How I can indulge my passion for fashion without making climate crisis worse – Susan Dalgety

We Brits buy more new clothes than any other country in Europe. Picture: PA
We Brits buy more new clothes than any other country in Europe. Picture: PA
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Buying clothese from charity shops is a way to avoid the problems caused by the global fast fashion industry, writes Susan Dalgety.

January is the most ­miserable of months. ­Hacking coughs and persistent sniffles that won’t shift. Credit card bills bloated by Christmas excess. A looming deadline for the growing number of us who have to assess our own tax liability.

It’s little wonder that even the ­simplest thing – a 99p bunch of daffodils, a bar of salted caramel chocolate – can raise our spirits.

It was a lemon yellow scarf that caught my eye a few days ago, while browsing in a Princes Street store.

Its cheerfulness made me smile. And before I could resist its temptation, I had swiped my debit card and stuffed the cheap pashmina in my bag.

“It’s a gorgeous colour,” smiled the young assistant, stroking the soft acrylic fabric, “I think I may get one too.”

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Later that night I pulled the scarf from my bag. It still made me smile, but as I stored it away with all my other scarves – including one in an almost identical sunny shade – I felt an unusual pang of guilt.

The scarf may have only cost me £9.99, but cheap fashion is one of the biggest net contributors to the climate emergency.

Every time I pick up a white T-shirt for a fiver, or a plastic bangle for the price of a sandwich, I am contributing to the global environmental disaster that threatens to destroy life as we know it.

The fashion industry produces ten per cent of all carbon emissions. It is the second largest consumer of the world’s precious water supply. ­Washing our cheap and cheerful clothes releases 500,000 tons of microfibres into the ocean every year. That is the equivalent of 50 million plastic bottles.

We Brits are among the worst offenders. We buy more new clothes than any other country in Europe. We throw them away almost as soon as we pull the tags off them. Nearly 250 million items of clothing end up as landfill each year.

The fashion industry accepts it has to change, and many of its big names, such as Adidas and H&M, have signed up to a UN charter that aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

But we, the consumers, need to change too. I never make any New Year resolutions, as January is tough enough without giving up life’s ­simple pleasures. But that sunny ­yellow scarf has made me think.

I won’t stop buying clothes. ­Finding the perfect top for a night out is as much fun now as it was when I was a teenager trawling through Chelsea Girl and C&A. But I will try to do better.

That means not buying any new more new clothes in 2020. Instead, I will try to restrict my spending sprees and impulse buys to charity shops.

I can indulge my passion for cheap fashion in my local Oxfam or British Heart Foundation store, safe in the knowledge that I am not contributing to the climate crisis, while supporting good causes and saving money. What’s not to love about second-hand shopping?