second hand september
Sustainable Living

Second Hand September: How you can join in!

What is Second Hand September?

Second Hand September is a campaign, started by Oxfam in 2019, to encourage purchasing only second hand clothing items for the 30 days of the month. We’re a couple of weeks in to September, but it’s not too late to join in. And continuing Second Hand September practices beyond the 30 days of the month is, of course, a great idea as well!

Fast fashion has sold society on the idea that people constantly need new clothes, which results in the world consuming 80 billion new pieces of clothing each year–a 400% increase from 2 decades previous.

Source: The True Cost

Why purchase used?

The clothing industry, particularly the fast fashion segment, is a noted contributor to pollution and global warming, not to mention the human impact of the industry’s practices.  

Pollution results in a number of ways, including as a result of the content of materials. For example synthetic fibers, which are used in 72% of our clothing, can take up to 200 years to decompose. Additionally, the fashion industry causes soil degradation, which is impacting our ecosystem and causes threats to food production and desertification of areas of the world, such as Mongolia. It is also noteworthy that greenhouse gas emissions from textile production is more than the total emissions of all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

The fast fashion industry also negatively impacts many that are involved in the product cycle, including:

  • About 170 million children around the world are employed in the fast fashion workforce according to the International Labour Office
  • Conventionally grown cotton used in the production of fast fashion items generally includes the application of pesticides in the growing process. There is evidence that the use of such chemicals causes many negative health effects for the farming families and communities that live in proximity to where these chemicals are applied. (Source: Textile Exchange).
  • Certain dyes in cheaply produced clothing can be absorbed by the skin and have been linked to incidence of cancer (Source: Remake.World)
  • According to Business Insider, phthalates have been found in many items of fast fashion clothing. These chemicals have been linked to various issues including long-term reproductive issues. Phthalates in clothing can be particularly problematic for children who may put the clothing containing this chemical in their mouths.

Fast fashion brands produce clothes quickly and cheaply, resulting in a poorer quality of fabrics. The result is that, when items are donated to charity shops, the clothing is usually unsuitable to sell. For example, one of Oxfam’s Wastesavers sorting plant only sends 1-3% of clothing received to their shops to be sold.

Source: bbc.com “Why Clothes Are So Hard To Recycle”

We’ve explored this topic on the blog previously, check out the links below for some additional background reading:

How Your Clothing Helps The Planet: 5 Easy Changes

Plastic Free July: Clothing

Sustainable Fashion Series

How to join in

Shop second hand

  • Visit local thrift stores to find unique and budget-friendly items (and many items outside of clothing as well!)
  • Consignment shops often offer a great selection of higher end and gently used items
  • Host a clothing swap with friends and family
  • Join a local buy nothing group to share and obtain items at no cost
  • Rent clothing rather than buying using sites such as Beyond the Runway

Get the most out of your clothing

  • Wash less and with appropriate wash cycle and cleaners: a lot of the wear and tear our clothing endures is actually in the wash cycle! Follow the instructions on the label and your clothing should last longer. Also consider spot cleaning rather than washing the whole garment.
  • Have your incorrectly sized clothing adjusted to fit by tailoring
  • Fix damaged items (there are many resources online, including our post on visible mending!)
  • Purchase well-made staples and mix and match to repeat-wear items in your wardrobe, but in many different ways
second hand septmber

Ethical clothing disposal

Maybe you have items that don’t fit any more, you’ve obtained new items, or are finding that you have items that you just don’t wear anymore. What can you do to make use of these items rather than simply dispose of them?

  • Sell your clothes online (local reseller sites, or websites such as Poshmark)
  • Gift clothing to friends and family or charities
  • Upcycle or repurpose items – see our post Waste Reduction Week: Upcycled T-Shirts for ideas!

How will you take part?

How are you taking part in Second Hand September? Share it with us on social media!

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