Why you should buy second hand clothes from charity shops
The perfect solution to fast fashion at reasonable prices
The clothing industry in playing a huge part in global warming and the industry accounts for 2-10% of the environmental impact of EU consumption. Stores like Primark, H&M, New Look, Missguided and Boohoo are making clothes so cheap that it’s affordable to buy at least six new outfits for under £100.
It’s estimated that the clothing industry was responsible for the consumption of 79 billion cubic metres of water, 1,715 million tonnes of CO2 emissions and 92 millions tonnes of waste in 2017 alone. Shockingly it is also estimated that by 2030 these numbers will increase by at least 50%.
The easiest and most effective way to cut down on cheap clothing and its negative environmental impact is to start charity shopping. At the age of sixteen I decided to start volunteering on a Saturday afternoon to help a local animal charity. Previous to this I hadn’t really been in many charity shops but this was a turning point for me and my heaving wardrobe. Before long I was buying more clothes there and increasingly less from high street shops.
By shopping in charity shops you’re reducing the demand for new clothes and with that reducing the environmental impat. Charity shops aren’t hard to come by in London and there are some particularly lovely, and predominantly designer, ones in Notting Hill. The brands you can buy vary wildly but from my sister’s charity shop Animal SOS Sri Lanka in North East London I’ve bagged myself lots of designer clothes such as DKNY, French Connection, Ralph Lauren, Ted Baker, and Reiss alongside all of your average high street brands.
So what can shopping second hand really achieve? If the number of times a garment is worn was doubled on average the emissions would be 44% lower . If you think about it logically there are 7.7 billion people on the world and if each person had one top, one pair of jeans and one jumper there would be 23.1 billion items of clothing but the reality is we possess excessively more than this and only 15% of clothing is recycled.
Wearing someone else’s old clothes is a bit weird I hear you say? Not all clothes in charity shops are worn, I’ve bought lots of clothes with the labels still inside including brands like Zara.
Some charity shops receive brand new designer seconds including selected Barnardos shops who get brand new items donated by the wardrobe load with the labels on from brands like J Crew, so it might be worth a shop around. If you’re not sure where there are charity shops near you try out this helpful charity shop finder website which narrows them down by postcode. Although the list of charity shops might not be exhaustive it’s a good start for any charity shop virgins.
Alongside the environmental impact of clothing production the ‘fast fashion’ industry often exploits its workers through low wages and unsafe working conditions making this another motivating factor to shop charity.
Whether you buy second hand or brand new you can make some everyday changes to your clothing habits and washing to help the environment:
• Buy fewer items that are higher quality as these wash well and as a result last longer
• Buy organic clothes where possible as these are free of pesticides
• Wash less frequently where possible as synthetic fibres release thousands of plastic fragments – try airing your clothes on the washing line on a sunny day
• Avoid ironing unnecessarily – ease creases by giving your clothes a firm shake when they come out of the washing machine before you hang them up to dry
• Reduce your washing temperature – washing at 30 degrees uses up to 40% less energy and still gets your clothes clean
• Make sure your washing load is full
• Avoid using the tumble dryer where possible
• Use an eco egg or eco friendly washing detergent and softener
• Donate the clothes you no longer use to a charity shop and keep the cycle going – they also accept old clothes and shoes which they get money for rags
• Make do and mend! Get your needle and thread out to fix those items with missing buttons or split seams
As the old saying goes reduce, reuse, recycle (and shop second hand!)