A growing movement eschews fast fashion in favour of secondhand clothing. Is this the biggest personal change that can be made for the environment?
Lauren Cowdery is flicking through the rails of the Cancer Research charity shop in Goole, east Yorkshire. “Too bobbly!” she tuts at a ribbed top. “This skirt is big but it would be easy to take in … ” Cowdery appears to be shopping, but she is merely browsing. She is on a mission not to buy any new clothes, even ones that have recently belonged to someone else. “I think you have to pull back and ask: ‘Do I need this?’” she says.
Cowdery is one of a growing number of people who love clothes but try their hardest to resist buying them for reasons of sustainability. According to the charity Wrap, which promotes sustainable waste management, the average lifetime for a garment in the UK is just 2.2 years. An estimated £30bn of unused clothing hangs in UK wardrobes, and yet still we shop for more. “Each week we buy 38m items and 11m items go to landfill,” says Maria Chenoweth, chief executive of Traid, a charity working to stop clothes being thrown away. “We don’t have enough resources to keep feeding this monster.”