Second-hand clothing has been around for as long as most of us can remember. For some of us, the relationship we’ve had with it has changed a lot as we have aged. I think most of us can remember a period of time where the thought of wearing hand-me-downs or second-hand clothing would make us shudder. You remember that time, probably when you were a young teen, and everything you wore needed to have some sort of brand or logo on it.
As we get older, we start to see the value in pre-loved clothing. Perhaps it helped you to create a look you saw on a runway or made it possible for you to stretch your budget till the next payday.
The advent of technology has made it even more global than it ever was. Searching for a pre-loved bargain can now be done while you’re waiting for your kids to finish playing on the swing set at the park.
There are a million reasons why sustainable second-hand clothing is an incredible avenue you should continue to explore. But what exactly is sustainable second-hand clothing? Why is it important? What are the top benefits of buying and selling it? Read on to find out all this and more.
What is Sustainable Second-Hand Clothing?
Sustainable clothing is clothing that minimalises waste, environmental damage and overconsumption of resources in its production. Normally to be considered sustainable, the garment should be made of natural fibres and avoid the use of man-made fibres like polyester. The reason for this is that they are plastics and therefore take a long time to break down.
Although man-made fibres aren’t considered sustainable when a product is brand new, they do enter the sustainable category when they are second hand. The reason for this is that it’s much better for the environment to keep garments out of landfill for as long as possible.
To put it simply, sustainable second-hand clothing is clothing that has been pre-owned, but the intention is to find a new wearer for it rather than throwing it away. This can be through wearing it as is, repairing it, or even repurposing it into something completely different.
Why is Sustainable Second-Hand Clothing Important?
In today’s world, the environment and natural resources are a topic that is often centre stage. You only need to open Instagram or Facebook to see that the topic of sustainability isn’t just reserved for environmental scientists.
How is this related to fashion? Well, the fashion industry is partially responsible for a lot of the problems the environment is experiencing today. This is all because of the fast fashion model. Fast fashion is most of the clothing we buy on a daily basis. Typically it’s cheap and easy to produce in large volumes. The problem with fast fashion is that it uses loads of resources, creates a lot of pollution, and doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to the rights of its workers.
In the fight to protect the environment and make sure there’s enough resources leftover for the next generation (our children), wearing sustainable second-hand clothing is an important step we can all make towards a better future.
The Top 11 Benefits of Sustainable Second Hand Clothing
So now you know the basics, it’s time to look more in-depth at the reasons why you should consider getting into sustainable second-hand clothing. Have a look at the top 11 benefits below.
When it comes to doing our part to help stop the effects of climate change and environmental damage, it really is a case of ‘every little bit helps.’
This can be things like taking your own reusable bag to the store, not buying things that are excessively wrapped in plastic, choosing products that are fair trade, using public transport more.
The thing about being an eco-friendly shopper is that you can go as far with it as you like and know that you’re still making a difference. Wearing sustainable second-hand clothing is another super-easy way to limit the environmental impact you’re having when you shop.
There’s also a number of ways you can participate in the second-hand clothing market online, which eliminates even more negative environmental factors.
Minimises Textile Waste
Textile and clothing waste is a big issue at the moment. Each year in the UK, 350,000 tonnes of used clothing that is still wearable is sent to landfill. The amount of wearable clothing that is just discarded each year weighs almost as much as the Empire State Building.
This figure is an estimate and from just one country, imagine how much the global figure is?
Every time you participate in sustainable second-hand clothing, you’re prolonging the time until a piece of clothing becomes waste. Most quality garments that are bought second-hand still have another decade or two of life left in them.
We all know that recycling is good for the environment, and we’ve learned that it should start in the home. The recycling of clothing also has some unexpected follow on effects. The earlier we learn about the importance of recycling, the more likely we will do it later in life. The same can be said with clothing; children who grow up wearing second-hand clothing are much more likely to continue doing so as adults.
Recycling clothing also helps those in different socioeconomic levels to have access to certain fashion items that would normally be out of reach.
Saves Consumers Money
Most of us already know that you can save loads of money if you shop for second-hand clothing instead of aiming for stuff off the rack in your local high street. There’s almost no clothing item on the planet that gets more expensive after it’s become second-hand (with the exception of the Hermés Birkin Bag).
The cost-saving can also go a long way, especially for families. New parents can be expected to pay anywhere from £600- £1000 per year on their baby’s clothing. In the first 4 years of life, they’ve already sunk thousands of pounds into clothing they probably only got a few wears out of before they had to move onto a new size.
If you switched out just some of those brand new items for second-hand ones that are of equal quality, you could literally be saving thousands by the time your kid is a teenager.
Earn an Extra Income
Throughout lockdown, many people started projects like massive decluttering. They took on the old Marie Kondo craze and found a whole heap of things that no longer sparked joy and also discovered that they could turn these things into cash.
The emphasis on sustainability has led to the development of circular economies in many parts of the world. A circular economy is where communities or societies aim to be less wasteful and try to consume in a more circular fashion.
