conscious consumer consumption fashion industry

Our Shopping Addiction Overwhelms Charity Shops

An average US family spends around $1800 on clothing a year (similar figures can be found across other Western countries). That is a lot of clothing items. It’s understandable to buy clothes for growing kids (exchanging clothes or partly exchanging, especially for babies, who grow out of everything in no time is a much more sustainable solution) but for adults, it’s a completely different story.

When I was crazy into re-inventing my wardrobe at least once, if not twice a year, the clothes that I thought weren’t good enough or in fashion anymore always ended up in a charity shop.

Photo by Hannah Morgan on Unsplash

Unfortunately, little I knew then that charity shops have been crushed with donations they aren’t able to sell. Many clothing items, largely from the brands propagating fast fashion cannot be sold anymore. Unfortunately, the quality of cheap fashion is bad, really bad. As consumers, we’ve been shopping for so many non-essentials, falsely believing that if something doesn’t fit, donating to a charity, will help a good cause and clear our consciousness.

I’m afraid that it doesn’t work this way anymore. All the clothing items charities are unable to sell will either be sent to your local landfill or to third world countries and end up in the landfill there. I’m sure we have all seen heaps of clothing rubbish, which cannot be re-sold.

If you are like me and many millions of other people, awakening to the reality of our beautiful Earth dying on our watch, cutting down on fast fashion should be your number one priority. In fact, cutting down on buying unnecessary clothing, we all need socks and underwear from time to time, should be at least seriously considered by everyone. When I open my wardrobe, I know that I already have more than enough for every occasion I can possibly think of. Hence, I’ve been on the quest to buy no clothes for myself for the second year running.

I simply don’t want to be a part of the problem. I want leave as little wasteful footprint behind as possible.

So, instead of overwhelming charity shops and pushing the responsibility of dealing with unwanted items/shopping mistakes and therapy sessions (retail therapy is such a myth), my suggestions below will hopefully help you make more informed decisions aligned with your new sustainable consciousness:

  1. Try to delay your purchase for a bit. If, at the end of the waiting period, you still really badly need that item, go for it. However, before you proceed with the transaction shop around for sustainable alternatives. There are a lot of Earth-friendly brands that use recycled, sustainable fabrics.  
  2. Instead of buying a new outfit for one party only, try to borrow from friends or rental places.
  3. Look for good quality, designer clothes in charity shops in more affluent parts of the city.
  4. If you collect clothes, like my mum does, check all those bags and boxes you have. You might be very surprised with your finds. I was astonished last year when I found 4 pairs of linen trousers, two of which still had a price tag attached and a dress I loved that I totally had forgotten I had.
  5. Repair your clothing items if you can (YouTube videos are very helpful during this process). It’s not only sustainable but also amazingly rewarding to know that you can repair your clothes. For me, it’s a wonderful meditative experience.
  6. Invest in good quality, timeless pieces. This way you won’t have the need to replace your wardrobe every season and you won’t have to as well.  I have one winter jumper I bought when I was a student. I bought it from French Connection, it was on sale and back then I had to wait until the sale price went down to £15 before I was able to afford it.
  7. Stop following trends. All those trends aim for one thing: to pressure people into buying more.  That approach only adds to heaps of pollution that can be easily avoidable.
  8. I’m not going to suggest selling your clothes online because I feel that this activity requires a full-time commitment. However, I have a friend who makes pretty good money on car boot sales. So maybe that could be an option of some sort.
  9. If you have extended collections of clothes you don’t need, don’t want to sell, or pass on to your friends or family members, maybe some of the websites below will help you clean your closet and your consciousness in the process:

Buy Nothing Project

Free Cycle

I Love Freegle


Pre Loved

Repair Cafe

10. Not spending money on clothing, which end up polluting the whole planet, will also save you quite a bit of cash. If you were to spend $1800 on clothes a year, putting that money towards your investment portfolio over 20 years with an average return of 7% would accumulate to $74,179. Not bad, if you ask me, and all that while helping to save the planet in the process.