In my previous post, I mentioned that I was moving into a new flat. During a pandemic. It was a totally smooth and easy process 😬 One of my favourite things about moving is being forced to have a *big* declutter – there’s no sense in bringing unnecessary baggage into your new space. I wanted to share five ways you can donate ethically, whether you’re planning on moving or just fancy an autumn clear out.
Wait, can’t I use a charity shop to donate ethically?
I used to be a regular charity shop donator, especially when I used to buy a lot of fast fashion. I’d feel very virtuous as I sifted through my wardrobe, folded and bagged things I no longer wanted and dropped them off to the charity shop. Soon, they’d find a new lease of life in someone else’s wardrobe.
Well, that’s not quite the case. After doing a lot of research, I found that donating to charity shops may be doing more harm than good. Around £140 million worth of clothing ends up in a landfill each year and a large proportion is sold overseas. The UK is the world’s second-largest exporter of clothes behind the US. The Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP) estimates that two-thirds of charity donations end up overseas. This equates to approximately 350,000 tonnes.
That’s not so bad, right? It’s going to a worthy home. Well, that’s not necessarily the case either. The majority of second-hand clothing ends up in Sub-Saharan Africa and has a detrimental impact on local manufacturers. Our donations flood the market and sell for 5-10% of the cost of new, locally made garments. Over the years, this has wiped our local artisanal makers, weavers, spinners and sewers. It also increases reliance on our donations rather than reinvesting money in merchants and mills who produce local cloths with local traditions.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t donate to charity shops. They do incredible work and rely on your donations to do so. Some of your goods will be sold in the UK but I prefer to use other services in addition to charity shops. Here are some of the services I’ve used for ethical donations:
Best for high street, premium and designer clothing: Thrift+
Thrift+ is a fairly new service which allows you to donate ethically, with the proceeds going to your chosen charity. They have an e-commerce site where you can buy clothes as well as donate. The process for donation is simple – you order donation bags, will them up and request a return via their website. After their receive your donation, you’ll see your shop front with everything you donated. I love the transparency.
Some of the clothing which isn’t deemed suitable for sale will go to charity shops but in my experience, I’ve seen all of my clothes for sale on their site. If you’re interested to find out more about the service, I wrote a full Thrift+ review a few months ago.
Best for all clothing: Traid
Traid is a brilliant charity and ethical powerhouse. They have an expansive network of over 1,500 clothes banks, charity shops and home collections which divert over 3,000 tonnes of clothes from landfills each year. Donated clothing is hand sorted and either resold or repurposed. The proceeds are invested in international development projects which help improve working conditions in the textile industry around the world.
They have a list of donation locations on their site or you can arrange for a home collection. The wait time is around a month at the moment.
Best for designer clothing: Vestiaire Collective
The hardest pieces to part with are designer goods. When I worked in the fashion industry, I was fortunate enough to pick up a few bargains, either through my discount or at industry sample sales. Sometimes the lure of snagging something at 80% off is overwhelming and you end up with something you don’t love or just doesn’t fit right.
There aren’t many places to resell designer clothing which is why Vestiaire Collective is a godsend. When I used to work at an agency, they were one of my clients so I got a good insight into their impressive operating model. They work with luxury brands, everyone from Chanel and Hermes to Saint Lauren and Bottega Veneta, to train their in-house team of authenticators so you can be sure you’re buying the genuine article rather than a knock off.
This means the process for selling your designer pieces is a little more complicated than selling on eBay or Depop but you’re likely to get a little more money as buyers will know your goods are genuine. To sell an item, you photograph it, write a description and submit it to the team. It’s then checked over, you may be advised to add more pictures or to revise your pricing. Once approved, it’s listed on their site. When it sells, you post your item directly to Vestiaire to be checked over in person before they pack and post it to your customer.
Although there are a couple of extra steps in the process, it’s pretty smooth from a seller’s perspective. Feedback from the team is really helpful, particularly the price guidelines which are based on what similar items sold for.
Best for clothing, cosmetics and toiletries: Smart Works
As well as being a fashion fanatic, I’m also a bit of a beauty junkie. I always have a little stash of beauty goodies which I often give to friends but I found a great service to donate ethically your unwanted cosmetics and toiletries.
Smart Works is a charity which supports unemployed women in need, providing interview clothes, cosmetics and interview training. Half of the women who are referred have been unsuccessful in over 20 applications and a quarter have been turned down from over 50 jobs. This can seriously knock your confidence so the charity steps in with training and practical tips.
Donation points and timings are listed on the website. Timings are pretty limited due to COVID so please double-check before popping to your local centre.
Best for furniture and household items: Gumtree, eBay and Facebook Marketplace
I must give an honourable mention to the OGs of reselling. Gumtree, eBay and Facebook Marketplace have been around for years. They’re great for listing or giving away clothing, furniture and household items. I won’t go into too much detail as I’m sure you’ve used these services before.
I had a few pieces of furniture which I didn’t want to take with me so I listed them for free on Gumtree, I figured I didn’t need them anymore and they’d go to a grateful home. The process was super quick, most of the items I listed were gone within a day which made the process of moving so much easier.
There you go, a whistlestop tour of how you can donate ethically. I’d love to hear any suggestions from you in the comments.