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 get holes in or fall out of fashion.  Household items are replaced when they fail.  Internet shopping makes the whole consumer experience even less painful. 

Yet the stuff we consume in our households is responsible for up to 60% of global carbon emission.[1]  Buying one new t-shirt can be the equivalent of 2 or 3 days energy use.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] On top of this, over 120 million trees are cut down every year to grow our clothes.[5]

People who have moved towards buying no new stuff say that they have saved money, reduced their dependence on a consumerist culture, and have made closer connections with their community through swapping and buying second hand. 

So, what can you do?

Mending

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.[6]  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.[7]  There are increasing moves towards a “right to repair”.[8]  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.

Going without

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?

Want to find out more? Explore these articles and websites for more information.

Explore the trend of  “visible mending”.

Remember, make do and mend is nothing new!

The Freecycle network has groups all over the UK where you can donate and find stuff for free.

The Restart Project aims to help people to learn how to repair electronics – they’re based in London but spreading…

Try your local jumble sale or organise a “swishing” party. Find out more here.

The London Bike Kitchen offers DIY repairs for bikes.

The Wick Curiosity Shop offers a tool library.

In Crystal Palace you can borrow anything from a badminton set to a tea urn.

I went 200 days buying nothing new…

What is the Carbon Footprint of my outfit?

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