Saturday, November 17, 2018 could change your life, or at least the way you think about clothing, sustainable shopping and buying second hand. Create your signature style at Cambridge Sustainable Fashion Fest! Usually when we hear “eco-shopping” we think of natural and organic materials, slow fashion, ethically produced. But can a polyester fleece also be eco-friendly? The answer is yes… When you buy it pre-loved.
One of the most environmentally friendly practices you can adopt is shopping consignment, second hand, vintage and thrift. During the Q&A portion of an event hosted by the British Antarctic Survey, “Sustainable Innovations in Performance Clothing,” a woman asked “But isn’t reusing clothing just delaying the filling of landfills, not stopping it?” While it is true that a polyester fleece will almost certainly spend the majority of its life in a landfill unless it is recycled (remember, polyester isn’t biodegradable — it will break down but it will never decompose) this doesn’t mean that buying that fleece second hand doesn’t have an environmental impact. In buying something second hand, you are NOT buying something new, and avoid contributing to the demand for more polyester fleeces. Fairly obvious, but important. In 2017 in the UK, 235 million items of clothing were sent to landfill while The Guardian reported that in 2016 alone, 1,130,000 tonnes of new clothing were purchased in the UK.
Ultimately, when you buy second hand clothing you simultaneously reduce the amount of clothing produced, as well as reducing the amount of clothing going to landfill. One of the most accessible ways to shop second hand is through charity shops. To learn a little more about the lifecycle of clothing in these shops, we interviewed Joanna, the assistant manager at the Mind Charity Shop on Burley Street in Cambridge:
Interview charity shop – Cambridge
“My name is Joanna, I am the assistant manager here at the mind charity shop on Burley Street, I’ve been working here for about a year and a half. I started here as a volunteer and then worked my way up. Yeah before that I was at university, in Aberdeen and then I moved to Cambridge and then I thought i’d start here.”
– When someone brings clothes to your charity shop, what’s the typical process?
First thing to always to thank them because they’ve taken the time out of their day to bring the stuff in. Ask them if they’re a gift aider, scheme that the government does that gives the charity 25% extra on all donations. Then they process them in the back.
– How many pieces of clothing do you receive every day or every month?
Depends on the time of year, in winter they receive items that aren’t quite sellable, summer they don’t receive much as most people are away for holidays. However in spring and in autumn, people do clear outs and sorting out of wardrobe so a lot is received then…around 100 bags a week and in busy times it’s around 200 bags.
– What do you think of the clothes quality people bring?
They get lots of good quality stuff, as in Cambridge there are a lot of good designer items. All though even the low quality items can be sold…as they are sold to rag companies who recycle them and they get money from that…so no clothing goes to waste.
– Is there enough space in store for all you receive?
At the current moment there isn’t much space as there is only one upstairs room however the store is getting a refitting so there will be enough space soon.
– How long do the clothes usually stay in the shop?
On the shop floor for about 2 weeks, all unsold clothing then gets rotated and sent to another mind shop in a different for them to try and sell it for the next 2 weeks, and if it’s not sold then as well, it gets sent to rags for recycling.
– What happen when you can’t sell a piece of clothing?
Items of clothing that are torn, stained, smelly are bagged up and sold to a collector who comes around once a week, who then recycles the clothing.
– Any idea of the ratio in vs out?
From donations around 50% of it would be sold and the rest goes to rag.
– Do you sell any clothes to wholesalers abroad?
No, the recycling company/rag company does but the charity itself does not.
There are many ways to shop second hand, give clothing new life and extend garment life cycle. There are also some great influencers out there who are willing to help! London based eco-lifestyle blog Uppish has an excellent London Thrift Guide. If you are not big into browsing in stores and prefer the online retail experience, there are lots excellent e-commerce alternatives for every budget! Ebay is famous for incredibly good vintage finds, but you have to be willing to look. More curated sites such as The Real Real, Rebelle, Vestiaire and Hardly Ever Worn It, specialize in higher end products that have been vetted for authenticity. You don’t need to sacrifice style or quality to shop sustainably, but it definitely does require a different approach to the way you shop.
If you are interested in learning more about restyling your wardrobe and shopping sustainably, please join us (and some other incredibly cool, ethically responsible brands) this Saturday in Cambridge! We will be bringing our beautiful organic-cotton lingerie pieces as well! All of the details can be found here!