Second Hand September: Pre-loved shopping for more than just clothes
If you read our post on what to look for in a sustainable fashion brand, you’ll know that buying second-hand clothes is a more eco-friendly choice than buying new. To encourage people to be more mindful of their shopping choices, Oxfam introduced Second Hand September in 2019. The campaign’s aim is to raise awareness of the impact fashion, and particularly fast fashion, has on the environment.
Participants pledge to buy only second-hand clothes for 30 days or more, in an effort to build longer-term sustainable shopping habits.
Continually making new products depletes our planet’s resources as well as adding to emissions and causing more waste. So, if you’re already buying entirely or mostly second-hand clothes, but would still like to participate in Second Hand September, our ideas are here to help.
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Second Hand September idea #1 – don’t shop at all
I know we’re starting with a pretty extreme example, but avoiding shopping for anything non-essential is a very powerful way to start to change your shopping habits forever. We’re not saying that you can’t go out food shopping, or buy your children shoes if they need them. But if you have the tendency to just buy something because you like the look of it, walking away (or closing your browser) is the most planet-friendly action you can take.
Money saving tip
This can also be a huge money saver! A while back, I decided to consciously shop only for essentials. Every time I was out shopping or browsing online, I would think to myself “do I really need this?”. If the answer was no, I didn’t buy it. I then transferred the money into my savings account. At the end of the month I had saved £124!
The list of what I avoided included clothes, multiple take-away deliveries, toys I knew my children would lose interest in and a beautiful notebook that I didn’t need at the time but is now on my Christmas list! It really made me aware of how much I just mindlessly buy each month, and seeing the money accumulate in my savings was really motivating. So maybe this year make Second Hand September into “buy nothing September”. I know it doesn’t have the same ring to it, but it does feel good!
More reasons to buy second-hand this September
If you need a little more detail on why second-hand shopping this September (and beyond!) is a great idea, here are a couple of reasons why buying something pre-loved is so good.
Second-hand items have a story
There’s nothing like knowing an item you’ve bought has a history. Every pre-loved piece has been on a different journey, loved by different people. I don’t know if it’s just the old romantic in me, but I love the idea of someone having loved and treasured something before it’s passed on to me.
Depreciation is a money pit!
Many brand new higher-value items such as cars, bikes, electronics and appliances start to depreciate in value the second you buy them. By buying nearly-new or good condition used items, you could save thousands of pounds in some instances, or be able to afford something a little more high-spec than its new counterpart.
Commonly available second-hand items
There are lots of items that are readily available on the second-hand market and could help bag us a bargain, and protect the planet at the same time:
- Cars – although this does depend on how old the car you’re buying is and what its emissions are like
- Electronics and tech products
- Kitchen and household appliances
- Bikes (particularly for children, who grow out of theirs fast!)
- Children’s toys – although remember some older toys may not have been through the same safety tests as more modern toys. So keep an eye out for items that might be flammable or contain plastic that could be harmful.
Buying second-hand gifts for birthdays or Christmas also has less judgement attached to it than it used to. This is especially true when children are involved. Young children in particular have no concept of whether something is new or not. The fact it’s new to them is all that matters.
The same can work in reverse, too. Children tend to lose interest or grow out of their toys over time. So by offering them for sale you’re prolonging their lifespan, bringing joy to another child and making a little money for this year’s presents too!
Second Hand September ideas – some things you might not have considered buying used
Whilst the list above is full of things that have a thriving second-hand market, there are still plenty of items that you don’t always have to buy new.
Dog toys and bedding
As we explained in our eco-friendly dog owners post, you can make your canine companion a little more planet-friendly by trying to buy upcycled or second-hand toys and bedding. You can even make something yourself using items of clothing you no longer wear, but your dog will love to lay on. Mainly because they smell of you!
Weddings are expensive and can have a huge impact on the planet, too. Making a wedding dress takes a huge combination of fabric (which uses water and energy to manufacture), labour and transport.
Whilst a lot of people like to keep hold of their wedding dress for sentimental reasons, that hasn’t stopped a thriving pre-loved market. So if you’re due to tie the knot, have a look at second-hand before shelling out for a brand new dress.
Party and event decor & equipment
Lots of people will invest in bunting, decorations and even crockery for parties, events or weddings. As a lot of these are themed, or one-off events, there’s a chance you might be able to find exactly the package of supplies you need for your own event on the second-hand market.
I love this one! There is a growing trend in Japan for people to sell their high-end luxury goods to fund holidays, meals out or new luxury items. Therefore, the second-hand luxury goods market, particularly for designer handbags, is thriving. Unused or unwanted bags go to a good home, whilst allowing the previous owner to have something they might not have thought was previously viable.
This also means that if you’re in the market for a designer handbag, you can pick one up at 50% or less of the original cost. And because handbag lovers are generally very careful to look after their bags, they’re usually in amazing condition, too.
Furniture is another very pricey area, especially if you’ve moved into a home that needs furnishing from top to bottom. If you’re on a budget or want to help keep some used furniture in use for a bit longer, try scouring online auction sites, large local charity shops and Facebook marketplace for a bargain. If something isn’t quite to your taste, you can always use it as an upcycling project to make something truly one-of-a-kind.
