2nd Hand Clothes – a Sustainable Choice…

As an avid crafter and consequential watcher of the likes of The Great British Sewing Bee, I have been both fascinated and galled by the throw away (pardon the totally intentional pun) comments of presenter Patrick Grant. In the most recent series, during ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ week, Patrick nonchalantly announced that a ‘shocking million tones’ of clothing are thrown away EVERY YEAR in the UK alone! Last year Patrick said there is enough clothing currently in circulation, world-wide to clothe the next half- dozen or so, generations.  If that is indeed the case – that is astonishing and it’s time to stop producing any more throw away fashion and that’s just for starters!!! Mindful of this ridiculous situation – I asked Louise Carson of Journey to Zero waste to put together an article on the subject.  Here is the very well thought out result…

We are all hearing about climate change and living more sustainable lives regularly now.  Many people are turning to second-hand clothing as a result.  

So, what’s all the fuss about?  The term ‘fast fashion’ describes the production of cheap clothing which is designed to have a short life span and be discarded as styles move on very quickly, but who doesn’t love a bargain in a high street store right?  It’s interesting to discover that according to Business Insider the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions which we all know are contributing to climate change problems which will change our very shoreline if we don’t take action. Also, 1.5 trillion litres of water are used by this industry annually and the output of their manufacturing processes often cause serious pollution to land or water sources.

So, what can we as individuals do about these issues?  There are a couple of strategies that people are turning to.  One is designing a small capsule wardrobe of good quality items that are timeless in design and will have a long life span.  There are many online shops that sell items made from recycled fabric items or clothes made from the off-cuts from other fashion manufacturers.

Another option is to choose to stop buying clothing until all the items you have are completely worn out.  The problem is then what to do when your tops are holy, all your jeans have been converted into shorts and your work clothes just are no longer fit to be seen in.  You can only mend things so many times, particularly if like me your sewing skills leave a little to be desired.

This is where second-hand clothing can become a solution.  For many people shopping in charity shops has been essential due to budget constraints says Sam Burt from Company of Dogs charity shop, so charity shops are essential.   Sam’s experience is that mostly women shop in the store in Victoria Street, so great quality women’s clothing are coveted finds.

For others, including me, second-hand clothing is necessary because it diverts items from landfill or from the incinerator locally.  If I buy preloved items then I haven’t contributed to the environmental problem by buying new fast fashion.  I also get to re-purchase vintage items I wish I never got rid of like a recent find of some Levi 501’s for £4!

For some, there remains a stigma attached to charity shop bought clothing feeling that people will assume they can’t afford new.  Others don’t like the idea of pre-worn clothing touching their skin and they only wear second-hand clothing if they know where it came from.  It seems though that this is starting to change according to businesswaste.co.uk whose survey found 45% of people are happy to buy second-hand items, they state this market is “set to double in the next 5 years”” as younger, eco conscious people join older, thrifty generations in choosing the second-hand market.

Initially, I found second-hand shopping less convenient.  They can’t have an item in all sizes and colours waiting for me to pick it up, but with a little effort I have been managing to add more colour and style to my wardrobe with high quality items like the pictured Desigual labelled coat bought preloved for a snip!  I can still shop from home on eBay or sites like Oxfam online or Vinted but there’s a certain satisfaction in finding an item I love in a local charity shop that gives me a great dose of that retail therapy high!

Finally, what choices does the Eco conscious consumer have to ensure the best disposal of clothing once they have decided to part with them?  Emily Smith from the local Salvation Army explained that they have 60 textile bins around the island (pictured).  The contents of most of these bins are shipped to UK and sorted into those suitable for resale and those that can be repurposed.  Emily shared that they are able to divert 99% of the textile waste placed in their green bins from landfill or the incinerator by repurposing them into items such as home insulation or cleaning products.  The profits from these items are then payed back to our local branch for their work in the local community.  According to Emily the Salvation Army believe in keeping prices low because they feel everyone should be able to afford quality items, I certainly enjoy a visit!

So, whether you are shopping for budget or environmental reasons, or both, there are a great number of charity shops in the island to visit.  If you haven’t been before you are certainly missing out and should definitely go and check them out!  You can even make a day of it and get lunch in the café at Acorn or the Salvation Army café!