The Importance of Charity Retail and How to Donate Your Clothes

As it’s Fashion Revolution week, it seemed like a good time to talk about the importance of second hand clothes shopping, specifically from charity shops. Shopping second hand is one of the best ways to reduce our impact on the planet, be it from vintage or second hand stores, and of course charity shops. However, we often think that we’re helping by taking a huge sack of our preloved and pre-worn clothing to our local shop, but how helpful is this really? Are there certain rules we should follow so as to make the best donation possible? How can we ensure that our clothes truly find a new home in someone else’s wardrobe, rather than heading straight to landfill. We spoke to Shelter, the housing and homeless charity, to find out the best way to donate our clothes, and also how this in turn helps charities like Shelter raise funds to help towards their cause.

How To Donate Your Goods

It still surprises me that people turn up to charity shops with tons of clothes in an incredible array of states. From practically brand new, tags still on, to half moth eaten bed sheets that have seen far too many decades and are scattered with questionable stains. Of course donating our used goods to charity shops is great as this provides organisations like Shelter, an important source of unrestricted income. However, we learnt what rules we should follow are and what happens to the items of clothing that aren’t quite up to scratch:

  • Items that are broken or unfit for use – such as having holes or stains – may end up in the ‘rag’ pile rather than on the shop floor. Along with items that have failed to sell, we can then sell these to the rag merchant, so we can still raise funds for our work from these items.

  • If you have items that you know are damaged, you can donate these in a separate bag and mark it ‘rag’ to save our volunteers time!

  • Please don’t donate items that may have come into contact with moths as these could infect the stock in our shops and make it all unsellable.

  • We welcome most types of clothing - but if you’re unsure give your local branch a call.

The practical side is as follows. You can drop your items off at Shelter shops in person during opening hours. However, if you have bulky items, or a lot to donate, please phone the shop to ensure they’ll be able to take your donation. This is really important because charity shops are often inundated, and if you don’t phone ahead some of your items may head straight to the rag pile. Many of their shops are able to collect if you have several bags, bulky items or furniture to donate.

Photo by  chrissie kremer

TOP 10: Environmental Benefits of Charity Retail

The Charity Retail Association recently wrote a great list of the top 10 environmental benefits of charity retail, which really broadened our understanding of how important it is to donate and shop at charity shops. Our top 3 favourites were:

  • Slows Down Fashion: “The average customer transaction value in a charity shop is just £4.05. The charity retail sector is not only built on sustainable principles but it provides clothing to people at a price they can afford. This provides market competition to “fast fashion” outlets – those who sell mass produced items imported from all around the world – on the high street, and gives consumers the option to buy clothes sustainably, whatever their budget.”

  • Reduces CO2: “The reduction in landfill also makes a positive difference to the UK’s carbon footprint. In 2017 charity retail helped to reduce CO2 emissions in our country by around 7m tonnes.”

  • Reduces Landfill: “By boosting re-use and recycling, charity retail helps to reduce the overall amount of waste that ends up in landfill, the very lowest rung on the waste hierarchy. In 2018, 327,000 tonnes of textiles alone were kept out of landfill as a result of charity retail in the UK.”

For the full article please check it out here.

If that doesn’t spur you on to shop and donate to charity shops I don’t know what will. There are loads of charity shops out there that need your goods, but of course please be mindful of the clothing that you donate. The main takeaway from this article is definitely to check first, call ahead and make sure your items are going to a good place, not landfill. By shopping at charity shops you’re not only helping to slow down fashion, reduce CO2 and items from going to landfill, but you’re also putting good money towards a wonderful cause. I choose to support Shelter because I believe it is a basic human right to have a safe place to sleep at night, and by shopping at their stores you can also help combat housing and homelessness in the UK.

For more info on Shelter’s shops check these out:

Imogen Lucas