Why second-hand fashion helps to protect the environment

Why second-hand fashion helps to protect the environment

Fast fashion clothing may be inexpensive, but it has a high environmental cost. The Guardian has warned that the fast fashion industry is ‘speeding the world towards an environmental disaster’ (1). With the fashion industry responsible for ‘8-10% of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 20% of waterwaste’ (2) it’s more important than ever to understand the impact of our fashion choices. 
But here’s the good news: purchasing gorgeous garments second-hand instead of brand new allows you to save a few pounds while also reducing your environmental impact. Curious to know more about how exactly pre-loved can have a positive impact? Keep reading. 
Reduced Textile Waste
200 tonnes per year. That’s the amount of garments that are accumulating in landfills annually (3). With the United Kingdom cited as the fourth-largest producer of textile waste across Europe, it’s clear we need to change how we think about fashion. Rather than letting clothes go to waste and sit in landfills, why not give them a second life instead?
Lower Carbon Footprint
The fashion industry has become the second-biggest contributor to carbon emissions in the world. With fashion trends constantly changing, companies will keep burning tonnes of fossil fuels to power the production and distribution of the latest season’s styles. For example, one polyester shirt alone produces the equivalent of 5.5kg of carbon dioxide in production (2). But, trends tend to repeat so by buying second-hand instead you can not only displace the demand for new clothes but also still find the trendiest looks.
Limited usage of harmful chemicals 
Clothes may seem harmless, but fashion companies use numerous toxic chemicals to fabricate products. Unfortunately, many of these toxins can pollute water systems and devastate local ecosystems. But by purchasing pre-loved over new, you’re helping reduce the production of garments and the subsequent limit chemical pollution into our waters. 
Reduce microfibre pollution
A news report by BBC Earth revealed that millions of tiny microfibres (4) are released whenever you wash clothes made from synthetic fibres, like polyester, nylon, and acrylic. These tiny microfibres are carried from water treatment plants to seas, rivers, or lakes where they can destroy aquatic ecosystems and harm marine wildlife.
But opting for natural fibres such as cotton, wool, hemp and linen can often be expensive. The good news? Quality clothing made with natural fibres can be found in abundance when shopping second-hand and for a much lower price! (Top Tip: try using the Thrift+ material filters to help you find what you’re looking for quickly). 
Decreased consumption of water
Clothes production uses gallons of water to create new textiles and materials. A study by WRAP revealed that the production of 1 kg of cotton alone consumes as much as 5,000-10,000 litres of water (5). Choosing to thrift over buying new means you’re not contributing to literal swimming pools of water waste. If you want to conserve one of the most precious natural resources, try shopping second-hand first. 
You can make a difference 
Consumers can play a huge role in conserving the environment by showing companies that sustainability matters. By choosing second-hand from companies (like Thrift+!), you can shop in the knowledge that you’re helping to displace the demand for fashion made with environmentally harmful practices while also adding fantastic pieces to your wardrobe. It’s a win-win!
Written exclusively for thrift.plus
By Jane Rosie



1) Nicola Davis, The Guardian: Fast Fashion speeding towards environmental disaster (April, 2020)

2) Christine Ro, BBC, Smart Guide to Climate Change: Can fashion ever be sustainable? (2020)

3) Zahra Manji, Prospect Magazine: 200 Tonnes of waste a year (Feb, 2020)

4) Lucy Jones, BBC Earth, Sustainable Materials:  5 fashion materials you didn’t realise were bad for wildlife

5)WRAP, Valuing Our Clothes: The cost of UK fashion (July 2017)

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