An unexpected side effect of the circular economy is a booming second-hand clothing market. People have become savvier when it comes to buying outfits for themselves and their families. They now know that there’s loads of perfectly good clothing sitting in people’s wardrobes and are happy to pay for it.
Technology has also made this incredibly easy, but more on that later.
The second-hand clothing market is thriving so well that it’s expected to overtake the fast fashion market in the next decade in terms of revenue. So it appears there could be hidden pounds hiding in the back of your closet.
Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions
When we think of greenhouse gas emissions, we tend to think about oil refineries, aviation and the motor industry, but there’s another industry that is just as responsible but is often left out.
The fashion industry is a pretty significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Each year about 10% of the total global emissions can be attributed specifically to the fashion industry.
To give you an example of just what that all means, to make just one white cotton t-shirt, you need to produce the same amount of greenhouse gases as you would if you drove a petrol car for 35 miles.
If you bought that t-shirt second-hand, it would almost be as though a car drove for 35 miles and then never needed to drive again for another decade.
The production of new clothes uses a tonne of water. To give you an example, the amount of water used to make a single pair of jeans is enough to sustain a person for almost 9 years. If those jeans are worn a couple of times and then thrown out, that’s an incredible waste of valuable finite resources.
You might be thinking that there’s no big problem with that because the water can just be reused, but that’s not the case. Most of the water used in clothing manufacturing ends up being toxic, so it’s definitely not safe to drink at all.
When you wear second-hand clothing, you are extending the lifetime of the garment. This, in turn, might mean that one less pair of jeans is made, meaning more drinking water for people who need it.
Old Trends Come Back Into Fashion
It’s been known for a while now that fashion works in cycles. Things trend for a while, then they disappear, and quite often, they will pop up again in a new generation.
We’ve seen this many times in the past; remember when bell-bottom jeans made a comeback in the early 2000s, it was a whole 70s motif. A more current example of this can be seen in Gen Z, especially on social media apps like TikTok. The current trend is high wasted, straight leg jeans. This look has almost been completely transposed from the mid-90s.
Where is the best place to get these ‘on trend’ items of clothing? You guessed it, sustainable second-hand clothing.
Promotes Sustainable Fashion
Another reason to participate in the second-hand clothing market is that it will help to promote the idea of sustainable fashion.
Psychologically, we are less free-willed than we like to think. A lot of the habits we form throughout our lives are influenced by our friends or family. This can be for the better or for the worse, depending on what the habit is.
We’ve all given up things or taken up things throughout our lives, and when we think about it, the people we were around had a lot to do with it. The same can be said about our attitudes towards things like the environment or sustainable fashion.
Simply by wearing clothing that’s second-hand, you will already be helping to promote the idea of sustainable fashion within your own social circle. This can then have a knock-on effect to other social circles. You might not think that you can do much as just one person, but you really can.
Reduces Fast Fashion Demand
So we know that fast fashion might have been convenient to us for a long time, but the harm it causes isn’t really worth being able to get a t-shirt in a bargain bin at Primark.
One of the biggest principles of business is the concept of supply and demand. If customers demand something, you supply it to them; if the demand goes up, you produce more of what you can supply. This is what has made the fast fashion model succeed for so long.
The easiest way to combat this is to simply participate in slow fashion even more. As demand for fast fashion decreases, the brands behind it will need to produce less, and if they’re smart, they will also alter their practices to be more in line with the slow fashion model.
Supporting Your Local Community
Participating in the second-hand clothing market is a great way to support your local community. It’s great that we can now operate in an incredibly global way, but there are still some amazing benefits to thinking locally.
When you support your local community, you’re putting money back into the local economy, which always leads to benefits for everyone involved. Studies have shown that for every £100 pounds you spend at a local business, roughly £68 will stay in the community.
Buying locally can also lead to some incredible support networks, especially if you are new to the area or are in a new phase of life, like being a parent for the first time.
How Can You Support Sustainable Second-Hand Clothing?
The sustainable second-hand clothing market is a place full of benefits just waiting for you to get involved, and if you’re a parent, one of the easiest ways is to join myTOT.
myTOT is a free app that’s home to a powerful marketplace powered by mums and dads just like you who want to buy and sell quality children’s second-hand goods.
It’s simple to get started; you just download the app, create an account and either upload items to sell or search for things you might be looking for. It’s an incredibly easy way to save money, be more sustainable and maybe even make some cash from the items your little ones don’t need anymore.
If all this sounds great and you want to know more, click here to find out exactly how myTOT works.
For a long time, fast fashion has dominated the clothing market, and with it, the environment and a lot of workers have paid a hefty price. Thankfully with things like the sustainable fashion movement and the introduction of slow fashion, people are starting to realise that we need to be more proactive if we want this beautiful planet of ours to remain beautiful.
There are many ways to be proactive, and participating in the second-hand clothing market is not only beneficial to the environment but can also be incredibly fun. So have a look for some second-hand bargains, you won’t regret it.