Are charity shops sustainable?

Posted on 25 January 2021
By Dana Andersen
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With the rise of sustainable fashion, many have turned to charity shops to make sure their choice wardrobe additions are environmentally friendly, but this mindset could prove unsustainable.

Shopping for second hand clothing in charity shops was a necessary way of life for many raised in working class families, who might attest they were bullied for wearing clothes from ‘Oxfam’ only to see the bullies now doing the same because it’s now trendy.

The increase in popularity for vintage clothing, has also created an almost bulk shopping mentality, with people snatching things up to re-sell on places like Depop.

Similarly, interest in DIY fashion, up-cycling, and ‘thrift flips’ leads to people buying items such as plus size clothing, which they’ll then make smaller to fit them.

Considering plus size items are already in high demand for charity shops, it’s another problem for those who can’t afford to shop new.

It’d never be right to tell someone where they can and cannot shop based on how much money they have, nor what they can or can’t buy, but when trying to shop in a sustainable way, it’s important to think not only of where the clothing is sourced and who it’s made by, but also who your shopping habits may affect, and if there are any better alternatives.

Why buy a dress six sizes too big that you’ll have to modify, and which could have been the perfect find for someone else, when you could just wait to find a dress that fits you?

Similarly, why buy a coat from a charity shop that’s cheap but will only last one winter, if you could splash out on a coat that will last for years, and is really much more sustainable in the long run?

Any attempt at shopping sustainably should be encouraged, but thinking critically about what’s most sustainable for you is equally vital.

In a society where everything is considered ‘problematic’ by someone, the best any of us can manage is focusing on our own situation, and what we can do within it. so

For some, shopping in charity shops is likely an issue in some way, be that the items they’re purchasing, or why they’re purchasing them, but for most, shopping second hand is a great first step towards a more sustainable wardrobe.