Late to awareness of this campaign (Oxfam, if you need a volunteer Marketing Assistant, I am available), Secondhand September was launched at the start of the month. Countryliving explains it best with their article opener of ‘#SecondHandSeptember is a 30-day campaign run by Oxfam encouraging people across the UK to stop buying new clothes for the month in a bid to curb our fast fashion habits’ (source).
I’m here to tell you a little bit about the two main ways you can take part in Secondhand September: Charity shopping, and Upcycling. And best of all? These are practices you can extend beyond September!
Unfortunately for the environment, we live in a throwaway society. Furniture, clothes, and technology can all be replaced – and for relatively low cost. It is far easier, and often cheaper, to replace a broken item than to pay for it to be fixed – and far less time consuming, especially when next day delivery exists.
According the Oxfam, the following statements about the UK clothes industry are true:
This is pretty shocking, and does not account for furniture, technology, and other housewares. How many times have you thrown away perfectly good clothes, because there were out of style or too big/small? And how many times have you then gone out to New Look or shopped on Boohoo.com to find replacements? In the past, I know I have done this a lot. Since 2018 I have been making a conscious effort to reduce the amount of clothes I purchase from fast fashion, as well as the amount I throw away in general waste.
So, without any more babble, let’s talk about charity shops and upcycling.
This is the easiest method by far of getting belongings second hand. Any number of goods can be procured here. If you’re particularly interested in weird charity shop finds, I suggest you join the following Facebook group: Weird Secondhand Finds that Just Need to be Shared.
The beauty of charity shops is that you can donate your own goods, as well as purchase more, and feel positive that your donation is going towards a dedicated charitable cause. My personal favourite is Red Cross.
As well as clothes, books, DVDs, and furniture, you can also buy electrical goods from most charity shops. The blessing of this is, before they can be sold they have to PAT tested – this is your guarantee that what you’re buying works. and is safe for your household. I found my beloved food processor in a charity shop!
Not fancying a physical trip to a charity shop just yet? Understandable. In this case, Depop is your friend! Again, you can find more than just clothes on here – books, games, and even handmade items! For example, I purchased this beautiful face mask off of Depop recently:
And since masks are now mandatory for customers and employees, why not treat yourself to a funky and sustainable one? There are tons of independent sellers on Depop and Etsy and plenty more places on the web, and often they sell more than just face masks (for example, reusable period products and make up remover pads). There are even templates out there, if you have some time and material and fancy creating some yourself. Reusable masks are perfect for nipping to the shops, and can usually be machine washed at high temperatures (please check with your creator for care instructions).
You can also find a myriad of used, but still fantastic, products on the Facebook Marketplace. I recently purchased a brand new Malmo shelving unit (still in its box) for less than the RRP because someone had ordered two by mistake! The Marketplace is also a fantastic place for you to find some projects for you to upcycle, which leads us to…
The best way to reduce the amount of furniture you throw away is by upcycling. Upcycling is, in essence, taking something old (and perhaps grotty), and giving it a new lease of life – whether that’s through giving it some TLC and a makeover, or re-purposing it and transforming it into something new entirely.
One example of upcycling are these adorable scrunchies by B’ham based illustrator Emily Birch.
Taking old fabric cut off that were otherwise just going to landfill, she turned them into patterned scrunchies of various sizes and strengths. They’re available to purchase, with prices as low as £1.50 – but be quick, as I wouldn’t be surprised if they were already all snapped up! I love my claret and floral one.
Never upcycled before? It’s really, really easy – trust me. I’m not crafty with my hands; I can write, and I can knit the basic stitch (the blanket I am making is a very slow and ugly one), but that’s it. And yet, I managed to upcycle an old, hideous, bright green cabinet (13-year-old me had zero taste) into a lovely cream one. It now houses all of my PS4 games and fits in with my white bedroom much better. I wish I had before and after pictures to show you just how much better a simple slap of paint has made this cabinet.
Still not convinced you can paint? That’s okay! Let me introduce you to stick back vinyl. This can transform ANYTHING. Seriously. I have a marble effect pattern I plan to stick on the top of my beech vivarium once the rest of my bedroom has finished its redecoration. Whilst this is a product I would rather paint, I don’t particularly wish to use paint so close to my snake in case of fumes – which is why sticky back vinyl is the PERFECT solution. Simply apply a little heat (using a hair dryer, no less), and voila – better than new! My mum has this in our kitchen, around the sink – not only has she decorated the sink with it, but also protected her wooden worktop from any water damage. It’s a win-win.
Want more ideas on living sustainably? Check out Kaja Brown’s blog, The Creative Climate Activist. Kaja is the founder of the award winning ‘Eco Education Society’ at Prifysgol Aberystwyth University.
Changing your shopping habits is better for the environment, better for your bank account, and better for fashion. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.