In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about the environmental benefits of buying second-hand clothing and how second-hand shopping can save the planet.
Every little thing that we use and that we throw away in our lives has a footprint on the planet.
Whether it is small or big, we can’t ignore that the items we consume have an impact on our environment.
That’s where we can see second-hand shopping as a great solution to helping save the planet.
Most of us have heard the motto “Reduce, reuse, recycle” as one of the core values of sustainable living.
First, we should reduce the number of things that we consume.
But then, we should reuse what already exists in the world.
Second-hand shopping lowers the impact of the things we consume as we’re reusing things that have already been produced and we are diverting them from landfills.
Thrifting and buying second-hand clothes is more and more popular.
But the good thing is that, nowadays, we can buy almost anything second-hand at thrift stores or online.
Toys and games.
Anything you may want or need.
A major benefit of second-hand shopping is that you have the opportunity to save a lot of money.
Which is something most people want, right?
But most of all, second-hand shopping has a huge positive impact on our environment.
This is true for different reasons.
Today, I’m sharing with you the environmental benefits of buying second-hand clothing!
The environmental benefits of buying second-hand clothing
1. Buying second-hand clothing helps reduce waste
The most obvious environmental benefit of buying second-hand clothing is that we create less waste.
By buying something used, we are saving it from landfills.
Have you heard the saying: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”?
It couldn’t be more true!
By reusing something that someone didn’t want anymore, you are giving a new life to an item.
What would have happened if you didn’t buy that thing?
Someone else could have bought it, which is great.
Or it could have ended up in the bin as second-hand stores are overloaded by the number of things people bring them.
Another big problem is that very few items are actually recycled.
For instance, only 15% of consumer textiles are recycled, whereas the remaining 85% end up in landfills or are incinerated.
And in landfills, most things take a very long time to fully degrade, sometimes up to hundreds of years.
Every plastic that we ever created still exists on the planet today.
It’s not so surprising many of us have eco-anxiety!
That’s why we should reuse things as much as possible and buy things second-hand instead of new whenever we can.
2. It reduces pollution
The production of every new item has an impact on the environment and pollutes it in some way.
Pollution can happen at each step of the whole production process.
From the extraction of raw materials to the manufacturing of products and their transportation around the world.
The exploitation of natural resources is very intensive.
It often involves the use of conventional fertilizers, pesticides, and other substances.
For instance, toxic chemicals are used to create synthetic dyes for our clothes.
And they are often released into the environment and water streams.
The manufacturing of intermediate and finished products is also very polluting.
Transporting goods around the world emits huge amounts of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, making up 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Plus, when things end up in landfills, greenhouse gases are emitted and chemicals are spread in the environment.
This results in the pollution of groundwater and soil.
As we saw, producing new things contributes to water, air, and land pollution all around the world.
So choosing to buy clothing second-hand instead of new is one of the best things you can do to help save the planet.
3. Buying second-hand clothing saves natural resources
Buying things used decreases the demand to create new items.
And as I mentioned in the previous point, producing new things requires using natural resources.
But the thing is, many of these resources aren’t renewable.
For instance, to produce plastic things, we need oil, which is not a renewable resource at all.
Scientists estimate that we only have 40 years of oil left (as of 2023) if the world’s consumption levels stay the same.
Also, many natural resources aren’t sourced in a sustainable or ethical way, and producing them comes with very high social and environmental costs.
It often leads to the loss of wildlife habitats, destroys ecosystems, and threatens indigenous people’s lives.
In 2023, humanity’s demand for the Earth’s natural resources exceeded what the planet could regenerate in that given year on August 2.
As an environmentalist, I find it horrifying!
That’s why I support second-hand shopping to save the planet!
When you purchase things used, you are making sure that you are preserving natural resources.
And you’re not supporting unethical or unsustainable practices.
This is one of the most important environmental benefits of buying second-hand clothing!
4. It decreases our water footprint
To live more sustainably, one of the critical actions we can take is to save water in our everyday lives.
