Initiatives like Second Hand September are intended to combat the environmental impact of fast fashion. But can buying second-hand clothes really save the world?by Zahra Manji / September 18, 2019 / Leave a comment
“What do you really want; what do you really need?” asked British model Stella Tenant regarding the average consumers’ unconscious desire for new things. More than two weeks into Second Hand September and the outcry against fast fashion has never been louder. This year, an Extinction Rebellion protest sought to cancel London Fashion Week in its entirety, writing, “in recognition of the existential threat that faces us, we ask the British Fashion Council to be the leaders the world needs now and to cancel London Fashion Week.”
The Second Hand September campaign, led by Oxfam and supported by Tenant, seeks to encourage shopping at local organisations and charities as alternatives to fast fashion brands such as Primark and Boohoo in the name of saving our planet. As innocent as mindless scrolling through online shops may seem, such consumers are unintentionally—or perhaps even knowingly—contributing to an industry that uses more energy than aviation.
Fee Gilfeather, Oxfam’s sustainable fashion expert said, “the carbon emissions from new clothing bought in the UK every month are greater than the emissions from flying around the world 900 times.” The textile industry is considered one of the most polluted in the world, second to oil. Harmful chemicals, transportation and non-biodegradable packaging are all factors detrimental to our environment.
Fashion is worth £32bn to the UK economy, and Brits buy more garments than any other country in Europe, so it comes as no shock that many of those clothes end up in UK landfills each year: 300,000 tonnes of them, to be exact. This waste of clothing is destructive to our planet, releasing greenhouse gasses as clothes are burnt as well as bleeding toxins and dyes into the surrounding soil and water. As ecologist Chelsea Rochman bluntly put it, “The mismanagement of our waste has even come back to haunt us on our dinner plate.”
It’s not surprising, then, that people are scrambling for a solution, the most common of which is second-hand shopping. Retailers selling consigned clothing are currently expanding at a rapid rate, growing 21 times faster than the wider retail market over the past three years according to research from GlobalData. Not only do they reduce transport emissions, support local organisations and lessen the demand for cheap labour, but the temptation…