Oxfam: second-hand shopping could stop “billions of harmful emissions”

Second-hand shopping could help prevent harmful carbon emissions equivalent to flying around the world more than 17,000 times, according to research from Oxfam.

Releasing new research to mark the charity’s annual Second Hand September Campaign, Oxfam said that if half of the average adult wardrobe had been bought second-hand, 12.5 billion kgs of carbon dioxide could have been prevented – the equivalent to a plane flying around the world more than 17,000 times.

Only 10% of the average wardrobe contents are currently second-hand.

Oxfam also revealed that if each adult donated the clothes they have not worn over the past year, it could stop a further 4.9 billion kg of carbon from entering the atmosphere – the amount generated by flying a plane around the world more than 6,600 times.

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The calculations come amid rising awareness of the negative effects of the fashion industry, which accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions – more than international aviation and shipping combined.

Oxfam retail director Lorna Fallon said: “Choosing second-hand offers people a way to reshape the fashion industry, and reimagine the impact our clothes have on the world. As a major emitter of greenhouse gas, much of the fashion industry as it stands is a threat to people and planet. But it doesn’t have to be that way.”

“In 2022, UK consumers bought 32% more second-hand clothes than in 2018, before the first Second Hand September campaign. Shopping this way sends a clear message to the fashion industry that consumers want, and expect, things to change”.

The month-long campaign encourages people to shop second-hand and donate what they no longer need or wear for 30 days, from Friday.

“It’s timely that we’re talking about second-hand clothes and living in a more sustainable way, as awareness of the environmental impact of our shopping choices is growing,” said Oxfam second-hand clothes ambassador Miquita Oliver.

Ofxam retail director Lorna Fallon said: “Today’s research from Oxfam shows that something as simple as buying clothes second-hand donating what we don’t wear anymore, can help change the world for the better. It’s as simple as that”.

Cognitive psychologist Dr Carolyn Mair added that “Research shows that in the UK, an adult’s wardrobe on average contains 31 items of unworn clothes.”

“Nostalgia, money, guilt and body image can all play a part in our reasons for not letting certain items go.”

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