Smart consumerism over secondhand "spreedom"

Smart consumerism over secondhand ‘spreedom’

We all love a bargain – who doesn’t! When you shop secondhand you’ll be sure to bag yourself a bargain or two. However, we want to delve into the issue behind consumerism. Whilst shopping secondhand is always seen to be better than new – is it really? Secondhand items have to come from somewhere. They were once brand new. In order to keep having secondhand items, we have to keep having new items. The take-away is: to only consume what you need. This is key, wherever you decide to do your shopping. So, always keep in mind that smart consumerism is very important.

What is consumerism?

“Consumerism is the idea that increasing consumption of goods and services purchased in the market is always a desirable goal and that a person’s wellbeing and happiness depends fundamentally on obtaining consumer goods and material possessions.” (Hayes, 2021)

Consumerism is actually quite complex so we’re going to try to break it down into simpler terms. Typically consumerism is present in a capitalist society because capitalism thrives off overconsumption. We are encouraged to engage in over materialistic lifestyles. The notion that the more stuff we buy the happier we become. However, it goes even deeper still since “some economists believe that consumer spending leads to an increase in production and economic growth.” Supply and demand have a lot to do with this. Spending increases the production of goods, which keeps businesses afloat and benefits the economy.  

Despite this, consumerism has an inevitable effect on the amount of waste we accumulate. Consumerism also has detrimental consequences because of its impact on economical, environmental, and social issues. It has been criticized in economic terms because of its conspicuous consumption and real costs to the economy. “Consumerism can also create incentives for consumers to take on unsustainable levels of debt, which can contribute to financial crises and recessions.” Social status comes into play too because those with higher incomes are less likely to get into debt if they already have the funds to spare. Whereas, those with lower incomes might have to take out loans in order to compete to capitalist ideology. It builds constant stress on those of us who can’t afford to spend all of the time. 

Is shopping secondhand better?

True, there are plenty of benefits to shopping secondhand. Consuming existing items does decrease the need for new products. On the other hand sometimes shopping secondhand has its pitfalls. It’s also super important to remember that not everyone has easy access to charity shops. 

Benefits of shopping secondhand:

  • Elongating the lifespan of an existing product
  • Slow over fast consumption  
  • Finding bargains
  • Generally less of an impact on the environment
  • Finding unique items that no one else will have
  • Benefitting your local community

Pitfalls of shopping second-hand:

  • You might not always find what you’re looking for (this could also be seen as a benefit because it stops you buying things you might not need)
  • Items might not last as long so this could increase your consumer habits
  • Not everyone has easy access to charity shops (for example: those with disabilities might prefer to access online resources)
  • Some items you might not want to buy secondhand such as intimates, towels or pyjamas because these items usually have a short lifespan to begin with
  • Secondhand commerce sites like Depop encourage ‘thrifting’ – reselling often charity shop finds for a higher price
  • Thrifting takes affordable resources away from the lower income bracket, pushing them to continue buying from ‘fast-fashion’ outlets – perhaps we should focus on consuming new but sustainable alternatives where we can afford to?

Should vegans buy secondhand animal products? 

Lastly, we promised we’d touch on this in our vegan fabric blog. This is definitely down to personal preference. Buying secondhand animal products is surprisingly better for the environment. Actually, it’s better than buying vegan alternatives from new, unfortunately – visit our blog on fabrics to find out why. If you have animal products in your existing wardrobe (for example: from before you went vegan) and can’t afford to replace them with a vegan version then keeping them could be the best option for you.

On the other hand, if you don’t want to represent yourself wearing animal products and don’t like the idea of wearing an animal then this is valid too. One thing we’ve learnt is that veganism is different for each individual. This can spark up a lot of debate, however mindfulness is key. By no means does everyone have the money to buy a brand new vegan wardrobe (wouldn’t that be awesome though). However what you can can do, if you want to, is simply stop buying new animal products secondhand or otherwise.

What can I do to lessen my consumer impact?

Reuse your old items and give them a new lease of life. Be an outfit repeater – it’s cool we promise.

Reduce what you’re buying and simply consume less! If you don’t truly need it, don’t buy it.

Smart consumerism: Benefits of secondhand products on the environment

Recycle your existing items if you don’t want them. Your ‘trash’ could be someone else’s treasure. With this being said, donating clothing isn’t also the most sustainable way to get rid of them. Double-check to see if your donation can really be accepted. Due to overconsumption, there is an increased need for donating goods. Unfortunately, a lot of clothing still ends up in landfills. It’s a vicious cycle, we know. You could even try to find a local textile recycling center near you.

Repair items that might be broken or damaged (if you can) which should increase the lifespan of items.

Remake spice up or rework your existing items! We’re not all sewing experts but a pair of scissors are your best friend. 

Repurpose similarly to reusing items. You could give an old t-shirt, for example, a new use. Why not try making it into a bag or cushion. We know what your relatives are getting next birthday or Christmas.

DIY tote bag from an old t-shirt

Of course, supporting ethical/sustainable brands (if you can afford to do so) is great because it benefits the environment and promotes fair wages.

TOP TIP: Try to consume less adverts (go into a different room when the ads are on the telly). Consumerism is built on clever advertising and marketing strategies. Thriving off our need to spend money we don’t really have, on things we don’t really need.

Why is reducing consumerism important?

Reducing your overall consumption will save you money. Allowing you to focus on saving for things like holidays or other experiences. This is likely to give you long-term satisfaction rather than just an impulse from one-off purchases. Consumerism is powerful. It has an impact on our environment and general well-being. As concerns of climate change mount, more and more of us are adopting a minimalist approach when it comes to our spending habits. Which allows us to focus on things that really matter or give us real joy. Reminder: having more stuff does not equate to happiness.