Why we must also buy new


Buying second-hand garments is an important part of sustainable fashion. In fact, some sustainability advocates will suggest that a sustainable wardrobe should only contain second-hand items. And with good reason. “According to the EPA, Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of textile waste per person per year, and clothing and other textiles represent about 4% of municipal solid waste. But the figure is rapidly growing.” By incorporating a significant proportion of second-hand garments in your wardrobe you can help to reduce the amount of usable clothing which ends up as waste.

However, this is only one side of the issue. I believe that it is also critical that sustainably-conscious shoppers buy some proportion of new garments for their wardrobe. It doesn’t need to be a large proportion of your shopping, but it is important that we all commit to supporting sustainable fashion labels that have sustainably produced new garments.

Why this is so important? The current industrial fashion system churns out countless poor quality ‘throw away’ garments, designed to be worn and discarded as fast as the trends change. More and more, the clothing that ends up in our thrift stores is not designed to last beyond a few wears. On the one hand, buying these discarded garments ensures that this resource isn’t wasted entirely. But increasingly, your second-hand purchases won’t last you very long before you are forced to retire them to cleaning rags, compost or landfill. So on the other hand, buying second hand garments will not enable create a long lasting wardrobe. Neither will it give the fashion industry an imperative to change.

There are a number of quality sustainable conscious labels who refuse to behave as wastefully as conventional fashion brands do. As environmentally and socially conscious consumers it is important that we choose to invest our consumer dollar in these sustainable alternatives. If not, then there will be no demonstration that profitable alternatives to the wasteful norm do exist. We must balance the need to minimise the damage of the old system, with the critical importance of building new alternatives.

Of course, it is critical that we learn to live with less and only buy what we need. But when you do need something, consider new garments for some of your purchases, to support the development of genuinely sustainable alternatives to the fast fashion norm.

What about you? Where do you stand on this issue? I’d love you to share your thoughts in the comments below.


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If you want to learn how to shop sustainably, how to assess a fashion label’s ethics and sustainability credentials, how to shop for a sustainable wardrobe on a small budget, and much much more, 6 Steps to a Sustainable Wardrobe is for you.



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  • This is so true! I was literally explaining this to someone just the other day. I had written an article myself about how to shop ethically and how to find out sustainability information about brands. Someone commented that shopping ethically is not the answer to changing the system. However, I argued that we need to support these businesses and their innovative ideas that they have to revolutionise the current textile industry. I try to buy second hand, but it is not always possible. For me, an ideal world would be when the garment industry was a zero waste industry. But until then, people only have the choice between second hand, fast fashion and these great sustainable, eco-friendly labels. Or they can stop shopping, which will never happen!

    • I completely agree. Even if we are minimalists we still need some stuff in our lives. We still wear clothes. So we will always needs to buy some stuff. I have found that since wearing fewer items, they wear out faster. So even though I am not buying much, I still need to but a few garments every year. Those purchases can be seen as too small to make a differnece, or they can be used to consciously create alternatives. I believe that everything we do can make a difference. Small acts will create ripples so we should do everything that we can to keep choosing those small positive acts each day