Second-hand September

We’ve had Plastic Free July what now? Second-hand September! Also known as No New September. So, what is it and how can you take part?

What is it?

Simple. Started by the charity Oxfam, Second-hand September is a personal promise to not purchase anything new for the entirety of September. Of course, this doesn’t include food, we’re talking clothes, furniture and gadgets etc. Not only does this give you an opportunity to save some money, it also makes you re-evaluate your consumer habits and make use of what you already have.

Why are we doing it?

The fast fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters on our planet, from the gallons of water required in the processing of materials to the non-biodegradability of most synthetic fibres. Fast fashion brands also have a sordid history of human right violations, with dangerous working conditions and slave wages for most of their workers. There have also been reports of large fashion brands baling all of their old stock together and slicing it up to prevent it from being re-sold or donated.

Second-hand September is a good way of taking a stand against fast fashion and the current culture of disposability and cheap junk. If enough of us join this boycott, then it will send a serious message to these brands that they must start taking responsibility for their environmental impact.

So, what if something crops up that you don’t have the supplies for? Well there are two main options to consider before heading into town to peruse the shops.

1.      Ask friends and family.

Say you have a smart event that you need to attend, or you’ve been asked to help out with a bake sale. Instead of just buying a new outfit or stocking up on baking supplies just ask around to see if your friends and family have something that you could use. Most of the time someone that you know will have almost exactly what you’re looking for, and if not they may know someone who has.

2.      Check out your local charity shop

This is also a great way to support another good cause. Check out your local charity shops to see if they have what it is that you’re looking for. The bonus of this is that most of the items that you find in a charity shop won’t come with unwanted plastic or packaging.

Use this as an opportunity to connect with others, sharing clothes and other items. Try going to a local swap meet to see if you can pick up something special and maybe get rid of items that you haven’t used in a long time.

A Peak Inside The Christmas Bee Saver Kit

In my last post ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Wastemas’ I mentioned some charity presents that you could gift to your loved ones and help the world at the same time. One of those gifts is the Friends of the Earth Christmas Bee Saver Kit. I bought myself a kit as an early Christmas present and thought that it would be a good idea to show you guys what you can expect to get if you choose to donate.

A Bee Themed Christmas

When I first opened the pack I was met with a small blank Christmas card that I could send to a friend or family member as well as a matching sheet of bee-themed christmas wrapping paper. Both the wrapping paper and card were beautifully patterned but due to the fact that neither had a shine or glitter they are both fully recyclable and biodegradable.

Protecting the Bees

The main part of the bee saver kit was obviously the tools to help make your garden more bee friendly. The first was a small pack of wildflower seeds, come springtime these are a great way to add some colour to your garden and attract not just bees but butterflies as well. Next we have the handy bee saver guide which contains useful tips and tricks on how to actively help the bees, from building your own bee hotel to which flowers are the best for bees. And finally, one of my favourite parts of the kit was the bee identification poster, most people are unaware of just how many species of bee are actually out there and this is a great visual representation of what to look out for.

Friends of the Earth

Much like Greenpeace I feel like Friends of the Earth are one of those environmental charities that most people have heard of. However I also feel as though most people don’t know exactly what they do or how they can help Friends of the Earth to do what they do. Friends of the Earth are the main reason why the UK now has widespread doorstop recycling, they also have a focus on educating the public about environmental issues. As well as their Bee Saver kit Friends of the Earth also have a shop which include books, clothes and other kits the profits of which go towards helping run their worldwide campaigns.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Wastemas

It’s the season of giving, and by giving I mean needlessly consuming and spending, which let’s be honest is what Christmas has become. I’m not trying to be a party pooper, and seriously whichever holidays you celebrate I hope you have a great time, but try and remember what is important this time of year (and all other times of the year). Supporting each other, being with loved ones and helping those less fortunate.

There are plenty of ways in which you can still enjoy the holidays and reduce waste/ not buy into the consumerism culture.

  1. Think honestly about what it is that you need/want this holiday season.

I had real trouble finding things to ask for this year when my family members wanted to know what I want as a present, and that’s because i’ve rewired my thinking. Practicing mindful living has made me take stock of what is important materialistically in my life, and the answer is not a lot honestly. I live very comfortably as I am now, I don’t need new clothes, I don’t care about the latest gadgets anymore, so what is there to ask for?

