The Environmental Benefits of Vintage Shopping

Written by Emma Quinn (@ethical_emma)


In this time of climate emergency, it can feel pretty overwhelming hearing statistics of climate breakdown, sometimes it can feel as if the world is about to end. Whilst only governments and policy makers can fix these large, overarching issues, it is important to remember the power we have as individuals to make more sustainable choices and generate positive change.

One of the easiest, most accessible ways to live more sustainably, is to revaluate where we buy our clothing from. The fast fashion industry is worth roughly 35 million USD, producing 1 billion garments annually. This industry, built on fast production to capitalise on new trends, is extremely wasteful, emitting 1.2 billion tons of C02; equating to 5% of global emissions. Surprisingly, this translates to more emissions created by air travel and international shipping combined. Whilst evidently fast fashion has a large environmental impact, it also has a huge social and human cost.

In fast fashion supply chains, workers are forced to work long hours for very little pay off, often under dodgy contracts and in unwelcoming environments. Research conducted by Oxfam reported a 7-day working week during peak times is often the norm in garment factories. More so, other NGO’s have reported that in Bangladesh it is common for workers to work a 90-hour week, yet employees still do not have enough money to live on for a month. Garment worker exploitation does not only happen in faraway countries, cases have been reported in Leicester of ‘dark factories’, some paying their works a pathetic £3.50 an hour. As the demand for fast fashion increases as people want more for less, frontline garment workers will continue to suffer under this pressure.

Whilst the fast fashion industry serves to please only the consumer, hurting everyone else along the supply chain, slow fashion is a kinder alternative to the planet and people. Shopping vintage and second-hand allows us to avoid feeding big corporate companies who only care about lining their own pockets, and not their workers’. £30bn worth of unused clothing hangs in UK wardrobes, 85% of which will end up in landfill. The staggering amount of clothing sent to landfill, could save the U.K around £3 billion a year in cost and resources.

Choosing to shop vintage or second-hand, means we can show some love to clothing that already exists.

With the quality of fast fashion clothing being incredibly poor so customers will continue to purchase, it is no surprise more than half of fast fashion items are thrown away in less than a year. Shopping vintage allows us to buy pieces which were made in a less industrialised time; therefore, they are constructed of better, less processed materials, thus lasting longer.

It is clear there is a high cost to cheap clothing, yet customers like you and I are not the ones paying the price. Choosing to shop vintage or second hand, means we can shop with a clear conscious, knowing our what we buy hasn’t contributed to someone else’s pain. Making small changes to our lifestyles and shopping habits, means we can do our bit for the planet, whilst gaining clothing which will last and has its own unique history.