Innovations in online shopping have made it easier than ever to buy a new dress for your best friend’s wedding or grab a crisp white t-shirt the second your current one starts to fade. With the click of a button, people with means can have new clothes immediately — all without ever stepping foot inside of a brick-and-mortar store. The result makes sense: Because shopping has never been easier, people are shopping more — even if their needs remain the same.
But Oxfam, an international group working to end poverty, wants you and your fellow consumers to (deep breath!) curb your shopping habit for the month of September. The group launched Second-Hand September, an initiative that encourages people to not buy any brand new products for 30 days.
Your bank account won’t be the only thing thanking you — the planet will, too. Especially if you tend to partake in fast fashion.
Believe it or not, the fashion industry is one of the leading contributors to the growing climate crisis. As a polluter, it’s the second most egregious next to oil, Forbes reported. The industry emits 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas annually, creates nearly 20% of the world’s wastewater and America alone sends over 10 million tons of textiles to landfills each year. That’s in large part due to fast fashion, the trend of making clothes cheaply and readily available as the market changes. The trend isn’t only bad for the environment — it is bad for labor, too. Perhaps because of fast fashion’s emphasis on speed at a bargain, labor conditions for workers often aren’t safe. On top of that, many factory workers are working long hours and at unlivable wages.
And it’s a trend that’s growing. According to The University of Queensland, the world consumes 80 billion new clothing pieces ever year, which has skyrocketed 400% in the last 20 years.
“The damage of fast fashion is far-reaching – from extensive use of water in production to poor pay and conditions for workers,” Fee Gilfeather, head of audience and strategic planning at Oxfam, told Retail Gazette.
So skip the brand-new, low-quality clothing and opt-in for thrift store looks. Vintage and thrift stores are home to affordable, quality clothing. Plus, it’s a great way to support local businesses.
If you don’t have access to thrift stores, try shopping resale online at stores like Etsy, eBay or Poshmark. There are also organizations out there ready to change the industry. If you have a toddler or baby, UpChoose is a place to start. Since children grow so fast, a lot of their clothing is only used for a short amount of time. UpChoose allows you to buy clothing and exchange them later for bigger sizes as your child grows.
It’s not easy to shift your mindset and actions, but as we look for ways to combat our climate crisis, a simple change, like where you buy your clothing, adds up.
Second-Hand September has a nice alliterative ring to it, but that doesn’t mean the challenge has to last just this month. Since we’re nearly halfway through September, challenge yourself for the rest of the year. What if you could do it for all of 2020?
More: The Sneaker Saint