Every week we bring you a new, simple idea for reducing your carbon footprint and protecting the planet. This week, we look at the benefits of a little retail therapy, charity shop style.
We all want to look good, but with the latest trends changing on an almost daily basis it can be a struggle staying stylish – so it’s no surprise so many of us opt for ‘fast fashion’ on a regular basis. It’s cheap, it’s accessible and it’s up-to-the-minute – but it’s also seriously bad news for the planet.
People in the UK buy more clothes than in any other country in Europe – about 26.7kg worth each year. Once you take into account all the energy, resources and waste this creates, every household is leaving a footprint equivalent to driving a car for 6,000 miles, or filling over 1,000 bathtubs!
And it doesn’t stop there. Three in five garments end up in landfill (235 million in 2017 alone), a single domestic load of laundry releases up to 700,000 synthetic fibres which are eaten by fish in the seas, and the social impact of ‘cheap and cheerful’ clothing is far from rosy – an estimated 168 million children in developing countries are forced to work in sweatshops assembling these items of clothing, often in terrible conditions.
There are ways to avoid contributing to this issue, though, and while making and repairing your own clothes, or investing in more expensive, quality items are often touted as sensible solutions, they’re not always feasible. Choosing to buy clothes from a charity shop, however, is an option accessible to everyone.
According to the Charity Retail Association, just 5% of materials donated to charity shops ended up in landfill in 2017/18, and over 327,000 tonnes of textiles were sent on by charity shops for reuse and recycling. Buying second hand reduces CO2 emissions, saves resources, reduces landfill, saves Landfill Tax, bolsters local economies and, of course, supports the important work of charities.
But aren’t second-hand clothes smelly and unfashionable? Nope! Any clothing on sale in charity shops is thoroughly cleaned and inspected for damage before it goes on the racks, and it’s not unheard of for savvy shoppers to pick up brand new items or even designer bargains. You might be surprised at what you could find, and for a fraction of the price – and damage to the environment – of fast fashion.
So next time you’re tempted to pop to the high street or log on to your go-to online clothing store, take a trip to your local charity shop instead and keep these tips in mind:
1) Look for de-tagged stock from high street stores
It’s not commonly-known, but many high street chains donate surplus stock to charity shops, which sell it on with the tags removed to prevent fraudulent returns to the original shop. So if you spot a new item without a label, chances are it’s come from one of your favourite shops.
2) Follow local charity shops on social media
A lot of charity shops share insider info on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter channels, such as special sale events or if they’ve just taken delivery of a particularly impressive donation.
3) Go upmarket
Charity shops such as Mary Portas’ Living and Giving shops and Oxfam boutiques specialise in high-end second-hand wares, while certain branches of Shelter run annual fashion weeks and designer specials.
4) Or head to posh areas
No Oxfam boutique near you? You can still bag a swish bargain by visiting charity shops in swanky areas, such as Bath, Oxford and St Andrews. Alderley Edge, for example, is said to be a haven for WAGs’ cast-offs.
5) Make regular trips
The good stuff gets snapped up quickly so don’t be disheartened if your outing doesn’t yield anything you want. Visit frequently – weekday mornings are a good time to peruse the most choice. Visiting regularly also helps you build a rapport with shop staff, who can give you some insider info on stock rotation and upcoming events.
6) Volunteer and get first dibs
If you’ve already donated your unwanted clothes to a charity shop, why not donate some of your time, too? Volunteering won’t necessarily give you any additional discounts, but it will allow you to choose from the widest range of items.
Making the switch from fast fashion to second hand clothing is a really great way to reduce your impact on the planet – even if you’re only able to do so occasionally. But remember, only buy what you need or really want. It can be hard to resist a bargain – and charity shops are full of them! – but purchasing clothing you won’t ever wear defeats the purpose of saying no to fast fashion in the first place.
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