A new lease of life

Karen Neville

Second Hand September, upcycling furniture and repair cafes are all fabulous ways to fall in love again with something you once cherished, not only will it save you money but you’ll be doing your bit to help save the planet too!

How often have you bought something (often on impulse) got it back home only for it to loiter in the back of your wardrobe unworn for years? It’s probably something we’ve all been guilty of at one time, so this month rather than a) buy it at all or b) leave it lurking unloved, why not get involved in Second Hand September?

The Oxfam run project has been going since 2019 inspiring people to shop in a way that is kinder to the planet and with the recent record temperatures much of Europe has been experiencing it’s only too easy to see the effect of climate change.

In September 2022 more than 26,000 people only bought second hand during the campaign and as one shopper remarked when the initiative launched “I didn’t buy any new clothes for 30 days. Then it became two months and now it’s been nearly four years!”

By buying, wearing and donating second hand clothes you’re helping to reduce the demand for new and thus helping to reduce the damage to the planet. Did you know an estimated 16.2kg of CO2 is emitted for every pair of jeans made, that’s the same as driving around 58 miles in a car.

And it doesn’t just stop with clothing, Oxfam shops and online offer an extensive range of homewares, books and toys too. There are stores aplenty all over, visit oxfam.org.uk/shops/ to find your nearest one and get donating and buying pre-loved now.

Got clothes you don’t want anymore or just don’t know how to make the most of them, don’t throw them away, help is at hand from Oxfordshire’s Lucy Briggs who combines a love of clothes with her passion for sustainability. She advises being ruthless with your wardrobe, divide your clothes into three piles – keep, maybe and nope.

The “nope” pile is key. Lucy says: “It’s OK to let go. Give it a new home where someone else can love it. Moving our clothes on responsibly takes more effort but dramatically lowers their carbon footprint. Gift to friends and family, attend a clothes swap, donate to charity shops, resell or upcycle.”

Clothes swapping or swishing is a fun, budget-friendly and sustainable way to update your wardrobe, as Lucy says: “The concept is simple – bring the clothes you don’t want and swap them for new ones!” Swishing events are becoming more commonplace – you never know what gems you could unearth. Visit her website at Sustainably Styled.

You can also do your bit for the environment by upcycling and repairing and buying vintage. The Shed in Abingdon offers a hive of treasures, Owner Siobhan Sargeant has always fostered a ‘make do and mend culture’, saying: “The idea behind The Shed was to do my bit for mother nature, zero landfill, an eco-sustainable shop, with eclectic one-off finds, past treasures, make do and mend culture, passing on my ideas.

“I love looking for stock at flea markets, a good rummage is the best feeling ever, the rustier the better, more damage, scratches, layers of paint is a bonus.”

And once she’s hunted down her prey, it’s then the work starts to restore that piece of furniture, ensuring the wood retains as much of its character as possible, sanded back and waxed or painted. Visit her shop in Stert Street, Abingdon and unearth a gem of your own.

Oxford’s Annie Sloan is revolutionising the world of paint and with it how we look at our furniture. Her Chalk Paint is the epitome of upcycling with a palette of gorgeous colours to suit any colour scheme and home you can transform something that may have seen better days into a stylish piece that looks like new and you’ll be saving money too. It couldn’t be simpler to use with in most cases no sanding or prep required and can be used to paint wood, metal, melamine and flooring. It can be used to dye fabric, and is so versatile it can even be used to paint glass!

Visit her website for oodles of ideas, tips and techniques and to see the gorgeous array of colours, there’s sure to be one to revive that chair. More at anniesloan.com

Pretty much anything can be recycled, upcycled or repaired and if you need a little help then head to a repair café. Repair cafés are free meeting places where you can repair your toaster or other electrical appliance, a bike or piece of furniture and just about any item you can think of! They’ll provide all the tools and materials you need and there’s expert help on hand to assist you.

Repair Cafés welcome everyone, if you have nothing to repair you can visit and enjoy some cake or tea or lend a hand with someone else’s repair job. The purpose of the events is to bring about a shift away from consumerism and viewing household items as disposable. The focus is on skill-sharing and building community, as attendees will be invited to learn how to fix their broken item alongside the repairers instead of throwing them in the bin.

Volunteer run, there is a network of more than 100 groups across Oxfordshire. Find your nearest one at repaircafeoxfordshire.org