With charity shops now able to open up after months of uncertainty, we wanted to remind you why you should switch to second-hand shopping.

In the UK, £140 million worth of clothing is put in landfill each year. What you may not know is that the majority of returned online orders that didn’t quite fit or had a missing stitch are also sent exactly the same way. The fast fashion industry directly impacts our planet. Monumentally, the carbon footprint of textile production, at a staggering 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2, is even larger than that produced by airplanes on international flights and shipping combined.

Charity shops directly combat this and provide a savvy, stylish and sustainable solution. Recycling is not just for our rubbish – but our clothing and household items too. In 2019, 339,000 tonnes of textiles alone were kept out of landfill as a result of charity retail, not to mention the thousands of pounds saved in landfill tax able to be redirected towards more deserving causes. In the current climate of environmental crisis, we need all the help we can get.

The good news is – you can play your part.

Not only can you revamp your wardrobe with some vintage pieces, you can minimise your own carbon footprint whilst donating to charity – and all on a budget. With many items in our shops sold for 99p, the average customer transaction value in a charity shop is just £4.05 – a steal when you might walk out of your favourite high street shop with the exact same item having spent at least 10 times more. Moreover, you can have a clean conscience knowing that your item hasn’t been mass produced in a factory at the expense of an underpaid worker but rather, has an entire unique history behind it.

Since the 1990s, the number of charity shops in the UK has soared to an astonishing 11,000; and their role in society is now more important than ever. In previous years charity shops have raised more than £295m for a range of causes in the UK. However, like lots of shops on the high street charity shops have taken a huge hit due to the pandemic and so need second hand shoppers now more than ever.

Tracey Allwright, a district manager at Claire House, explains the enormous part these shops play for both younger and older demographics.
‘Not only do charity shops offer valuable recycle opportunities, they allow people to be a part of the community. Our shops are a really big place for older volunteers. Sometimes the charity shop is some people’s only connection with the outside world. Having a connection with the staff and engaging with what’s going on is so important for their own wellbeing’.

The benefits are as important to older volunteers as the younger ones. Charity shops provide employment opportunities to the unemployed, giving them invaluable retail experience whilst also allowing them to give back to society. Gone is the stigma of the old shop filled with unfashionable cast-offs reserved for the older generation only; these shops are now slick and trendy, teeming with the likes of teenagers and university students aplenty. Now, even mainstream high street shops like Topshop have seen the value in vintage clothing, introducing clothing lines like Blue Rinse in stores – all items that can be bought for a fraction of the price in a charity shop.

‘Whatever happens on mainstream retail, happens first in charity retail. The bonus is we can actually make a difference with the money we raise through our shops.‘ – Tracey Allwright

Not only is it trendy for clothing, but many charity shops stock furnishings, crockery, electrical appliances, CDs and records too; an item in particular making their way back into popularity. Here at Claire House, we also encourage anyone and everyone of all ages to donate. In a time where many of us are in lockdown at home, we hope this inspires you to put this abundance of time to good use – consider a wardrobe cleanout and become more intentional in your shopping and recycling choices.

And, if you have a bit of extra time on your hands, consider volunteering too! Claire House are always looking for enthusiastic, friendly volunteers to help out in our shops. By playing your part, you can inspire positive change for the environment and make a difference in your own local community! Contact volunteering@clairehouse.org.uk or visit Volunteering At Claire House | Claire House Children’s Hospice for more information.

Jamie-Lee Nicholson – Claire House Volunteer Research Assistant