Many of us are uncomfortable about buying second-hand. We fear that used items will be in poor condition, or are squeamish about using someone else’s castoffs. Often, we only buy second-hand when we need to save money.
But I think buying second-hand is very important for a variety of reasons – so much so that I go out of my way to do so whenever possible. Here’s why.
Producing goods uses resources like fossil fuels and water. Our planet’s resources are finite, and we are already seeing the consequences. Buying second-hand helps to alleviate this burden. Additionally, there already so many unwanted products in the world. Second-hand clothes shops sometimes receive so many clothes that they can’t sell them all, and instead end up sending some to developing countries. The clothes then find their way to marketplaces. They are sold cheaply, putting local people who make clothes out of business.
Many unwanted items never find a second home at all, but instead end up in landfill sites. This is problematic as we are running out of landfill space. Also, some things don’t biodegrade, meaning they’ll be around for a very long time. Clearly, this is not a sustainable way to live. So instead of buying something new, why not try saving something from the tip?
There are numerous ethical issues with buying mass-produced goods. When we buy a £3 t-shirt from Primark, we rarely wonder why it is so cheap. But low prices may mask appalling human rights issues in the supply chain. Conditions for garment workers are notoriously awful, and even our technology may be the product of child labour.
Meanwhile, there are animal rights issues with products like leather and down. When we buy new, our money often ends up supporting unethical and exploitative practices. Though there are some ethical and transparent companies out there, their products are often very expensive. It’s good to support these companies if we can, but buying second-hand is cheaper and arguably more ethical, since no new resources are used.
Where do I find second-hand goods?
Are you convinced? If so, the next thing on your mind may be where to find the things you need second-hand. Here are some suggestions – some obvious, others less so.
- Ask around. Unless you’re looking for something very specific, chances are someone will have an unwanted one lying around.
- eBay, Gumtree etc. Perhaps the most obvious choice – you can find virtually anything on eBay.
- Second-hand shops. Second-hand shops like charity shops are my personal favourite. It’s fun to browse them and you never know what you might stumble across. I get all my clothes and homeware from charity shops (other than hand-me-downs), along with the occasional book or CD (usually, I use the library for books and streaming for music). And it’s a bonus that your money often goes to a good cause.
- Car boot sales/jumble sales. These are less common nowadays, but you may find some good deals there.
- Facebook groups. There are lots of Facebook groups dedicated to buying and selling things very cheaply. They tend to be specific to certain areas.
- Freecycle. This excellent website is dedicated to giving away unwanted possessions which otherwise would probably go to waste. You will need a way of picking up larger items, however.
What about things I can’t find second-hand?
Obviously, not everything can be bought second-hand. So what can you do to minimise your impact when buying new?
If possible, buy from ethical companies that treat workers well, have a transparent supply chain and use eco-friendly materials. But if not, do your best to buy high-quality things which will last a long time – that way, you won’t need to replace them too often. I recently did this when I bought a safety razor, which hopefully will last me many years and will allow me to reduce the waste I produce.
Do you have any comments, questions or tips when it comes to buying second-hand? Feel free to leave them below.