A couple of months I wrote a blog post about our default buying habits and one of the alternatives I mentioned there was buying second hand stuff. I am sure most people are open to the idea of buying pre-loved products, but I have heard some strong opinions and I’ve seen some weird faces when the words second-hand and clothes are used in the same sentence.
As everything in life, our opinions are based on beliefs: our interpretation of what’s true and right. And that usually dominates our actions. Something that I think is quite important these days, especially with the environmental crisis we are facing, it is to revisit those beliefs, question them and be open to explore other options. In this green journey, I am constantly in that process, sometimes it is not easy, but we can all expand our mindset and consider other options.
So today it is all about pre-loved clothes and why it is important to give this option a go.
What’s wrong with new clothes?
In essence every time we buy new clothes from any retailer, let’s say a t-shirt, that garment has to be replaced with another one given that the inventory has to be maintained. To do that these companies have to manufacture more products and to do that they need raw resources, energy and transportation to bring these new items to the shops.
So let’s take the humble T-shirt, according to this article published by Huffington Post:
“According to a study published in 2009 in the UK, the material, production and transport phases of one t-shirt weighing approximately 6 ounces produced in India uses: 700 gallons of water, .22 pounds of fertilizers, 0.01 pounds of pesticides and 1.2 pounds of fossil fuels!”
So approximately 2700 lts of water are required to produce one single t-shirt!
This TED video is extremely good and it shows in a simple way the life cycle of a new T-shirt and its environmental and social impact. It is worth your time:
And this cycle continue infinitely as long as we keep buying new clothes. And even when this video is particularly about cotton t-shirts, similar situation happens with other type of garments.
I am not even going to start on the topic of fast fashion (because that requires a separate post), but if we continue our buying habits as they are today, we’ll keep intensifying climate change, depleting natural resources and polluting our planet.
A good alternative: buy second hand
If you think about it, there is so much clothing already out there, many in perfect condition waiting to have a second chance. Why do we need to manufacture more?
Fashion is always changing, and that’s big part of the problem. Marketing is always there to remind us that we are not wearing the latest trend and we are “behind” but the reality is: the latest design won’t make me happier, prettier or a better person.
I love this TED from Jessi Arrington, not that I think buying and buying is the solution (even if it is second-hand) but she makes a strong point, we can all find second-hand clothes that are nice and suits our style. And most importantly, it is not about our outfit but who we are as a person.
Another thing to consider is the fact that many of these opp-shop are non-profit helping communities and people in need. That’s a great cause to support.
Remember: when we buy pre-loved clothes, we are not requesting these businesses to keep manufacturing more and putting more pressure on the environment, releasing more CO2, using natural resources and polluting our planet.
Demystifying second-hand clothes
When we moved to Australia, the first few weeks we were waking around a commercial area and we saw a shop that was selling jackets. We had a quick look and we were surprised by the incredible low prices. We couldn’t believe it! Then reading some posters on the walls we kind of guessed it was a second-hand shop.
It was the first time in my life I visited an opp-shop, in Venezuela I personally never saw one, so the concept was new to us, but the idea didn’t seem crazy at all, we totally embraced it – to the point that I ended up buying a jacket that day.
So I always wondered why some people would never consider buying pre-loved clothes.
These are some of the things I have heard around this topic:
It is unsanitary
This is a common comment: “I don’t know who wore that clothes“. Well, I am sorry to burst the bubble but every time we go to a retailer and try on new clothes, most likely that garment has been tried on many times before!
“I work in retail and the number of times clothing is returned and then placed back on the shop floor for resale is crazy. so even when you buy “brand new” you could possibly be buying second hand!”
Buying new clothes doesn’t mean it is healthier either, actually new clothes probably contain more chemicals and toxins than a garment that has been worn several times. According to this article published by ScienceDaily, in a study done by Stockholm University they found thousands of chemicals in new clothes and even when some of the chemicals remained, some were washed off after washing the garment (not great news for the planet either)
That’s being cheap!
Again, this is just an interpretation based on the fact that the prices are actually low. It is like when people buy designer clothes because they feel it is sophisticated or give them a “status”. It is just a perception.
Personally, the way I see it: when I buy something second hand, I am getting something that otherwise could end up in landfill, I am reducing my impact on the planet and I am saving some money in the process.
Really it is just the meaning you attach to it.
It is hard to find stuff there
Here I cannot deny the fact that going to a second hand shop doesn’t mean that you’ll find what you are looking for, or the right size, or colour or quality. However, as long as the garment is not needed urgently, it is not a necessarily a bad thing.
How many times do we buy impulsively? If I go to a second hand shop, and can’t find what I am looking for, maybe I’ll re-assess if I really need it. And if I do need it, then I can try any other time in the same store, or I can try online or go to a different opp-shop. Maybe by then, I could have changed my mind around that purchase all together or maybe if I buy it I’ll appreciate the garment even more because it took a bit of time to find it.
The opposite is also true, I have been able to find exactly what I needed in opp-shops. It is a matter of trying.
It is also about being flexible and open-minded. Maybe in some cases you can’t find exactly what you want, but there are other options that could work as well.
This is just an introductory post about clothes. I think there is so much more to discuss, but today I wanted to explore a bit the idea of buying more second-hand clothes and open that possibility for some people who maybe never thought about it.
Again, it is not about buying all your clothes second-hand, I certainly don’t buy everything pre-loved, but I always give this option a preference. Sometimes I can’t find what I need after a lot of attempts and that’s ok. I do the best I can.
Some of you may be thinking: “What’s the point, it is only a few people buying second hand clothes” True, but remember collectively we can make a difference. When we all start making other choices and break the status quo then we can start seeing some positive changes.
“Environment isn’t asking us to conserve her for her but for our future generations.”- Mohith Agadi
That’s it for today. Please share the information with your family and friends, we need to think outside the box and start considering other options. Let me know in the comments below what you think about buying second hand clothes. Have you tried before? If not, why?
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Thanks for reading,