Shop at Charity Shops

14th Govember 2019

By Holly Leslie

There is simply no denying that, for many of us, re-inventing our wardrobe means scrolling through ASOS, ordering three dress, only to send two back the following day. We buy into what is now labelled ‘fast fashion’ and such a mindset becomes a habit that is hard to break, particularly when we know that Topshop Jamie jeans are the perfect fit. However, it is important to consider the environmental impact of buying new clothes and where possible, make an exerted effort to donate old pieces to charity shops. Some of my favourite, most durable purchases have come from charity shops, including two winter jackets for a combined price of £15. There are countless advantages to supporting charity shops, the biggest of which is the reduction of environmental pollution.

Fast fashion has been reported to be the second largest cause of pollution, globally, after the oil industry. This is partly because the clothing manufacturing processes are estimated to need 93 billion cubic metres of water a year [1]. That’s enough to provide 70% global population (5 million people) with a water supply. By investing in smaller, sustainable fashion brands we can ensure less water is wasted in factories and instead used by communities that need it most. It is also estimated that the fashion industry creates 8% of the world’s greenhouse gases [1], like carbon dioxide. In 2015/16, donations to charity shops reduced fashion landfill by 331,000 tonnes and therefore, reduced carbon dioxide emission by 6.9 million tonnes [2].

Recycling paper, glass and cardboard has become mainstream practise, which is fantastic news, however, it’s important that we also recycle textiles, such as old clothes. Often our clothes are made of synthetic materials, particularly acrylic, polyester which when disposed of in landfill contribute to microplastics that enter our water streams. By shopping in charity shops, we can reduce the amount of microplastics that end up in the ocean at any given time and provide an opportunity for communities to tackle other issues such as unemployment. In 2015/16, charity shops were estimated to make £270 million, providing funding for voluntary organisations to provide support to vulnerable families and/or encourage live-changing medical research [2].

Trends in fashion are temporary, but their impact on our earth’s environment is permanent. Fashion trends are often come back around and there is always space for vintage items in every collection. Charity shops are arguably the best place to pick up a vintage pair of jeans or an eighties dress for a fancy-dress party. Not only are charity shops full of brilliant bargains but they also promote sustainable fashion and improve lives for many people with every purchase.

Other links used for inspiration:


The Thrift


[1] UN Conference on Trade and Development report, reported by UN News at

[2] Harrison-Evans, P. (2016) Shopping for good: the social benefits of charity retail ISBN 978-1-911192-13-8 © Demos

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