Only a quarter of second hand clothes shoppers do so for environmental reasons

Kate Brooksbank
October 28, 2021, 11:22 AM UTC

Young people are most likely to shop second hand out of environmental concern, though even this group are more motivated by financial reasons

As pressure rises on the government to do more to help prevent climate change, many climate activists are turning to the fast fashion industry and highlighting the detrimental effects it has on the environment.

Studies show that the fashion industry accounts for around 10% of global carbon emissions, and 20% of wastewater. But how many second hand shoppers in Britain consider environmental reasons to be their biggest motivator?

Whilst 63% of Britons say they have bought clothes second hand, half of these people (52%) say that second hand items comprise only 1-10% of their wardrobe. In fact, just one in five of those who have ever bought second hand clothes (21%) say more than 30% of their wardrobe is sourced second hand, implying fast fashion still dominates.

The main reason given for shopping second hand is to save money, which is a motivation for 67% of those who have ever bought second hand clothes. The next most common reason, at 40%, is to support charities, meaning that environmental reasons are only the third most popular reason, at just 27%. Another 22% of second hand clothes shoppers do so because it allows them to get clothes in their preferred style, while 14% say it is for ethical reasons (such as concern about labour practices).

Although environmental reasons are not the leading reason why shoppers buy second hand, it is a much greater motivation among younger Britons. Half (47%) of 18-24yr olds who shop second hand say they do so for environmental reasons, compared to just 27% of 25-49yr olds, 25% of 50-64yr olds and 18% of 65+yr olds.

Additionally, people are far more likely to list the environment as a reason if a bigger proportion of their clothes are second hand. Half (47%) of those whose wardrobe is made up of more than 30% second hand clothes say environmental reasons have motivated them, twice as many as those of those who purchased 30% or less of their clothes second hand (22%). Regular second hand shoppers are more likely to list many reasons, however, so are also more likely to list both price (83%) and to support charities (48%).

See full results here