2019 marks the end of a decade that has seen debates about climate change, sustainability and the future of the planet. These global crises can seem overwhelming to the individual and it isn't always clear what we can do to make a change. Here at whatCharity we advocate for international consumption; we want to champion sustainable living this 2020. We are going to be talking about sustainability a lot in the coming weeks. Kicking it off, we want to celebrate all things charity shop!

With over 11,200 charity shops in the UK alone, why is it that there is still a stigma attached to buying from them? We live in a society that has carefully crafted ideas about what's valuable and what's not, and with a fixation on all things new we keep the high street churning. However, by buying fast, we often fund the continuation of exploitative labour and damage the planet. 

It is thought that the estimated value of unused clothing in our wardrobes is around £30 billion, whilst an estimated £140 million worth of clothing goes straight to landfills every year. So if a huge chunk of our newly brought wares are going to waste anyway, we need to change the narrative of value!

Gone are the days where charity shops were caverns of one-armed dolls and board games from the last decade. By changing your consumption habits you can work towards making small sustainable steps and charity shops are a great place to start. 

  • There is a misconception that charity shops only sell used goods, but you can actually find brand new goods for a fraction of the price. Many companies donate goods as part of their charitable activity and charity shops are also filled with very lightly used items, so forget the January sales and head to your local charity shop for a bargain!

  • Charity shops are often treasure troves of really valuable items. It isn't rare to find a luxury designer item passed on from a local resident or trustees, so you might be able to find something most could only dream of owning first-hand. Even Mary Portas Queen of Shops now runs a string of charity shops on behalf of Save the Children, filled with high-end goodies!

  • Charity shops are great for finding gifts and the best thing about gifting charity-shop items is that the giving is two fold - you are supporting amazing causes and shopping for others. 

  • You can also find everyday clothes. Thrifting is not new, hipsters up and down the country have been in search of second hand clothing for a while but if we could make it a charitable trend too then we would be doing a great deal for those in need. 

But what really are the benefits of charity shopping?

  • The most obvious benefit of charity shopping is the savings you can make. Avoiding buying something new for a month and you could work your way to a trip abroad. It goes without saying what this could mean in the long term!

  • Charity shopping forces us to think ethically, in the UK we buy more clothes per person than any other country in Europe. Furthermore, according to Ethical Consumer, 'the average consumer buys 60% more clothing than 15 years ago, while less than 1% of the material used to produce garments is being recycled into new clothing.' Whilst the price tags in big name fast fashion stores may be appealing, the environmental impact is not. Statistics uncovered by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation reveal that annually, the textile industry emits more greenhouse gases than both maritime shipping and all international flights combined. Climate change has really been thrust into the forefront of social and political conversation and it's more apparent than ever that we need to be making lifestyle changes. 

  • By supporting charity shops, you are not only supporting their parent cause but also their employees. Charity shops often take on employees or volunteers that may have trouble finding work more generally, for example those that have been out of employment for a very long time or who are in disadvantageous circumstances. This means charity shops are a great feature of local community and can bring life changing help to those around.  

  • Charity shops recycle too! Between 2018-19, charity shops removed 339,000 tonnes of textiles from the waste stream (data from the Charity Retail Association.)