Should We Switch To Only Shopping Second Hand?

There is much focus on reducing meat consumption, recycling and reducing driving or flying when we think of changes we can make in a bid to reduce our carbon footprints. Rarely mentioned is avoiding the fashion industry, which is one of the most polluting in the world. According to the Financial Times, more than 11 million items of clothing end up in landfill each week.

Oxfam’s September campaign urged us to give up fashion for a month in ‘Second Hand September’. The environmental impact of the clothes we buy is alarming, it would take 13 years to drink the water needed to make one t-shirt and a pair of jeans. More shockingly still, the clothes sent to UK landfill every year weigh as much as the Empire State. Why are we not utilising this abundance of clothing already in circulation? Why are we still adding to this problem? Oxfam remind us that buying just one cotton shirt produces the same amount of emissions as driving 35 miles in a car. This may come as a shock to those who had believed they were doing their bit by avoiding single use plastics where possible, eating a plant-based diet and taking only public transport. 

We can do more still. 

Plus, not only are you avoiding producing additional carbon emissions and the excessive use of water by supporting second-hand clothing shops, you are also giving to a charitable cause at the same time. All profits generated by Oxfam are used to fight poverty in the world’s least fortunate countries.

Extinction Rebellion go further than Oxfam’s month-long campaign and urge us to boycott fashion for an entire year, an industry that is largely unethical and environmentally unfriendly. 

Luckily for us, shopping for vintage and second-hand items is in trend anyways. Students have been shopping vintage, not with the intention of reducing their carbon footprint, but because second-hand clothes are much cheaper and trendier. Kilo-sales are increasingly common where you can grab yourself a kilo of new items for often around £15. In comparison, a mere t-shirt in Zara would set you back almost this much. On the other end of the spectrum, there is a rising number of vintage stores popping up in the trendier parts of London which sell second-hand Levi items for a ridiculous price. Good deals are harder to come by in these sorts of aesthetically pleasing shops. Charity shops, kilo sales and vintage fairs provide much better opportunities to nab a bargain.

We must end the tendency to buy new outfits and only wear them once. This is even more common in the age of super low-price retailers such as Pretty Little Thing, Boohoo and Missguided where you can buy yourself a whole new dress for as little as £3. We must begin to question these ridiculously low prices and ask ourselves how clothes can be produced this cheap. Our culture of single-use clothing needs to be addressed just as our use of single use coffee cups has. Consider recycling your own old clothes too. How often do you really wear most of your clothes? Most of us tend to cycle the same few items and hoard the rest. 

The short answer to the initial question would be yes, we should try to. We can all do our bit and reduce our impact by avoiding the fashion industry where possible, just as we can reduce our meat consumption but don’t need to proclaim ourselves as purely vegan in an aim to be more sustainable.

Jasmine Davis