Is second hand the most sustainable way to shop?

Fast consumerism occurs throughout our shopping habits, whether we are buying clothes, homeware or food. To lower the carbon footprint we produce from shopping we need to shop more sustainably. When buying clothes and homeware, such as furniture, instead of buying new, look into buying second hand.

Buying second hand is becoming increasingly popular, since 2018 the number of sales from the second hand market have increased by 404%. Those that worry about buying second hand should feel safe in the knowledge that these figures prove that buying second hand is a viable option.

But is it the most sustainable?

Shopping second hand means that you are stopping the production of a new product that would emit greenhouse gases through its production and delivery. If you shop second hand, you cut out the emissions from the production of a brand new product.

The fashion industry emits 10% of our global emissions and the production of one pair of jeans produces the same amount of carbon emissions as a car driving 80 miles. If you buy second hand you remove the demand for the production of another pair of jeans.

In the UK we send 350,000 tonnes of clothing alone to landfill each year. Most of these clothes are still perfectly ok to wear and if they had been sent to a charity shop or had been sold online, these garments would have bypassed landfill, will not have become waste and would have been given a second lease of life.

Most of the furniture we buy is made from materials that have a large impact on the planet, whether you are buying a frame for a bed, a chest of drawers or a cabinet. Most of our furniture is made from metal, plastic, or wood. Each of these materials has its own emissions through its sourcing, for example through mining or through deforestation, and the manufacturing of a product from the raw material. Buying second hand furniture, just like buying second hand clothes, cuts out the emissions caused by the creation of a brand new product.

When buying second hand you are not only giving an item a new lease of life you are also preventing it from becoming waste. Once on object ends up in landfill it begins the very slow process of breaking down. The breaking down of these items releases harmful gases into the atmosphere, increasing the impact it has on the environment and increasing the carbon footprint of the item.

Overall buying second hand is an incredibly sustainable option and is much more sustainable than buying new. When looking for a new piece of furniture or a new outfit, it appears that second hand shopping is the most sustainable way to shop.

Check out our Guide To Sustainable Shopping by Charity Shop Girl, in partnership with Oxfam.

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