Updated: Aug 7, 2020
There are many wonderful benefits to buying secondhand clothing it is hard to know where to begin.
Sustainable Seconds as I call them, are a surefire way of making a dent both in the excessive production of fast fashion, and the enormous amount of waste generated by discarding new or barely used clothing to landfill.
There was a time when getting secondhand clothes was just the 'norm'.
As a child I remember getting so excited about getting these clothes from the cooler kids. There was one particular flower print shirt that I almost never took off. I think that I wore it with everything even when it didn't match. It made me feel that I was cool like the person they came from, I felt that I was part of something.
Having had no real environmental education at this point I had no idea about the impact of fashion. Fast forward to having my first child and once again I had the excitement of receiving hand-me-downs for him. The beautiful clothes filled his draws and we received the 'aw he is beautiful' and people coo'd over him just the same as if the were new clothes.
The truth is that no one actually cared if they were secondhand clothes that he wore as long as they were fit for purpose. This is when my mindset had changed. The more recent attitude that buying secondhand clothing was nothing to be proud of had faded away. I had never minded having secondhand clothing, but now I actively sort them out. I began to realise some of the benefits. I'm not ashamed to admit that the first one that I noticed was the financial benefit. This is the most tangible of the benefits as it has an immediate effect. It is much harder to feel some of the other benefits, but I promise they are there and others will feel the impact of them.
So apart from being kind to your wallet, what are the other impacts that buying sustainable seconds?
Well on a very personal level, that supporting an independent retailer such as myself helps to build a thriving economy. You are also helping that person and their families to be able to live. Every purchase you make gives me a warm fuzzy feeling and inside I do a little dance.
Secondly, you will not be contributing to the demand for unethical fast fashion. Instead you can teach your child about the impacts that fast fashion has on our planet and the people living here. A garment that is purchased through the secondhand market reduces the need to manufacture a new item and thus saves resources. Often synthetic fibers require a lot of energy and oil inputs to synthesize them. Similarly, for fabrics that are made from plants, like cotton use millions of gallons of water and tons of harmful pesticides are needed to grow the crops, while the manufacture of clothing from these fibers also has numerous hazardous impacts.
By purchasing second-hand you reduce the need for these new products, and if you do buy new you can buy from ethical brands that do their bit to not use nasty chemicals and reduce water consumption. These brand will also ensure that the workers are treated fairly and receive a fair wage. This will benefit them personally as well as their communities.
You can benefit the planet further with a reduction in CO2 emissions. A new study from the Nordic Council of Ministers, carried out in cooperation with the 13 largest Nordic exporters of used textiles,found that exporting used textiles results in an estimated annual net savings of 190,000 tons of CO2 and reduces water consumption by 70 million cubic meters (18 billion gallons) due to the offset production of new textiles and materials.
Thirdly, you'll be giving clothes another lease of life that are way to good to go to landfill. Globally 20% of textiles are recycled, meaning the other 80% are lost to landfill or incineration.
Lastly, by purchasing pre-loved clothes you can encourage your child to develop their own preferences and sense of style. They can choose from newer and vintage looks and mix them all together. There is not a lot else that will give a child more pride than choosing their own outfits. This pride will be made even greater when they understand the good that they can achieve from just choosing their own outfit! There has been mounting pressure from the media on girls and boys to conform to popular culture. This is an issue that is increasing for young people By allowing a child to utilise their own mind for critical thinking, making choices based on their own tastes, it allows them to build up their self-esteem. It can also teach them about responsibility. This is something that we all share and is a great lesson for children to learn as they and their wardrobe grow.
Knowing some of the (surprising) benefits of shopping secondhand for your children. What do you think? Will you head off to more second-hand stores for some clothing? Do you think that you might value these seconds a little more? More over these will apply to adult fashion too. Remember you get even more brownie points for buying a secondhand piece made by an ethical brand. Happy shopping!