Sustainability and it’s Classism issue

Sustainability has gained enormous traction in that last few years. Everybody wants to play their part in trying to make the world a better place. Being sustainable is a privilege that only few can partake in. The enormous pressure to be sustainable is ever growing yet those that are reported to suffer the most from the impacts of climate change have the least opportunities to attain a lifestyle of sustainability. Second hand shopping has become a fashion choice in itself. With middle class demographics and teens on the hunt for vintage fashion, charity shops have lost their original purpose of supplying affordable clothing to those that can’t afford to shops elsewhere. The explosive success of re-selling apps such as Depop and Schpock has lead to an increase of people shopping second hand. This has raised the price of second hand clothing over the years due to the increasing demand, which isn’t a bad thing environmental wise as more and more people are choosing to buy used items but it has disadvantaged those of a lower class who cannot afford second hand clothing anymore. Eco friendly clothing stores are popping up everywhere but there’s no denying that this way of shopping is unattainable to everyone when a sustainably made pair of underwear can reach £40 but you can buy a pack of 5 in Primark for £5.

Growing up my Dad was as obsessed with visiting charity shops as I am today, which has attributed to my interest. Every Sunday he would bike into town and come back with something he’d found which would be the topic of conversation for the next week. He didn’t shop second hand for the environment, he did it because it was cheap. We weren’t poor buy any means. Just a northern working class family. However, shopping for a family of 5, with 3 children who are growing out of their clothes every year meant annual trips to Primark with the odd second hand pair of shoes or a preloved coat thrown in here and there. We could get everything we needed in one trip and it was convenient. That’s the downside to shopping second hand. You don’t always strike gold. There’s been weeks and weeks of coming back home empty handed after after weekends of visiting the charity shops and searching on eBay. I would struggle to go out and find an entire outfit for one day, never mind clothing for an entire family. It takes time and it’s an acquired skill built up over time. You learn what to look out for in the shops, what’s worth the money, what are the key words to search for on eBay. It’s not an attainable activity for everyone. I feel my conscious effort to ditch fast fashion and buy second hand to help aid the planet back to recovery has become a hobby over the years rather than an ethical standpoint, as well as being affordable for me on a student budget. The pure rush of finding an item of clothing second hand for £2.50, whether that’s in Oxfam or on Ebay, that you’ve seen for £70 in Urban Outfitters is second to none. I can happily say that my wardrobe is 50% second hand at this point and I only buy clothing from fast fashion shops when absolutely necessary, which I haven’t done in about 6 months. It’s a plus that this hobby helps the planet and helps reduce textile waste which an estimated £140million worth of clothing gets sent to landfill every single year. But I have to recognise the privilege that I have to have the choice between shopping second hand because I want to and not because I have to.

With the influx of sustainability has followed a tirade of shamers. Those who are frustrated with fast fashion companies churning out clothing item after clothing item which in turn, is negatively affecting the planet. Photo’s being shared online of those queuing outside Primark followed by comments of disgust that people chose to shop so unethically. I wholeheartedly agree with the opinion that if you can shop second hand, then you should. But believing that everyone can shop sustainably is classist. Being able to shop second hand is a privilege. Being able to spend the time visiting charity shops is a privilege. Being able to find your size is a privilege and being able to afford sustainable fashion is a privilege. Sometimes, it makes sense to visit Primark. It’s convenient, cheap and has everything you need in one place. I’ll preach to the fifth about shopping second hand and all the gold i’ve found over the years but I still buy essentials from Primark. I don’t see that changing until sustainable clothing brands lower their prices and sustainable clothing is widely available for everyone and no demographics is being disadvantaged. This quote from The Quinnipiac Chronicle sums up my thoughts well, “Lower-income groups don’t have the time to stop and think about how they’re living because they’re too busy trying to live.”

Clothing brands are trying their best, such as H&M’s conscious clothing line and Primarks recycle scheme. However these options are unreliable due to greenwashing claims. In the grand scheme of things, buying new clothing items from anywhere is in itself is unsustainable when there are so many clothes that go to waste every year. But these issues are a post for another day. Putting pressure on the big corporations, which contribute more damage to the environment that someone shopping fast fashion does, will help to attain a greener future. Shaming those who have no option to chose fast fashion only attributes to the class divide. Let’s not shame the family of 4 down the road who frequently shop in Primark because that is all they can afford.

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