If you're already planning to update your interiors this September, have you considered getting involved in 'Second Hand September'? First established in 2019, the campaign was started by Oxfam to encourage people to only buy secondhand items for the entire month of September each year. But it’s not just about buying clothing and fashion accessories secondhand – we may not even realise that what we know as 'fast fashion' is also occurring in the homeware industry.
"Many now approach their homeware like their fashion choices – impulsive, seasonal and trend-led – which is creating a throwaway culture," says Harriet Pringle, founder of homeware marketplace app, Narchie.
Fast furniture, which is often cheaper to produce and buy, has meant that buying furniture is no longer seen as the investment that could and should last for several generations. "22 million pieces of furniture in the UK are either buried in landfill sites or incinerated. If we carry on buying brand new mass produced items, sadly these numbers will continue to rise," Harriet warns.
But there are several ways to change the way that we shop for our homes and ensure we shop more sustainably...
Secondhand has been making waves in the fashion world, from the surge in online secondhand shops (check out Re-Fashion where you can shop and donate pre-loved fashion) to Love Island partnering with eBay to encourage viewers to shop secondhand clothing. And we've seen it in interiors too: from IKEA launching its Buy Back initiative in 2021 (stores buy back old and unwanted IKEA furniture from customers, which is then resold in stores as secondhand items) to the slew of pre-loved online homeware stores, from Narchie to Haule.
With the cost of living rising and an increasing number of us having to be more considerate with how we spend and what we get for our money, secondhand shoppers are able to often find cheaper, good quality and more unique pieces, while also doing their part for the environment. Case in point, research has shown that the buyer of a secondhand table saves nearly a tonne of CO2 emissions compared with buying a similar one new, according to Narchie.
"Shopping secondhand homewares at Oxfam extends the life of items, which is better for the planet reducing waste and the emissions that contribute to the climate emergency," Lorna Fallon, Director of Retail at Oxfam, adds.
And, once you start shopping secondhand and seeing the type of quality and sheer variety that you can get for your money, it's likely you will continue to shop pre-loved home items beyond the 30 days of September.
Sometimes something will catch your eye at a charity shop, car boot sale or market but it may need a few adjustments or repairs to return it back to its former glory, or you may have a piece of furniture that could do with a new lease of life – that's where upcycling comes in.
Instead of buying new and the expense that comes with doing so, spending a tiny amount in comparison to add new handles, a fresh lick of paint, or reupholstering, can completely transform a piece of furniture or home decor.
"Recycling homeware can be complicated, as many items are constructed with a mixture of materials, which makes them difficult, and sometimes even impossible to recycle," Harriet says. "By re-using homeware we are reducing numbers ending up in landfill. Plus it means that there are fewer polluting resources being used to manufacture new items."
Sell or donate instead of throwing away
Whether you're moving into a new home where certain pieces of furniture no longer fit or you are redecorating a specific room or space, we should be thinking of our homeware items in the same way that we would other items that we no longer want or need. Given the various ways to sustainably part with clothing and make money in return (apps like Vinted, Depop and eBay), donating to your local charity shop, or even recycling – thinking the same way about homeware is key.
"Currently nearly a third of UK adults throw away furniture and homewares that are in great condition that could be reused or resold," Harriet explains. "Buying secondhand and vintage is the most sustainable way to shop for your home, as it gives new life to something that would otherwise be chucked away."
Shop from and support smaller sustainable brands
Supporting smaller, independent brands, artists, creatives and artisans, who either make items specifically to order or have smaller batch runs, can result in significantly less waste compared to mass produced items and a reduced carbon footprint.
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