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 already heard of the motto “Reduce, reuse, recycle” as being one of the core values of sustainable living.
First, we should reduce the number of things that we consume. But then, we ought to 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 pre-owned.
Books. Furniture. Kitchen appliances. Toys and games. Cars. Decor pieces. Electronics. 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 them with you in this blog post about how second-hand shopping can save the planet!
1 – Second-hand shopping helps reduce waste
The most obvious environmental benefit of second-hand shopping is that we create less waste.
By buying something used, we are saving it from the 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-used 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. Scary, right?
That’s why we should reuse things as much as possible and buy things we need second-hand instead of new when possible.
2 – Buying used instead of new reduces pollution
The production of every new item has an impact on the environment and pollutes in some way.
Pollution can happen in 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 emit tons of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.
And 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 participates in global pollution. It is contributing to water, air, and land pollution.
So choosing to buy things second-hand instead of new is one of the best things you can do to help save the planet.
3 – Second-hand shopping 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 the use of 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 estimated that we only have 47 years of oil left if the world’s consumption levels stay the same.
Also, many natural resources aren’t sourced in an eco-friendly or ethical way. Here, I am thinking about unsustainable wood production.
It leads to the loss of wildlife habitats, destroys ecosystems, and threatens indigenous people’s lives.
The mining of crucial elements found in electronics also comes at very high social and environmental costs.
In 2019, humanity’s demand for the Earth’s natural resources exceeded what the planet could regenerate in that given year on July 29.
As an environmentalist, I find it horrifying! That’s why I support second-hand shopping to save the planet!
When you buy things second-hand, you are making sure that you are preserving natural resources. And you’re not supporting unethical nor unsustainable practices.
4 – Buying used instead of new decreases our water footprint
To live more sustainably, one of the key actions we can take is to save water in our everyday life.
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 are having 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 – Second-hand shopping saves energy
To produce material goods, we also need a lot of energy to have operating machines and factories.
To create electricity, we may be using coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear energy, or other kinds of energy sources.
So by not buying new things and preferring second-hand items 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 around one-fourth of the world’s total energy consumption.
This includes passenger travels as well but freight still represents a big percentage. That is why not creating a demand for new items will save energy.
6 – Buying used reduces the demand for the packaging industry
This one might not be straightforward but is important to take into account.
When new things are produced, they’re unfortunately almost always wrapped in packaging.
That may not be true for clothes or books, but it certainly is for electronics, toys, decor items, appliances, and other household items.
The packaging industry is huge!
And it’s growing quickly as the world’s demand for consumer goods rises. It should reach more than one trillion dollars by 2024.
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 packaging 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 second-hand shopping
As we saw, second-hand shopping is a lot better for the environment than buying things new.
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 Craigslist, eBay, or Poshmark.
It has never been easier to buy things 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.
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.
Also, keep in mind to be intentional when purchasing anything to avoid impulse buying. I recommend that you only buy what you truly see yourself using and loving.
And don’t forget to take care of things. It’s not because something was cheap and bought used that you shouldn’t take care of them.
There you have it! I hope you learned something from this article about how second-hand shopping can save the planet!
Second-hand shopping is not only great to reduce our impact, but it also makes us save tons of money. You should try it!
Are you already shopping second-hand when you need something? What are your favorite things to buy used?
I’d love to know, tell me in the comments below!