How to do Oxfam's Second Hand September?

Oxfam's Second Hand September PledgeAs the founder of an eco friendly products and gifts business, I am passionate about doing everything I can to benefit the environment and promote positive environmental change. But, buying eco friendly product alternatives is not the only way to start being more sustainable. Although I am not hugely into fashion and I try to make the items of clothes I own last as long as possible, I do occasionally buy new items of clothes and don’t shop second hand as much as I could. I have pledged to take part in Oxfam’s Second Hand September in an attempt to transform my clothes buying habits, here is a round up of everything you need to know about Second Hand September:

What is Oxfam’s Second Hand September?

Charity shop find - cardigan Second Hand September is organised by Oxfam, a UK charity which aims to end global poverty. Did you know buying a white shirt produces the same amount of carbon as driving 35 miles?!? Plus, the clothes sent to landfill in the UK every year weigh the same as the Empire State Building! Therefore, fast fashion culture in the UK is hugely problematic for the environment, with clothing producing huge amounts of carbon and also requiring significant amounts of water. To learn more about the environmental issues with fast fashion, I highly recommend watching the eye opening documentary - Stacy Dooley Investigates Fashion’s Dirty Secrets. In an attempt to fight against fast fashion, Second Hand September involves pledging not to buy new clothes for the 30 days of September. You can pledge to take part in Second Hand September here.

How to take part in Oxfam’s Second Hand September?

After pledging to take part and buy no new clothes in September, this is when the challenge starts. But, buying no new clothes does not mean you have to abstain from purchasing clothes for 30 days. Instead, try shopping second hand, repairing existing items of clothes or upcycling your clothes to give them a new lease of life.

Oxfam’s Second Hand September - Shopping Second Hand

Second Hand TshirtThe obvious way to take part in Second Hand September is by shopping at second hand shops, not only does this help alleviate fast fashion, but these shops usually donate their profits to charity - so buying clothes can be a good deed of the day! Plus, you can find some beautiful items of clothes in charity shops, such as the cardigan pictured above and this plant t-shirt. Why not make a day of your charity shopping trip and support some of the other businesses on your local high street at the same time? The pandemic has been a difficult time for small businesses, so grab a coffee or lunch at a local cafe on your charity shopping trip and help support your high street whilst grabbing something yummy to eat.

If you don’t have time for a charity shopping trip, or are nervous about venturing out due to Covid-19, try Ebay and Depop for your second hand shopping fix. As well as benefiting the environment, second hand shopping whether online or at charity shops is much cheaper than buying clothes new, benefiting your bank balance.

Oxfam’s Second Hand September - Repairing Clothes

As well as shopping second hand, Second Hand September is time to also think about our clothes consumption and get reusing what we already own rather than giving in to the fast fashion fix. Often, we quickly get rid of clothing which could be easily repaired. For example, I recently repaired a jacket where the lining had ripped away from the sleeve, so simply needed to be sewn back onto the jacket. Another quick repair is sewing up holes in jacket or jeans pockets or sewing on a button. If sewing isn’t your thing, you may find a friend or family member is willing to help you. Alternatively, some second hand shops such as the SHRUB in Edinburgh run clothes repair workshops where volunteers will help you to repair your clothes.

Oxfam’s Second Hand September - Upcycling

Second Hand September Upcycled JacketOtherwise, upcycling an old item of clothing is a lot easier and quicker than you think and can have great results. From an old pair of shorts to a jacket that was a bargain, but you have never actually worn, embroidery is one lovely way to revive the tattered and embellish the plain.There are as many ways of embroidering clothing as there are benefits of doing so, from traced flamboyant florals to simple lines of colour that just seem to make an outfit a little more individual, there is something for everyone. 

The following embroidery technique is called a Herringbone ladder and looks especially good when done between stitches on denim jeans or jackets. You can use one colour of thread, or two like in the example. Alternatively, you could use three different colours to make the stitch really stand out – the choice is yours. It is recommended you use three strands of embroidery thread of each of your chosen colours. 

Upcycling Technique - Herringbone ladder

1. First, you need to decide where you want your decorative stitch and how wide it will be, making sure you have enough thread to complete it. A handy tip here is to follow stitching already sewn into the item to keep your stitches even and straight – for the jacket I did one embroidered stitch for every two stitches already there.

2. Now sew two straight parallel lines of stitches using back-stitch:

Back stitch instructions

3. After this, using long strands of thread, weave and cross your needle between the two lines of stitches. So place your needle pointing diagonally up under a stitch from each line and pull the thread through.

Second Hand September Jacket Upcycling4. Then angle the needle diagonally through the stitch on the top row which is to the right of the one the thread just passed under. Pull the needle under the next stitch on the bottom line so it crosses over your previous stitch.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the entire design is complete.

Are you taking part in Oxfam’s Second Hand September? I would love to see any of the second hand items you have purchased or your upcycled clothes - feel free to tag me in a photo on Instagram or share your Second Hand September tips in the comments!


Has Second Hand September helped you to uncover your inner eco warrior? If you are looking for additional ways to be more eco friendly, take a look at our sustainable living starter kits!

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