If you haven’t signed up to take part in Second Hand September, there’s still time!
Second Hand September is now in full swing for the fifth year running. It’s a campaign by Oxfam to highlight the ethical and environmental problems associated with fast fashion and to encourage us all to buy second-hand clothing and accessories whenever possible.
With Second Hand September, you commit to not buying any new clothing for the entire month. Many people sign up and never go back to buying new!
Why is fast fashion so problematic?
Sadly, the fast fashion industry is having a terrible impact on humans, other animals, and the planet itself. It wasn’t that many years ago that fashion labels used to make two new clothing collections a year. Now, some brands release collections once a fortnight!
Followers of fashion have come to believe (through clever marketing) that they need to constantly buy new clothing items to keep up with the ever-shifting trends. And to keep up with the turnover, fashion has to be fast and cheap, which has major implications.
Good on You gives an overview of some of the thorniest issues, but we’ll give you the “highlights” (if we can call them that!) here:
- 93% of fashion brands don’t pay their workers a living wage and aren’t transparent about their supply chains – this keeps the workers, their families and their communities living in poverty.
- The clothing industry is one of the largest creators of greenhouse gas emissions and a leading contributor to climate change.
- Indeed, the fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of all carbon emissions.
- To lower production costs and keep fashion cheap, non-biodegradable fabrics are made with harmful chemicals and are major pollutants in the world’s waterways.
- 88% of fashion brands are not transparent about the quantity of clothing they’re producing or the manufacturing/supply chain.
- The textile industry represents 10-20% of all pesticide use.
- Fashion brands advertising “take-back” schemes for their clothing often end up dumping or destroying the returned items.
- 100 billion clothing items are made every year – three out of five of those items will end up in landfill within 12 months of being produced!
- Plastic particles from synthetic clothing account for 35% of the plastic polluting our oceans.
- Dyeing and treatment of garments accounts for 17-20% of all industrial water pollution.
Changing our shopping habits
Did you know, in addition to the stats above, that each person buys an average of 14 new items of clothing a year? This is a global average, but the figures are estimated to be much higher in wealthier nations and lower in poorer, developing countries.
According to The Elephant in My Wardrobe, UK shoppers buy 28 items of clothing each per year; 12 of those garments – per person! – will never be worn. One in five people in Britain buy clothes they only ever intend to wear once.
The figures are even higher in the US, where the average shopper buys 68 items of clothing per year, 80% of which is seldom worn.
But while richer countries are driving the demand for fast fashion and helping to feed all of the issues above, it’s the workers in China, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and other low- and lower-middle-income countries (LMIC) who are paying the price. Many are unable to afford life’s basic necessities and live in the areas of the world hardest hit so far by climate change.
Our shopping habits have to become more sustainable.
What is Second Hand September?
Oxfam’s Second Hand September campaign is about encouraging us all to be ethical consumers, and to choose slow, sustainable and ethical fashion (you might like this blog by Ethical Globe about why this is so important).
Instead of rushing out to buy the latest trends (or ordering them online), Second Hand September reminds us to:
- Wear our clothes more and for longer
- Buy second-hand items from charity shops, markets, vintage stores and online equivalents
- Donate the clothes that we no longer wear so that someone else can enjoy them
- Reuse clothes, even if it means repurposing them (for example, turning a pair of jeans into a bag)
- Restyle clothes – We regularly host visible mending workshops here at Shop Zero by the wonderful Mary Broddle Embroidery, which are all about making clothes re-wearable and making repairs part of their design and story
The scheme urges us to dress for the world we want, a world that is equitable and sustainable, where everyone has access to a fair wage, clean air and water, thriving ecosystems, natural resources, and land not covered by waste.
Reimagining your style
If you don’t already shop for clothes in second-hand shops, I urge you to give it a try. You’re bound to find something beautiful and unexpected!
There’s something so satisfying about people saying, “I love what you’re wearing” and being able to say, “I got it from a charity shop!” Plus, it’s amazing for self-expression and creating an individual style that doesn’t look like every person on the High Street.
Still not convinced? Check out #SecondhandSeptember on Instagram for some incredible preloved style inspiration. Hopefully, you’ll discover that second-hand shopping is too good to limit it to one month of the year.