A shocking 11 million clothing garments are sent to landfill in the UK every single week.
That’s a pretty concerning figure.
Fueled by high-street fast-fashion and our desire to stay on-trend, we’re increasingly buying new garments and wearing them once or twice before throwing them away. This practice is not only bad for our bank balances (clothing isn’t cheap) but bad for the environment, too.
When we throw a hoodie, pair of jeans or a sweatshirt into our wheelie bin, it can sit in a landfill site for up to 200 years, emitting the methane greenhouse gas as it decomposes.
Worse still, research suggests just 1% of clothing is recycled into new yarns and fibers.
There’s no denying that the damage is already done, but there are things that you can do to reduce your footprint. One of them is to stop buying new and buy second hand instead.
Don’t worry: we’re not suggesting that you wear your mum’s old dresses from the eighties or you never buy a new pair of socks again, but we are suggesting that you reframe the way you think about clothing and make some positive changes that will benefit the environment.
Below, we’ve put together some tips on finding the best second-hand clothing…
Start at the charity shops
Let’s start with the obvious one.
Our high streets are full of charity shops jam-packed with unwanted clothing.
Sure, not everything you see in your local OXFAM or British Heart Foundation is going to be to your taste, but that’s the beauty of it: spend an afternoon rummaging around and you’re bound to find some new staples that you can add to your wardrobe and start wearing.
Better yet, go shopping with your friend and try to pick out an outfit for each other.
Not only will you be able to pick up some pieces at a discount (the average charity shop dress costs less than £5, compared to £45 on the high street), but you’ll be supporting local and national causes close to your heart, and you’ll be doing your bit for the planet on top.
Travel to find designer pieces
Time for a charity shop hack. If you can’t find the right clothing in your local area, consider setting off on a day trip to a more affluent part of your region to find some real hidden gems.
Why? If you shop in a part of the country where locals have higher than average income levels, you’ll find that they donate higher-quality clothing, some with designer labels.
The Cancer Research UK charity shop in Marylebone, for example, reportedly receives donations from locals including Kate Moss and Sienna Miller, with brands such as Dior and Louboutin spotted on its rails. Get there early and you could score yourself a bargain.
Some charity shop chains even have stores dedicated to designer clothing (the British Red Cross has designer charity shops in London, Newcastle, Belfast, and Poole and Oxfam puts some of its designer donations on its site and delivers to your address) so do your research if you’re looking for something in particular and head off on a designer shopping spree.
Stop by vintage stores
As well as charity shops, vintage stores are a great way to find quality second-hand clothes.
Granted: these shops are usually run for-profit and their owners are pretty switched on, so don’t expect to pick up a £1,000 handbag for £10, but you can still find some special offers.
Vintage shopping is not only more sustainable than buying new, but it’s great for finding pieces that finish off your outfit that tell their own story, whether a brooch or a cardigan.
Clothes fairs are also growing in popularity, where organisers will allow attendees to buy a bag and fill it with clothing in their size for £50 - but get there early to avoid disappointment.
Download the apps
The chances are that you frequent eBay to find discount second-hand clothing, but there are other websites and avenues to consider as well.
Facebook Marketplace, for example, allows you to find clothing for sale in your local area, whether you’re in the market for a new dress for a wedding or baby clothes for a newborn.
The best part about Facebook is that you can narrow your search radius to look for clothes in your town, and pick them up on your way to work without having to pay for delivery.
If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, then download second-hand exchange apps such as Gumtree, Debop, Shopock, and Preloved and do some retail therapy on your sofa.
Swap with colleagues
Always admired Karen from Accounts’ dress? Why not ask if you can swap with her?
Yes, yes, that sounds weird.
But if you want to be more sustainable and encourage your workmates to do the same, why not organise a clothes-swapping event where you can get together over lunch and pick and choose which garments you’d like to take home with you?
You could do it for charity, donating a pound for every item you take home with you, and then donate the unwanted pieces to your local charity shop in hopes they’ll be sold to someone.
If that’s not for you, search for an organised event where you go along with a bag of clothes and come home with a new wardrobe. They’re fun, they’re free, and they’re sustainable!
Car boot sales
We see you rolling your eyes.
Though certainly not for everyone, you shouldn’t overlook the benefits of car boot shopping.
Car boots sales are not only cheap (most organisers charge less than a pound for entry), but you can find some real bargains, whether you’re looking for dresses, t-shirts, or even shoes.
Most sellers take all of their unwanted clothing and allow buyers to sift through to find what they’re looking for. The best part? You can haggle and pick up pieces for as little as 20p.
Find a stall that has clothing in your size and style, and you’ll have hit a goldmine!
Rent, don’t buy
Finally, consider renting clothing if you’re attending a function and need a special outfit.
Whether you’re heading to a wedding, a prom, a job interview or a photoshoot, search for a designer clothing rental company and peruse their garments before you buy something.
Prom dresses and tuxedos, for example, are rarely worn more than once, and they can be pretty expensive. Rent one instead for £30, and you’ll not only save yourself some money, but you’ll be reducing your own clothing carbon footprint without compromising on style.
No rentals in your area? If you spotted your friend in a gorgeous dress, ask her if you can borrow it for a function. Have it dry cleaned and buy her a bottle of wine to say thank you.
There you have it - some of the ways you can find the best second-hand clothing and reduce your reliance on brand new pieces. Though you’ll naturally need to stock up on staples from time to time, like pants, socks, and tees, if we all buy a little less, we’ll make a big difference.