September is about more than waving goodbye to summer and preparing for those cooler autumnal days. And if you’re someone who usually likes to completely reinvent their wardrobe for the arrival of a new season, think again, because this month it’s Second Hand September.
Second Hand September is a 30-day campaign run by Oxfam encouraging people across the UK to stop buying new clothes for the duration of the month. Although this might sound easy to some, for many of us it’s harder than we probably think. How often have we all bought something for an event or a night out, worn it once or twice, and chucked it in the back of the cupboard never to be seen again? We know we’re guilty.
The fashion industry is one of the most polluting on the planet, with a carbon footprint outweighing that of international flights and shopping combined. Thanks to the rise of fast fashion over the past few years, this has only become more apparent, and every week 11 million items of clothing end up in landfill, according to Oxfam.
#SecondHandSeptember instead encourages us to start thinking more sustainably. The ultimate aim is to make us transform our buying habits for life, but if you’re a self-confessed shopaholic then trying it out for a month (a bit like Veganuary) is a great way to get into the sustainable mindset. And what’s more, it goes way beyond just buying someone else’s old clothes. Here’s how you can get involved with #SecondHandSeptember this month and well into the future.
Declutter your closet
Let’s start from the beginning. All of us have a tendency to hoard at times, and chances are you’ve got some things in the back of the wardrobe that you can definitely let go of and donate to a better cause. When going through your wardrobe, ask yourself with each item if you will wear it in the next six months to a year. If the answer is no, then you can probably live without it. Once you’ve got a pile of clothes that you’re willing to part ways with, there are a number of things you can do with them. One option is to take them to a charity shop, but do make sure the items are clean and in a usable condition before doing so. Or, if you’re looking to make some extra cash while still being sustainable, you can sell items on sites like eBay or apps like Depop. By doing this, not only are you enabling yourself to declutter and organise your own personal space, but you’re contributing to the wider cycle of second-hand, sustainable clothing. Give yourself a pat on the back.
Sites like eBay and Depop aren’t just for making some quick cash though. They can actually be a wonderful way for you to find new pieces for your own wardrobe, once September is over, obviously. What’s great about second-hand shopping sites is that people often sell items that are unique or one-of-a-kind. So no need to worry about that awkward moment on a night out when you bump into someone in the bathroom wearing that exact same fast fashion piece as you. Although most high streets these days will have charity shops where you can shop second-hand, if yours doesn’t then the internet is your best friend. In the modern age, there are endless options if you want to buy second-hand, catering to a range of tastes, styles, and price ranges. Below are just a few of our favourites:
Depop - for unique items of clothing, accessories, homewares and more.
ASOS Marketplace - for rare and quirky vintage and designer finds.
Rebelle - for higher-end designer clothing and handbags.
Patch up old pieces
Another amazing way to be more sustainable with your clothing is to upcycle. Upcycling (or ‘creative reuse’) means the process of transforming items or things you already have into new ones, whether that’s by patching up or mending broken bits, or turning them into something completely different.
For example, if you’ve got a hole in a pair of jeans, don’t throw them out just yet. Denim is actually one of the most unsustainable materials when it comes to fashion and so letting them go to waste should be avoided where necessary. During production, the cotton used to make denim is heavily irrigated and fertilized, while it also undergoes processes like heavy dyeing and washing. All this uses vast quantities of water and energy, so much so that one pair of jeans will use up to 2,900 gallons of water. So if you’re thinking about chucking those old Levi’s, hold up. Check out this video from Oxfam that shows you just how easy it is to patch up holes in your clothes.
Or if you’re feeling inspired, why not try a total revamp? To give an old or worn item a new lease of life, you can dye or stain it, add embellishments, badges, or patches, and even cut and sew different pieces together. Not only will you be saving some extra cash and doing some good by refraining from buying something new, but you’ll end up with what feels and looks like a totally new (and unique) item. Everyone wins.
Although #SecondHandSeptember focuses primarily on fashion and clothing, it’s important to think about the bigger picture when it comes to sustainability, and know that your impact can extend way beyond these limits.
If you’re a keen reader, then buying your books second-hand is another way to get involved. If you happen to be in London, then be sure to check out places like Daunt Books, Judd Books, Bookmongers, and Foster Books. And if you’re not, then not to worry. You can always check on sites like Amazon whether there’s the option to buy your book used instead of new.
Furniture and homewares are also a perfect opportunity to shop second-hand or even do some upcycling. We know everyone loves a good trip to IKEA but if you’re not in the mood for spending hours putting a chest of drawers together, why not head to a vintage or antique furniture store instead? Just like buying clothing second-hand, you’re more likely to find something special and unique by buying this way. And if you want to put an extra twist on something to really make it your own, check out Good Housekeeping’s guide to upcycling furniture.
However you choose to engage with #SecondHandSeptember, it’s important to know that every bit of effort counts and contributes toward making society more sustainable. Let us know in the comments below if you've got involved, or tag us on socials @liveinnermost.