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As we discussed in episode two of the EarthRights podcast, the fast fashion industry has a detrimental impact on both the planet and on humans.

Knowing this, Mel and I have both made a conscious decision to boycott this industry by choosing to shop sustainably. But achieving this can seem difficult, shopping sustainably can be expensive, the discourse can be confusing, and making an informed choice can seem impossible. Yet shopping sustainably doesn’t have to cost the earth – literally and metaphorically – so here are our top tips to shopping sustainably on a budget…

1. Shopping in charity shops – this might be an obvious one to start with but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve recognition. Shopping in charity shops is an amazing way to find clothing that is not only a) cheap, b) reusing something that would otherwise go to landfill but c) supporting a charity – what’s not to love! 

I personally love to go charity shopping on my own, I will visit a new town or even my local village, listen to some music or a podcast and spend time looking through the shelves. Charity shopping requires a bit of creativity, sometimes seeing racks and racks of clothes in colour coded order can seem a bit uninspiring, but if you look carefully and imagine the clothing item in a different context then you can find a real treasure and something that is unique to you! My top tip would be to look at the material composition of each piece of clothing, I tend to stay away from man-made fabrics such as polyester, not only do these not feel as nice to wear but they also won’t last as long.

2. Shopping second hand online – not only is shopping second-hand online great during the pandemic when we can’t get to physical shops, but it is also another way to find a great bargain.

Places such as Depop, Ebay, Asos marketplace, Facebook marketplace and Vestiaire collective are some of the most popular places. It can be hard to browse these websites, so my top tip would be to search for something specific, are you looking for a new coat? Search the exact colour, size and shape of coat that you’re looking for and you will be amazed at what comes up fitting your exact description.

3. Shopping second hand on Instagram – Over the past couple of years there has been a growth in the number of people who have set up online businesses selling second hand or vintage clothing on their websites or on instagram. This can be a great way to be inspired and see an intriguing and curated selection of vintage treasures. Some of my favourite accounts are AudreyLeightonVintage, Pine and Treasure and retold_vintage.

4. Shopping at markets or car boot sales – This is another way to shop that although might need a bit of creative imagination is a great way to get yourself a bargain and something totally unexpected. Suss out your local car boot sale or head to a more popular market such as Camden and Brick lane in London. In the pandemic, some of these markets have even started selling things online, so make sure to check that out too!

5. Look after the clothes you already have – using natural or non-biological washing powders is a great way to look after your clothes to make sure you can keep them for years to come. Not only are natural washing detergents better for your skin and the clothes themselves, but they are also better for the water!

6. Mend or alter clothes if they are not right – if your jeans get a hole in them, or you buy a pair of trousers second hand that are a bit too long, instead of throwing them away, just mend or alter them!

Learning how to do this yourself would be an amazing way to learn a new skill and save money, but also don’t be afraid to go to your local seamstress. Having clothes altered or tailored to fit you is nothing to be afraid of, it isn’t usually very expensive and will make your clothes fit and therefore feel better, meaning you will wear them more!

7. Do clothes swaps with your friends – if you’re having a big wardrobe clear out, instead of throwing your unloved clothes away or donating them to charity, why not post them to a friend for them to try! This is a great way to recycle your clothes but also a really nice way to surprise your friend with an unexpected package.

Fashion can be a great way of expressing yourself, perking yourself up or just generally providing you with a bit of retail therapy, at EarthRights we don’t want to spread a message not to have fun with the clothes you wear, but we just want to encourage you to be conscious with how you shop and to look after the clothes you already have.

Shopping this way is not only good for the planet, humans and your wallet, but it will also help you to find a unique style by avoiding trends and searching for pieces that you truly love! 

Most of our suggestions listed above are related to REUSING clothes and re-circulating them, instead of buying new ones. In another post, we look at the responsibility of governments and businesses to be totally transparent and how transparency should be a key indicator for where you buy new clothes.

Listen to Episode 2

EarthRights’ outfits:

Doc Martens – I bought these new about three years ago, but if you look after them they will last a lifetime (I recently took mine to Timpsons to fix a hole that was appearing at the back)
Levi’s jeans – bought at Blue Rinse Vintage in Manchester for £25. Top tip when buying vintage jeans, find out what your size is in inches and then check the rail for that size.
Shirt – This was bought in Zara so although not very sustainable in practice, I bought this in 2013 when I was in sixth form – eight years ago – if you look after your high-street clothes those too can last a lifetime!
Jumper – this jumper was my Mum’s, she shrank it in the wash so it no longer fitted her but passed it onto me!
Two Piece Suit – I bought this from the Vintage Thrift Store in Bristol the day after I had lost my purse and ID in a club… I was feeling sorry for myself so I went to the bank, got some cash out, and ended up buying this Vivien Smith suit!
Boots – second hand for £15 from White Rose Recycled Fashion store in Nottingham.
Dress – bought from Cow Vintage in Brighton for £20.
Converse – bought new, but again if you look after them they will last a lifetime!
Scarf – £15 bought from a local seller at a market on holiday in Cornwall.
Trench coat – bought from Ebay, £20 from a brand called Ipekyol.
As you can see in these pictures, this dress can be layered with a coat and scarf, or worn as a summer dress with sandals. Don’t be afraid of styling your summer dresses with a jumper and a coat.
Top – used to be a playsuit from H&M, but because I never wore it, I separated the top from the bottom and hemmed it to make a new top.
Trousers – a friend found some knackered material in a charity shop and told me to use the it, so I made these trousers with my grandma’s help. Down the side, we created button holes so that ribbon can be threaded through them.
Black scarf – hand-me-down from my Mum
Faux fur coat – French vintage faux fur coat, brand, Tissavel, £20 bought in a charity shop in Oxford
Sunglasses – £2 bought in a charity shop, old M&S.
Pippa Neill

Co-founder and Co-producer