Feel-good shopping: how charity shops offer sustainable, ethical and fun retail therapy

By our guest blogger, Jenny Hall.

It’s a fairly safe bet to say that with nearly 50 locations around Bristol, those of us in and around the city walk past a St Peter’s Hospice shop pretty regularly. I know I do. Until I became involved in fundraising for the Hospice earlier this year though, I’ll admit that I was far from a regular visitor. I would smile at their quirky and creative window displays and occasionally pop in for a bit of fancy dress or some costume jewellery, but I was far from a seasoned charity shop browser.

Having taken part in 2016’s Bristol Strictly Come Dancing for the Hospice and seeing the work they do first hand, I developed a fondness and feeling of loyalty for the charity so began to dip my toe into second-hand fashion to lend my support in raising the £19,000 per day needed to keep the Hospice running. After scoring a Henry Holland unicorn top and unworn jumpers from Next and M&S in my first visit, I was a convert.

Charity finds: Henry Holland top and jumpers from Next and M&S

So besides the obvious benefits of raising much needed funds to allow organisations like the Hospice to continue their work, why should we be shopping in and donating to charity shops?

Environmental impact

First, let’s consider the environment impact. Clothing manufacture has one of the biggest footprints for production of waste and the consumption of carbon and water of any industry in the world. By extending the life of our clothing by just nine months we can reduce this footprint by 22%, equivalent to £5billion per year in the UK [1]. Even though we may be bored with the special dress we bought for that wedding last year, it doesn’t mean someone else won’t wear it until the seams pop. By donating we’re not just giving someone else the buzz of finding that amazing bargain but also saving the planet, and a tonne of money in the meantime.

30% of clothing hasn’t been worn for a year

Secondly, the average household contains over £4,000 worth of clothing, 30% of which hasn’t been worn for nearly a year mostly because it no longer fits [1]. We all have those jeans we can’t quite button up anymore despite hopping up and down like a loon. Instead of holding onto them and feeling depressed with each failed attempt, hand them over to a charity you love and let someone else give them a go. Imagine all that money locked up in our wardrobes which could be going somewhere worthwhile.

Robbing good causes of money

Nearly 50% of us have put some or all of this totally wearable yet unwanted clothing in the bin when we decide it’s time for a clear-out [1]. Not only are we creating trash from a garment which has the potential to become somebody else’s treasure, but we’re robbing good causes of money which could have found its way into their coffers, as well as throwing away the time, energy and resources which went into making that clothing in the first place.

So by sifting through our clothing and donating the things we no longer wear, it frees us up to get some lovely new stuff. Instead of heading to the high street, how about hitting the charity shops instead?

High street shopping

Finally, where’s the fun in high street shopping? Racks and rails of identical clothes in multiple sizes. This goes with that. If you get one of those, you really must get one of these to go with it. The result? We all end up looking the same because we’ve been so cleverly told what to buy. A charity shop is a different story. Hidden gems are waiting to be discovered, funky fabrics and contrasting colours are begging to be combined, and who doesn’t love the feeling of finding something gorgeous and unique, and realising it’s exactly your size.

Charity shops can give us a totally different shopping experience, providing a playground for a creative mind, charged with the thrill of potential discovery, all the while effortlessly enabling us to donate to our favourite charity whilst taking home a bargain to boot.

So why not have a clear out this weekend. Bag up your unwanted clothes and pop down to your local St Peter’s Hospice shop to give them a new lease of life. While you’re there, why not have a rummage. You never know, you may be able to breathe new life into an amazing and one-of-a-kind outfit.

St Peter’s Hospice has 50 shops across Bristol and beyond. Check out the website to find and support your local store.

[1] Valuing our Clothes by WRAP http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/valuing-our-clothes

The St Peter’s Hospice Shops Blog is written by Jenny Hall. Jenny, who has lived in Bristol for 12 years, has a love of fashion and costume and a strong affection for the Hospice. Earlier this year, Jenny won our Bristol Strictly Come Dancing 2016 competition with her dance partner, Cameron Milne.


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