Could you buy nothing new for the whole of Lent?
Imagine buying nothing new. Excluding food, medicines and basic toiletries, could you spend Lent mending, borrowing, buying second-hand, or going without?
We live in a throwaway society. Fast fashion means that clothes are often cheap and cheerful, thrown away when they grow holes or fall out of fashion. Household items are replaced when they fail. Internet shopping allows us to order anything we want with a simple click of a button, making it quicker and easier than ever to accumulate more ‘stuff’.
Yet this stuff we consume in our households is responsible for up to 60% of global carbon emission. Buying one new t-shirt can be the equivalent of 2 or 3 days energy use. Even without the cost of running washing machines or using electrical goods, the carbon impact of producing the things we consume is significant.
From cradle to grave, the carbon impact of a simple outfit of jeans, t-shirt, jacket, trainers (and underwear of course!) is the equivalent of driving from London to Paris. And it’s not just carbon emissions – the significant consumption of natural resources contributes to the impact of clothing on the planet too. It takes 20,000 litres of water to grow one kilogram of cotton, a process which also often contributes chemicals and pollutants to local eco-systems. On top of this, over 120 million trees are cut down every year to grow our clothes.
PPeople who have moved towards buying no new stuff say that they have saved money, reduced their dependence on a consumerist culture, have learnt new skills, and have made closer connections with their community through swapping and buying second-hand .
So, what can you do?
The carbon cost of the production of a pair of jeans is estimated to be (excluding use costs and disposal) is approximately 1.2 kg of carbon dioxide. . Instead of disposing of them, why not brush up on your sewing skills and perhaps explore the new trend of “visible mending”?”?
Many electrical goods have built in obsolescence and manufacturers can be obstructive in helping people when their machines break down. There are increasing moves towards a “right to repair”. In the meantime, local groups have started training sessions to give people the skills to do simple repairs. Others offer directories of tradespeople who can under-take repairs.
Swapping or borrowing
There’s no point in buying a hedge trimmer if the person in the next road owns one. And imagine the delight of borrowing an outfit for a fancy party instead of having to buy one. Many communities have set up Facebook “Sell or Swap” groups or Freecycle. Try finding a local group who can help you out. Or you could even host your own “Swishing” party – swapping clothes with friends!
In the past few years there has been increasing trend towards buying second-hand. In a recent poll of 1500 respondents 45% said they would buy pre-owned clothes, and 20% said they currently buy second-hand clothes on a regular basis . Buying second-hand clothing can be fun and exciting than shopping for your usual high street brands. It gives you the opportunity to bring new life to an item of clothing as well as create your own unique style as chances are you’ll be wearing an item that very few other people have! Why not pop into a local charity or vintage shop? Or you can also buy second-hand without leaving the comfort of your own home by shopping on second hand websites or sites such as Ebay, D-pop or Re-Fashion.
This is perhaps the biggest challenge: sometimes we may be called to refuse to get on the consumerist roundabout. Might there be times this Lent when we can decide to go without something new?
What difference will it make?
Consuming more than we need is creating a demand for ‘stuff’ that the planet simply cannot cope with. In the UK, consumption of new clothing far exceeds our European neighbours. We consume 26.7kg of new clothing per capita . This compares to 16.7kg in Germany, the European country with the second highest rate of consumption . Because of this overconsumption, the UK disposes of over one million tonnes of clothes a year, increasing our carbon emissions and depleting our natural resources significantly . To make a dent in our environmental footprints we need to buy less, seek second-hand alternatives, mend and borrow more. If the UK was to increase our sales of second hand clothes by 10% we could reduce our total footprints clothing carbon footprint by 3% and our clothing water footprint by 4% .
Taking on this challenge for lent is not about saying that we will never purchase anything new ever again, but it’s about encouraging us to shift our mind set about consumption. It’s about looking at how we can cut back on wasteful consumption and changing the way we look at the stuff we already own. Our hope is that after 40 days of not buying anything new, we will now consider more carefully than before our consumption habits, seeking to look for alternative and more sustainable options before purchasing anything new.
Want to find out more? Explore these articles and websites for more information: