Text by Anna Almqvist
Anna Almqvist is a former Project Manager at Red Cross Secondhand in Oslo, Norway, and has previously also worked at the Salvation Army’s secondhand shop in Drammen. She is passionate about reuse of clothes and furniture both in her work and in her personal life, and her home - furnished with beautiful secondhand finds - has been featured in many interior design magazines. Read on for her thoughts on why buying secondhand is more important than ever.
It is all about making a choice. Every day. Which direction I want to take. What kind of person I want to be. What kind of lifestyle I want to be a part of. To speak the truth, or to tell a lie. To make the planet to be a better place for all of us, or to only think of my own wants and needs. To think “what´s in it for me?” or “what´s in it for you, for us?”
I jumped on the train to a greener world many years ago. It is not the express, high speed train to heaven. It is rather the slow, around the curve, up-and-down-the-hill train that constantly has to find new routes on the way its destination. However: it is a very exciting journey, and more and more people are buying tickets!
There are many answers to that, not just one. I think that the main challenge we are aware of, that which most of us can see and feel, is the enormous overconsumption of everything. “TAKE THREE, PAY FOR TWO”. Whether it is t-shirts, cucumbers or chocolate. We pay. We consume. Or maybe we don´t even consume it, we just pay, because we think we might need it one day. We do have a choice, to buy or not.
Luckily, some of the biggest fashion industry companies have started recycling programs and conscious collections. H&M, Lindex, Zara and other companies that are part of Inditex are collecting used clothes in their stores. I think it’s a matter of paying back, but also of being part of the green, environmental friendly trend we see these days, a wind that’s blowing over most of the Western part of the world. So, the next time you pop into one of these big stores, ask for their recycling program and where they have their box for donations. We have the choice, to donate or not.
"In the small country of Norway, we throw away 1000 tons of textiles with our household waste every single week!"
When we have clothes we don’t use anymore, for different reasons, they need to be recycled, as opposed to thrown in the garbage! Leave them in a textile container or give them to a friend or someone who needs them. There is also a growing marked for clothes trading events now, where you can trade your old clothes for someone else’s, and in that way renew your wardrobe. A very good solution!
Every single week, we throw away tons and tons of clothes. In the small country of Norway, we throw away 1000 tons of textiles with our household waste every single week! All of this comes from a need that we think we have: a need for something new, something trendy, something to make us feel loved, feel pretty. Something to make us feel more attractive and wanted. To make us feel a part of a group.
Of course, clothes can be worn out. They can be too big or too small. Shoes really do have a short life if they are a bad quality! But: a shoemaker can make your shoes last some extra miles! And a tailor that can use his or her skill to make your clothes as good as new. We have the choice, to throw away or to repair.
Personally, I love secondhand stores! The clothes hanging there, telling me their stories, asking me to like them, even if they have been used before. ”I may have a scratch or two, but hey, old is gold, and I have a secret to tell you from my former owner.” And I buy it. The whole package. If we buy secondhand, we are all a part of changing our planet to a better place. A greener place. A green, healthy environmental community, where sharing is caring.
And we must reconsider this shopping sickness; answer that wakeup call. Do we really need all this stuff we bring home to wardrobes that are already bursting at the seams? You know, there are many ways to dress to impress. It’s all about using what you already have: not everyone has seen you in your clothes before, so instead of buying new, not-needed clothes, you can put a flower in your hair, or try to combine your outfit with a different pair of shoes. It is all in the details!
For me, it is important to keep a political point of view, to see the whole perspective. By donating clothes, shoes, accessories and things, you can give a helping hand to other people as well, in addition to the planet itself. Here in Norway, we have textile containers to put clothes in: Fretex and UFF are the biggest actors, but NMS is also getting there, and the Red Cross has charity shops all around Norway and accept donations directly to their stores. When you choose to donate to any of these organizations, you contribute to a warmer society and help people in need. It sometimes feels easier to just throw it in the garbage, but if you do that, you’re part of slowing down the mentioned train, en route to a greener world. Harsh words, but I use my opportunity to speak them anyway.
Because I have the choice, to speak up or shut up.
On one side of the Earth, the planet is thirsty, on the other, it is drowning.
On one side of the Earth, people are hungry, on the other, we are throwing away food.
We are over-consuming Mother Earth, from the inside and the outside. One part of the world has everything they need and more, the other part has nothing. We are grabbing everything we can from the open hand those who are starving are trying to eat from. When we buy a cheap new t-shirt, we are a part of this imbalance.
We have the choice, to help even out this difference or not.
To dress with success, in my opinion, is to wear “conscious” clothes, whether made from sustainable sources or bought secondhand. What is good for the environment is good for the people, myself included. Therefore, I am still on board the green train. And when I look in my wardrobe, I find that don’t have a single boring item! It is all good quality, re-used clothing, both creative and straight-edged in style. I promise, once you jump on that train, you will not want to get off. Use your power to choose, every day.