Another thing we don’t always have to buy new is a watch. Mechanical watches are built to last, and as they can be seen as a status symbol, many people will replace their watch fairly regularly. Used smart watches offer a more affordable and sustainable way to get something new and exciting on your wrist, and people will often sell them if they change phones or aren’t using them as much as they expected.
Now, there’s nothing new about buying second-hand books, but a particular area that has seen a huge rise in popularity is university textbooks. They’re really expensive to buy new, and most students won’t need them after they’ve graduated. Selling used textbooks on online marketplaces is a great way to make a bit of cash, and buying second-hand makes so much sense for students who might not have the disposable income to buy new.
If you still have a CD player, you could be in luck when it comes to adding to your music collection. The rise of online streaming services has meant that people are moving away from physical media. Many people are finding that they need to clear space in their homes and can’t justify their CD collection anymore. So search for “CD bundle” on your local marketplace or auction site and marvel at all the bargains.
Old sewing machines
Like mechanical watches, old sewing machines, particularly the iconic Singer brand, are much-loved and still wanted. The new, computer-based machines are really clever and can perform impressive tasks, but sometimes this can be too much. If digital sewing machines are a bit complex and you just want to thread the needle, pump the pedal and sew, the second-hand sewing machine market is probably for you.
Because of the seasonal, cyclical nature of gardens, many people find they have surplus pots, ornaments and even garden tools available to sell. Pots and planters in particular are reusable many times, and the rustic nature of a used pot over a new one is often more fitting in a country garden or on an urban balcony.
Sporting & exercise equipment
Exercise equipment takes up a lot of space, so when people have a clear out, often it’s the exercise bike in the corner that needs to go most urgently. Or maybe they had a full garage-based gym but now they need to reclaim the space. In any case, because people like to shift large items fast, it can often lead to some bargains and even freebies!
The same goes for sporting equipment – many people find that they start a new sport and then fall out of love with it. This means you can pick up nearly-new equipment really cheaply.
How many of us have resolved to learn to play a musical instrument, only for it to gather dust in the corner? I know I have. I hung onto a lovely green guitar and amp for years before I finally let it go to someone who would actually play it. And do you know what? Getting rid of it removed that sense of guilt every time I looked at it and remembered my broken resolution. Musical instruments are some of the most widely available second-hand items. So it’s definitely worth checking out what’s available if you are thinking of starting to play.
Yes, you read that correctly. There is even a market for used dentures! I’m not sure how I’d feel about this, but there seems to be a demand!
Second Hand September (and beyond) – where to buy used items
If you have a list of things to buy, and you’re now thinking of buying second-hand, try the following:
Car boot sales
A British institution, the car boot sale is a well-known place to pick up second-hand items. Whilst you may not be able to go with a particular item in mind, if you go with a list, chances are you’ll tick some of it off.
One of the most well-known of second-hand shopping sources, charity shops not only help the planet and save you money, they also donate their proceeds to helping others. Remember, charity shops don’t just sell clothes. You can also get furniture, toys, books and kitchenware, to name a few.
Social media marketplaces
Joining local Facebook buy and sell groups and browsing online marketplaces is another great way to source second-hand goods. Many of these also allow you to post “wanted” notices so you can ask the community if they have exactly what you need.
Ebay & other auction sites
Ebay is still one of the go-to places for pretty much anything you can think of on the second-hand market. Sellers are required to disclose an item’s condition and if you have any doubts, you can always ask questions before you buy.
Organise a Second Hand September community yard sale
This is an idea I have seen growing in popularity. Communities come together to host a sale from each of their driveways or gardens on the same day. This means buyers can come and have a look at multiple households’ offerings in one go. Oh, and you can shift some clutter whilst having a nose at what your neighbours have that you might need!
Things to generally avoid buying second hand
Second Hand September is all about buying mindfully and sensibly. Generally speaking, anything that could harbour bacteria that can’t be sterilised is usually a no-go for second-hand shopping. That said, you can always use your discretion if you know where your item has come from. Here are a few things to avoid or check very carefully when buying used:
- Mattresses (particularly for newborn cots and cribs). Used cot mattresses pose an increased risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) so should generally be avoided. Adult mattresses should be bought only from trusted sources as bed bugs can live for months in them and are very difficult to get rid of.
- Infant and child car seats. Again, unless you know exactly where your used car seat has come from and can be sure it’s not been in a collision, it’s best avoided. Even car seats that have been taken in the hold of an aircraft can have their safety compromised, so buy with care!
- Bike helmets. Second-hand bike helmets have the same safety concerns as car seats and should be replaced every three years anyway, so this is one thing that’s usually best bought new.
- Makeup. Used or old makeup can harbour bacteria that can cause infections. That said, unopened or sealed makeup should be fine so don’t be put off entirely.
Second Hand September – your favourite purchases
We can’t wait to share our second hand purchases with you on our Facebook and Instagram pages this Second Hand September. We’d love to see yours too. Head over to our social media and either tag us or send us a picture by DM. We will share the best ones with the Ailuna community