How can I recycle my outdoor gear?

Image Gallery: Winter Sports Believe it or not, these skis could become outdoor deck material. See pictures of winter sports.
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Ev­ery year, as winter ends and a warmer season begins, our minds turn to the chore of spring cleaning. Many of us take this opportunity to clean out our closets. But in today's world, it's no longer acceptable to simply toss your unwanted items into the Dumpster. We know what to do with old clothes or household items -- recycle or reuse. Goodwill, Salvation Army, Craigslist, eBay, Freecycle -- all these organizations help to keep our goods out of our landfills.

If you're an active person with a lot of outdoor hobbies, chances are you've got a pile of gear you don't use anymore. Old outerwear, used camping equipment, climbing ropes, shoes and boots, backpacks -- all this stuff gets a lot of wear and tear. When a shiny new piece of equipment catches your eye, you're likely to replace your old stuff with the new.

If you're into outdoor sports, you're probably into protecting the outdoors as well. So, as a consumer, you'll want to make wise choices at the cash register. Before you purchase that shiny new piece of equipment, take a few things into consideration: How long will this new piece last? What is its environmental footprint? Will the company recycle it for me? How will I be able to dispose of it when I no longer need it? It's called conscious consumerism.

Once you've made your new purchase, it's time to make a wise choice about disposing of your old equipment. Even though your equipment may no longer be of any use to you, there are many organizations around the globe that would be happy to have it. Activist groups, youth organizations, charities -- all of these groups will gladly accept your donations. Many organizations welcome used gear and sports equipment -- in fact, so many that you can search around for a charity or group that means the most to you.