A Planet Under Pressure
The last few decades have shown us the drastic consequences of unchecked consumerism. From overflowing landfills to the terrifying acceleration of climate change, the red flags are evident. The fashion industry, especially fast fashion (Shein, H&M, Zara, etc) has been a significant contributor to this problem. With its relentless cycles of new collections and trends, mass production and discard rates surged, leaving our planet gasping. And don't get me started on the issues with fair labor to workers making garments priced as low as $3 on store racks.
Some harsh facts:
- The apparel sector contributes to 10% of the world's carbon footprint.
- Annually, the clothing industry consumes around 93 billion cubic meters of water.
- Around 87% of textile materials utilized for apparel either gets burned or is discarded in dumps.
- Each year, approximately 500,000 tons of synthetic fibers find their way into our oceans.
- Since the year 2000, the creation of new fashion items has seen a twofold increase.
- There are 60 million garment workers in the world and only 10% of companies surveyed could provide evidence of paying living wages.
Since 2019, the renowned global movement and charity, Oxfam, began to take a stand. Oxfam's primary mission has always been to combat poverty, but they recognized that environmental challenges and poverty are intrinsically linked. Recognizing the urgent need to address the harmful environmental implications of fast fashion, Oxfam initiated the Second Hand September Campaign.
Their message was clear: pledge to say 'no' to new clothing for 30 days. While this might seem like a small act, the collective impact was envisioned to be powerful. Not only would it reduce waste and encourage sustainable consumption, but it would also help people recognize the value in pre-existing and pre-loved items.
Initially, the campaign started as a small ripple in the vast ocean of consumerist behaviors, but it quickly gained momentum. Thanks to the power of social media and the backing of influential personalities, the message spread far and wide.
On social platforms, the hashtag #SecondHandSeptember garnered over 250,000 posts and millions of interactions, with individuals from around the world showcasing their thrifted finds and sustainable fashion choices like, creative upcycling projects, and powerful testimonials about changing their shopping habits.
Major fashion influencers and even celebrities began endorsing the idea, showcasing their thrift finds, and debunking the myth that fashionability and sustainability couldn't coexist. Their engagement metrics showed an increase of 45% on second-hand-related content during September compared to other months.
The Global Embrace
What began as a campaign soon transformed into a global movement. Different regions began to incorporate their local touch. From swap parties in London, vintage pop-ups in New York, to sustainable fashion runways in Milan, the essence of Second Hand September began to manifest in various forms around the globe.
Beyond the immediate environmental benefits, the movement has prompted essential conversations about sustainable living, ethical consumption, and the real cost of the clothes we wear. The campaign encourages consumers to rethink their choices while simultaneously pressuring brands to reconsider their production practices.
Waste Reduction: The fashion industry is one of the largest polluters globally, with fast fashion being a prime culprit. Second Hand September has helped divert millions of garments from landfills over the years. On average, it takes about 2,700 liters of water to produce a single cotton t-shirt! Buying second-hand greatly helps to conserve precious resources like clean water.
Water Conservation: The fashion industry is the second-largest consumer of water and is responsible for 10% of humanity's carbon emissions1. Initiatives like Second Hand September indirectly contribute to a decrease in these numbers by reducing demand for new items, especially when it comes to denim. Thrifting just ONE pair of jeans saves as much as 1,800 gallons of water!
The Hidden Cost
In addition to harming our Mother Earth, fast fashion's allure often overshadows its hidden cost: the exploitation of garment workers who often labor in unspeakable conditions. As the demand for cheap, trendy clothing skyrockets, brands frequently prioritize profit margins over human dignity, leading to the exploitation of millions of workers globally. Most of these workers, predominantly women, grapple with long hours, meager wages that hardly meet living standards, and hazardous working environments.
Tragic incidents, like the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, starkly highlight the human cost of our excessive consumer culture and thirst for fast fashion. This continuous cycle of churning out inexpensive clothing not only accelerates environmental degradation but also perpetuates a system of unfair labor practices, making it imperative for consumers to re-evaluate their shopping habits and for brands to reconsider their ethical responsibilities.
Economic Benefits of Buying Second Hand While it's always been obvious that buying second hand is lighter on the wallet, the economic implications run much deeper. Traditional retail outlets saw a decrease in sales during September, while thrift stores and online second-hand platforms reported an average increase of 32% in sales and user engagement during the same period.
Saving Money- Lets face it, who doesn't love a good deal? Second-hand shopping offers quality products at a fraction of their original cost.
Supporting Local Businesses- Thrift stores and local second-hand shops thrive when we choose to buy used. This not only bolsters the local economy but also creates a close-knit community.
Revitalizing Community Economies- Money spent locally circulates within the community, leading to economic growth, more jobs, and a vibrant local culture.
Cultural Shift Towards Conscious Consumerism
In the era of disposable fashion, easy one-click purchases, and "free returns," there's a refreshing and very necessary shift taking place...
Rejecting the Throwaway Culture- As consumers become more aware of their environmental footprint, there's a greater emphasis on repairing, reusing, and recycling fabric. This not only prolongs the life of the items but also fosters a deeper appreciation for them.
Vintage Trends and Retro Fashion- Fashion has always been cyclical, and what was once considered 'old' comes back 'in' as retro and chic. Vintage shops are buzzing with individuals looking for that unique piece that tells a story, a complete contrast to mass-produced fashion.
Steps to Embrace Second Hand September:
Rethink Your Wardrobe: Start with shopping the wardrobe you already have. Do you genuinely need more? If there are items you're ready to part with, consider donating them to nearby thrift shops or even selling them on online platforms like Depop or ThredUp.
Switch It Up: Want a change without buying new? Organize a closet exchange with friends! Exchange well-loved items to renew your style without adding to your collection or spending any money.
Reinvent and Repair: Some items may be old, but that doesn't mean they're done. Bring them back to life with a little fixing or reimagine them into something completely new with a little sewing.
Opt for Timeless Quality: If you decide to buy something new to you, focus on timeless pieces that will last in your collection. Even better? Find these long-lasting items in second-hand shops!
Commit to Preloved Shopping: This September, pledge to either shop exclusively second-hand or refrain from buying anything new altogether.
Got garments that are beyond reuse or reinvention?
Instead of tossing items in disrepair, recycle them with organizations such as Retold Recycling. Retold Recycling specializes in collecting and processing unwanted garments and textiles. Their goal isn't just to reduce waste but to promote a more sustainable approach to fashion consumption.
By recycling textiles, we're not only conserving resources but also reducing the demand for new raw materials. Plus, recycling processes generally consume less water and energy compared to the production of new textiles.
Retold Recycling, and similar companies, are pivotal in reshaping the way we perceive fashion and consumerism. By supporting such initiatives, we're not only preserving the environment but also championing a more thoughtful and sustainable approach to the way we dress.
Second Hand September: Beyond Clothes
It's not just for clothing; the ethos of Second Hand September can extend to various areas of our lives.
Furniture and Homeware- Why buy new when you can get quality furniture with a touch of history? Antique shops and online platforms offer fantastic choices that add character to your home.
Books and Media- Pre-loved books have a charm of their own. Local libraries and used bookstores are great places to start.
Electronics and Gadgets- With proper research, you can get refurbished devices and gadgets that are both affordable and functional. Some even come with guarantees, so you can upgrade without the guilt.
It's crucial to realize that the second hand movement's momentum can become a permanent lifestyle change! Let's incorporate its ethos into our daily lives, and remember that every item purchased second hand is a step towards a sustainable future. It's a message to the world, a pledge to our Mother Earth, and a commitment to future generations.