How about asking friends and family to donate the money that they would normally spend on you to a charity? If you still want something to open then many charities provide ‘gifts’ this time of year. For example Friends of the Earth are giving out ‘Christmas Bee Saver Kits’ with a minimum donation of £12.

2. Think about gifts beyond what you can buy

  • Many people show their love through well thought out gifts that they know their family and friends will enjoy, and i’m not saying that we should stop that, but there are more ways of providing gifts than spending money on fancy new items.
  • Provide experiences – things such as experience days, trips, lessons etc – one of my most memorable gifts was when my nan bought me a ‘walk with hawks’ which allowed me to spend the day learning about and watching various birds of prey with a group of other enthusiasts.
  • Provide your time – why not gift your loved one with the promise of your time, whether it be the promise of helping them move/decorate, going out to the cinema together, having lunch. If you have children then why not create a little coupon book with things such as ‘a day of play’, or ‘mum cooks with me’ etc (I don’t know what kids like).
  • Make your gift – Some of my most treasured possessions are gifts that were handmade, for example the quilt that one of my best friends made for me for my 18th birthday, or the story that the same friend wrote for me one year. Don’t worry if you are not super creative, just putting the thought and time into making your gift will make it all the more meaningful.
  • Re-gift or buy second hand – Re-gifting gets a bad wrap (unintentional pun), but as long as your not giving it back to the person who originally gave it to you then I don’t see what the problem is. If you think that someone else will get more enjoyment and use out of something than you, and as long as it’s in a decent condition why not re-gift it? Also, look in charity and thrift shops for your gifts before buying new, you could find something extraordinary and you’ll be helping a good cause while you’re at it.
  • If you buy, buy local – Finally, buying new gifts should be a last resort in my opinion, but if you’re going to buy new then patronise your local businesses before you give your money to giant multinational corporations. The quality of the gift will often be higher because they have more to lose from shoddy workmanship, and the conditions in which the product is created will often be better because things are normally locally sourced and not from sweatshops.

3. Use this time to think of others

Why not donate your time/money/unneeded items to those less fortunate this holiday season? If you can’t do all three that’s fine but look for things to help out with.

  • Time – volunteer at a soup kitchen, help hand out blankets and food to the homeless, invite a lonely older person to your house for Christmas dinner (there are charities that will put you in touch with people who want that, don’t just pick up a random pensioner off the street). There are plenty of foundations that you can join that really need the extra help (all year round but especially during the cold months).
  • Money – make a donation to a charity, give money to the next homeless person you see (or if you don’t want to give them money then buy them a hot meal). But be vigilant about which charities you support, the Salvation Army will be making the rounds again this holiday season however I will personally never donate to them due to their harmful, anti-LGBT rhetoric and archaic values.
  • Unneeded items – many charities offer donation boxes for the homeless and the poor all around the world, why not check your cupboards for unneeded canned goods, toiletries (seriously sanitary towels etc are a godsend for these things), and even children toys. This is a great time to teach your kids about giving to those less fortunate and about how fortunate they themselves are. My old school used to do a christmas shoebox exchange where each child filled a box with old toys etc which were sent off to children in the third world.

How you can help:

Here are some links to various charities with advice on how you can help out this holiday season.

Money:

  • Friends of the Earth and their ‘Bee Saver pack’ – giving you the tools to help save the bees
  • KidsOut and their ‘Giving Tree’ – helping children who have escaped domestic violence
  • Unicef and their ‘Inspired Gifts’ – providing lifesaving supplies to children and communities around the world
  • Savethechildren and their ‘Virtual gifts’ – life changing gifts for children in third world countries
  • Refuge and their ‘Christmas gifts’ – give a christmas present to a woman or child that has escaped domestic violence
  • WWF and their ‘adopt an animal’ – protect an endangered animal and get a cuddly toy
  • Centrepoints and their ‘More than a gift’ – buy a homeless person christmas dinner, a gift, or a bed for the night
  • Impact and their ‘gift tokens’ – help restore a persons health and improve their life through medical funding

Time:

  • Crisis at christmas – volunteer to help run one of Crisis’ homeless centres, from cooking to counselling there is plenty that you can do
  • Age UK’s ‘telephone befrienders’ – Age UK are looking for people to have a 30 minute chat with a lonely older person once a week. Seriously just 30 minutes a week.

