Second Hand or New.
A few days ago I listened to a very interesting and informative chat on Irish radio with an advocate for sustainable fashion about how being sustainable is all about reusing/re-wearing clothes. That got me thinking... Being sustainable when it comes to clothes isn’t just a one way thing. There are lots of ways to be sustainable which can include buying new clothes AS WELL as reusing and re-wearing more. So let’s dig into this some more.
Buying New Sustainable Clothing:
Whatever term you use to describe it, sustainable clothing, sustainable fashion (you might even hear it being called ethical fashion or ethical clothing), it doesn't really matter, they all describe the same thing. In short sustainable clothing is a catch all term which refers to fabrics derived from eco-friendly resources (such as sustainably grown fiber crops and recycled materials), the way the fabrics were made, and lastly the human rights of the workers who made the garments.
So when you need to get yourself a new wardrobe, and you want to make a sustainable choice that helps the environment, do you choose second hand or do you support a local sustainable clothing business who sell new clothes?
There is no right or wrong answer and the great thing is, there is value, sustainability and earth friendly benefits in both options.Benefits:
Support local businesses by buying new:It’s important to support small businesses who are trying to fight against the tide and work towards a local sustainable future, instead of the mass produced, fast fashion reality of today. Shopping second hand will only get you so far, and you will eventually need that outfit for a special occasion or need something that you can't find in a second-hand store. So that is a great time to support companies who are focusing on making new sustainable clothes . Sometimes it will be hard to find the second hand item which fits your taste exactly, or find something that is more modern.
Items can be hard to find:You might set out with full intentions of buying a second hand jacket but in reality can’t find any that fit, or are in the condition you want. So it makes sense to look for new items, especially in an age where all you have to do is say “Hey Google. I want to buy eco-friendly clothes online”, and instantly you have multiple options which deliver to your door.
Buying new clothes can be sustainable too:Just because the clothes are new does not mean they are unsustainable, non eco friendly or not ethically made. If anything because they are new they were more than likely made with those modern clothing values in mind. The fast fashion phrase has been misinterpreted by some to mean that ALL new clothes are unsustainable. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as there is a worldwide growth in small independent clothing companies like 21DW who are producing sustainable clothing.
Buying Second Hand Clothes:
Apparently, the clothing and textile industry is the largest polluter in the world. So buying second hand is a great choice if you want to be sustainable, and it is definitely being talked about more and more these days. I mean think about the amount of clothing that goes into landfill alone, and how many items of clothing most people have in their wardrobes which haven’t been worn in at least a year. So it makes sense to give your previously loved items to second hand clothes stores when you're thinking of doing a spring clean. And while you’re there have a look and see if you can find any bargains.Maybe it’s just me, but the benefits of buying second hand clothing seems obvious, so I won’t list them all here. But here are a few important benefits we should think about:
Do we really need more?Going back to the point I made about the amount of pollution that comes from the clothing industry, and the amount that goes into landfill, we could certainly do a lot of good by taking a minute to think if we really need to have the latest item of clothing your favourite celeb was wearing on that super cool tv advert that pops up every 20 minutes. We need to take control of our urge to consume. Just by simply making the choice to buy or donate second hand clothing, you are ensuring it does not go into landfill past it’s time. Just because you are done with it doesn’t mean the clothing is done! Someone out there might find a use for it. Remember the good old days of when your mother used to put patches on your elbows cause you have worn through a hole in them from all the fun you were having climbing trees? Well some of you do anyway! But the point is we have for the most part, lost that ingenuity as it has become far too easy and affordable to completely replace the item.
Helping in more ways than buying sustainably:
In this case I am speaking from our perspective at 21DW. Did you know that by buying one of our adult items of clothing, we will also be planting a tree on your behalf? Check out our partnership with One Tree Planted in one of our previous blog posts here. If you want to learn a bit more about sustainable fashion have a read through some of my previous blog posts which touch on different aspects of sustainable living including sustainable fashion.
In conclusion personally I think that deciding to buy second hand or new sustainable clothing should be a personal choice based on your style. I don't think there's a problem with buying new sustainable clothing once the company you are buying from tick all the sustainable, ethical and eco friendly boxes. Let me know what your thoughts are on the subject. Are you a diehard second hand advocate, or do you see the merit in buying new sustainable clothing from responsible businesses?