full of clothing and other textiles every minute, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Wayne Gjerde, the Recycling Market Development Coordinator for MPCA, said towels and sheets are examples of textiles that get tossed too frequently. His organization is in charge of the Eco Exhibit – the second most visited exhibit at the State Fair.

And as Pamela McGurdy, a spokesperson for MPCA, told BringMeTheNews at the State Fair Tuesday, they needed a good mascot to bring attention to all that wasted material.

A 6-foot Paul Bunyan prototype was first constructed in April, and then volunteers started sewing his giant recycled clothes in June.

A wig technician from the Guthrie Theater designed the beard out of wigs, while another volunteer from the theater knitted the hat.

Duluth Pack cameo – and it's repairable/reusable

Even Paul's accessories are eco-friendly. His axe was made out of a dead tree that needed to be cut down anyway. He also has a Paul Bunyan Duluth Pack behind him – the largest of the canoe packs designed by the Minnesota company.

Since the bags come with a lifetime warranty, you can send them to the headquarters in Duluth for repairs – one of the three R's (recycle, reuse, repair). Gjerde told BringMeTheNews that people have sent in Duluth packs for repairs that are over 100 years old.

So what should you do with old clothes?

The Eco Exhibit is offering lessons to fairgoers on how to make repairs themselves. Demonstrations take place daily at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. On Saturday there is an additional demonstration on how to upcycle a T-shirt into a grocery bag.

If you want to be a part of the sustainable solution in another way, here are a number of places in Minnesota that take recycled clothes:


Goodwill sells reused clothing and other items to raise funds to provide employment and other services for people with disabilities and other barriers. According to Gjerde, Goodwill even accept your clothes if they are torn. All you have to do is mark the clothes as "worn and torn" and they will be made into reusable rags. You can find a store or donation center close to you here.

Arc's Value Village

Arc's Value Village is where the majority of recycled clothes for Paul Bunyan came from. You can donate items at five Twin Cities locations.

Pick-up donations

If you don't have the time or the transportation to make a donation, you can schedule a time for the Vietnam Veterans of America or the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota to pick up your items at your curb.

The Salvation Army will either pick up your donation at the curb or take in-store donations.

Professional clothing

Ready for Success and Dress for Success take used suits and professional clothes for low income people.

Many women's shelters also accept clothing donations. Find one near you by clicking here.

More options

A full list of additional Minnesota organizations that take donations can be found here. 

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