Unneeded items:

  • Local foodbanks – you can find out what is needed at your local food bank and help take part in the ‘reverse advent calender’ where you donate an item of food everyday in the run up to christmas.

Supporting Those Supporting The Earth

A few weeks ago I went to a christmas fair, mostly it was filled with stalls of handmade gifts, food and experience days. Overall it was a refreshing change from the commercialisation of modern day christmas.

Two stalls that I was particularly pleased to see were Bamboo Clothing and The Woodland Trust.

Bamboo Clothing do exactly as their names suggest, they create warm, outdoor and workout clothes out of bamboo. This includes socks, yoga clothes, shirts, trousers you name it. The great thing about bamboo is that it’s eco-friendly, easy to grow and durable. Bamboo clothing have their own blog page attached to their store which explains more fully the advantages of bamboo.

 

The Woodland Trust is a British charity that helps to protect our woodlands and has made tremendous bounds in getting ancient trees listed, which gives them the same rights as

listed buildings. In a nutshell it helps to prevent more of our forests from being cut down. The woodland trust also run a blog which is full of informative posts from facts about red squirrels to in depth descriptions of their current campaigns.

I signed up as a member of The Woodland Trust, and as such I was sent a welcome pack which included a leaf identification pack, a copy of their monthly magazine and a booklet containing all of the locations of current Woodland Trust protected areas. Every part of the welcome pack was recyclable and is a great way to inspire people to get back into nature.

The Negative Impact of Fast Fashion

The emergence of the fast fashion industry has not only caused an impact on most peoples bank accounts but also on the economy of the third world countries that supply this industry and on the environment as a whole.

Back in the 1950s and before there were a maximum of 4 seasons in the fashion calendar, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, or sometimes only two seasons, Winter and Summer (dress for the cold and dress for the warm). Now with the advent of fast fashion we have on average 52 seasons a year, this constant creation and movement of new clothes requires the growth of more materials, the use of more chemicals and results in more waste.

Most fast fashion companies outsource their production to members of third world countries because they know that they can pay them less and exploit lax health and safety laws, whilst touting about how they are helping these countries and their employees because ‘this way they have a job and are earning money’. Never mind that this money may not be enough to feed their family, or that their employees risk death and illness in these factories.

As well as causing a negative impact on the world environment, fast fashion also has an impact on our wallets. Whilst most high street shops offer their clothes for a good price, this quick change in stock often results in people buying more clothes than they need, often clothes that they will only wear once. There have also been reports of big name companies taking overstock and slicing it with packaging knives so that it cannot be resold or donated once new stock comes in, thus driving more sales.

So what to do?

Try shopping only when you know that you need something. I never window shop and only go into town when i’m looking for something in particular, this helps me to save money which then means that I can afford to buy something that I really want that is usually of higher quality and will therefore last longer. Also, moving my thinking from ‘I want that’ to ‘do I need that?’ has reduced the effect that advertising has on me. Instead of being sold on the lifestyle that these companies are claiming to provide, I now see adverts for what they are, a company trying to get my money by making me feel inferior.

Shop in charity shops. Whilst they may not always have what you want charity shops are a great place to find a bargain and you may stumble across a hidden gem. I’d been wanting a leather style jacket for ages but didn’t want to buy one from the high street, then whilst I was looking for a scarf in my local charity shop I stumbled upon a second hand leather jacket for £6! The other upside to supporting charity shops, other than the obvious, is that by buying at charity shops I can reduce the amount of things thrown away and I can extend a clothing’s lifespan.

Try making some stuff for yourself. Now this isn’t going to be for everyone, I enjoy sewing and making things so the prospect of making an outfit for myself is quite exciting, for some of you that is probably not your idea of fun and that’s okay. Dressmakers and tailors are still around and will make something for you that fits perfectly and will last longer than the cheap mass produced items.

For more information about the fast fashion world and the impact it has on the environment, third world countries and your own pocket then I highly recommend watching ‘The True Price’ on Netflix, it goes much more in-depth into the impact the fashion industry has and ways in which you can help combat it.