I wrote a full article about 20 ways to preserve water that can help you with that.
In that blog post, I also mentioned some tips to reduce your water footprint.
Our water footprint includes how much water we use in our daily lives, but also what we call “hidden” water.
Hidden or virtual water is the water we use to produce the things we consume.
We often forget about it but the production of new things requires us to use huge quantities of water.
For instance, the production of a cotton t-shirt involves the use of about 713 gallons (2,700 liters) of water.
So when buying a new t-shirt, you have a water footprint.
But it is true with other items too.
So here again, we can see the importance of buying things used instead of new whenever we can.
Shopping second-hand indirectly saves so much water!
Water is one of the world’s most precious resources and we cannot live without it.
We shouldn’t waste it as if it was infinite.
5. Buying second-hand clothing saves energy
To produce material goods like clothes, we also need a lot of energy to have operating machines and factories.
To create electricity, we may use coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear energy, or other energy sources.
So by not buying new clothes and preferring second-hand pieces instead, we are reducing our need to use non-renewable energy.
We are also saving energy if we consider how much fuel is used to ship new items around the world.
Whether things are transported by boat, plane, or truck, fuel consumption is very high.
The transportation sector uses about one-fourth of the world’s total energy consumption.
This includes passenger travel as well but freight still represents a big percentage.
That is why not creating a demand for new items will save energy.
6. It reduces the demand for the packaging industry
This environmental benefit of buying second-hand clothing might not be straightforward but is important to take into account.
When new things are produced, they’re unfortunately almost always wrapped in packaging.
The packaging industry is huge!
And this $1 trillion industry is growing quickly as the world’s demand for consumer goods rises.
When buying something used in a second-hand store, you will probably not have any packaging around the item, which again reduces waste.
It’s the same situation when you’re buying something face-to-face from someone in your community.
Of course, if you order a used item online, it will come in packaging.
But it is often smaller and involves less plastic than most new things.
Many sellers will also reuse the packaging materials they already have.
For those reasons, buying something second-hand will most often involve less packaging.
So it will not contribute to this massive industry.
Practical tips for buying second-hand clothing
As we saw, buying second-hand clothing has so many environmental benefits!
It’s one of the best ways to make your wardrobe more sustainable!
If most of us bought things second-hand instead of new, that would make a massive impact.
That would be a huge step to save the planet!
Nowadays, we can buy almost anything second-hand.
Clothes, books, toys, electronics…
The list goes on and on.
But where to find these items?
There are many options for you to buy things pre-owned.
Check to see if there is a second-hand store or thrift shop in your area.
But if you can’t find what you’re looking for there, the Internet is an amazing resource!
There are many local buy-and-sell Facebook groups, and many websites like Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or Poshmark.
It has never been easier to buy clothing and other items second-hand than it is now!
You have no excuses.
But of course, for things like underwear or socks, you won’t want to buy them used.
In that case, make sure to get them from a sustainable clothing brand and stay away from those wasteful, unethical fast fashion companies.
And sometimes, you won’t find the exact thing you want second-hand.
But please check first if you can find what you’re looking for used.
Ask yourself the right questions, and only buy what you truly see yourself using and loving.
And don’t forget to take care of your things.
It’s not because something was cheap and bought used that you shouldn’t take care of it.
Check out my complete guide to making clothes last longer!
Final thoughts on the environmental benefits of buying second-hand clothing
There you have it!
I hope you learned something from this article about the environmental benefits of buying second-hand clothing!
Thrifting and second-hand shopping are not only great for reducing our impact, but they also make us save tons of money.
You should try it!
What are your favorite things to buy second-hand?
What are your best tips for buying second-hand clothing?
Let all of us know in the comments below!
If you want to get inspired to save the planet, read these 43 thought-provoking quotes about sustainable living.
Don’t forget to share this article with your friends so they too can discover the amazing environmental benefits of buying second-hand clothing!