- Published:
- Short URL:

If all UK adults bought half of their next wardrobe second-hand, it could prevent a whopping 12.5 billion kilogrammes of carbon dioxide emissions entering the atmosphere, new Oxfam research reveals today. This is the equivalent to a plane flying around the world more than 17,000 times, or 261,000 flights from London (Heathrow) to Greece (Athens).

The findings launch this year’s Oxfam’s Second Hand September campaign which encourages people to shop preloved and donate what they no longer need or wear for 30 days. Since the first Second Hand September in 2019, increasing numbers of shoppers, activists and people within the fashion industry are choosing second-hand fashion. And the movement is growing. Together, consumers are making a powerful fashion statement by dressing for the world they want.

Choosing second-hand fashion extends the life of clothes, reducing the need for brand-new clothes which produce climate-damaging emissions when they are manufactured. Climate change is hitting the world’s poorest communities hardest right now. Money raised from Oxfam fashion raises crucial funds for Oxfam’s work with partners around the world fighting the injustice of poverty and the impact of the climate emergency.

According to WRAP the average adult wardrobe consists of 118 items, and Oxfam’s research shows if half of those items had been bought second-hand, billions of harmful emissions created by manufacturing new clothes would have been prevented. Currently, only 10 per cent of wardrobe contents are second-hand.

Further findings from Oxfam show that if each adult in the UK donated all the clothes that they have not worn in the past year to charity shops, it could remove the need for 4.9 billion kg carbon entering the atmosphere. That is equivalent to a plane flying around the world more than 6,600 times, or 100,000 flights from London (Heathrow) to Greece (Athens).

The calculations come amid rising awareness of the negative effects of the fashion industry, which accounts for 10 per cent of global carbon emissions - more than international aviation and shipping combined.

Second Hand September has inspired thousands of people to shop in a way that is kinder to people and planet.

Lorna Fallon, Oxfam’s Retail Director, said: “Choosing second-hand offers people a way to take action, to reshape the fashion industry, and reimagine the impact our clothes have on the world. As a major emitter of greenhouse gas, much of the fashion industry as it stands is a threat to people and planet. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In 2022, UK consumers bought 32 per cent more second-hand clothes than in 2018, before the first Second Hand September campaign. Shopping this way sends a clear message to the fashion industry that consumers want, and expect, things to change.”

Oxfam’s Second Hand Clothes Ambassador, Miquita Oliver has been shopping in charity shops her whole life. “It’s timely that we're talking about second-hand clothes and living in a more sustainable way, as awareness of the environmental impact of our shopping choices is growing. Today’s research from Oxfam shows that something as simple as buying clothes second-hand, and donating what we don’t wear any more, can help change the world for the better. It’s as simple as that,” she said.

Dr Carolyn Mair, a cognitive psychologist working in the fashion industry partnered with Oxfam, she explains why people may hold on to clothes years after they’ve stopped wearing them: “Research shows that in the UK, an adult’s wardrobe on average contains 31 items of unworn clothes. Nostalgia, money, guilt and body image can all play a part in our reasons for not letting certain items go.”

Reasons for holding on to unworn clothes:

  • Clothes can provide a sense of security and comfort, especially during times of uncertainty or stress. Holding onto familiar items, even if they are no longer worn, can serve as a psychological safety net.
  • Keeping clothes that remind us of significant moments, happier times, or people who are no longer with us, can help us preserve those connections, recall the memories, and cope with emotions related to loss or change.
  • Clothes play a significant role in shaping our identity and self-image. We might believe that certain clothes reflect our personality or aspirations, so letting go could feel like letting go of part of our self-identity.
  • We associate positive comments/feedback we receive when wearing particular items with the item itself. This gives us external validation and a sense of worthiness so we might be reluctant to let go of these items.
  • Holding onto clothes that are no longer worn avoids the guilt, perceived, or actual later loss, of letting go of them. This is worse if we fear that we won't be able to replace them later if needed.
  • We might hope to lose or gain weight so we fit into the clothes [again] in future.
  • We think the clothes might come back into fashion.
  • We might be reluctant to let go of an item if we have invested a significant amount of money or time in buying and caring for the item.

Taking part in Oxfam’s Second Hand September is a powerful way of extending the life of clothes by buying stylish outfits that don’t cost the earth. It makes a statement about who we are and helping to create a fairer world with justice for communities affected by the climate crisis.

Dress for the world you want this September by pledging to shop second-hand and donating all your unwanted clothes to Oxfam. Find out more at

For more information or interview requests contact: Oxfam Media Unit,


Notes to Editors

WRAP (2022). Citizen Insights: Clothing Longevity and Circular Business Models receptivity in the UK. Retrieved from:

Common calculations

The following common calculations and conversion factors have been used to develop the statistics proposed below.

Flying a plane: To calculate the emissions from a plane flying around the world, the Boeing 787-9 (Dreamliner) was selected as a commonly used plane for international flights. The furthest a Boeing 787-9 can fly is approximately 7,565 nautical miles. The circumference of the earth is approximately 21,600 nautical miles. So, a Boeing 787-9 would take:

21,600 nm / 7,565 nm = 2.86 flights to circumnavigate the globe

Or two legs of 7,565 nm and one leg of:

21,600 nm – 2 x 7,565 nm = 6,470 nm

For the emissions associated with flying these distances, we use the aviation emissions calculator published by the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP) and the European Environment Agency (EEA) as part of the EMEP/EEA air pollutant guidebook. Flights consist of two stages: a Landing and Take-Off (LTO) phase and a Climb-Cruise-Descent phase (CCD). The emissions from one LTO phase at a busy European airport in 2015 by a Boeing 787-9 are estimated to be 4,910.41 kg of CO2e. The emissions from one CCD phase with a length of 7,565 nautical miles by a Boeing 787-9 are estimated to be 251,706.55 kg CO2e. The emissions from one CCD phase with a length of 6,470 nautical missions by a Boeing 787-9 are estimated to be 216,741.20 kg CO2e. This means that the total emissions associated with flying an airplane around the world are:

4,910.41 kg CO2e x 3 LTO phases + 251,706.55 kg CO2e x 2 CCD phases + 216,741.20 kg CO2e x 1 CCD phase = 734,885.53 kg CO2e

Emissions embedded in clothes: In 2020, the average EU citizen consumed 14.8 kg of footwear, clothing, and household textiles. An estimated 270 kg CO2e was emitted per person to produce and handle those items. This means that each kg of footwear, clothing, and household textiles consumed is associated with:

270 kg CO2e / 14.8 kg = 18.24 kg CO2e of emissions

This is in line with the European Environment Agency’s estimate that each tonne of textiles produced is associated with 15-35 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Wardrobe contents: WRAP has conducted research on the average number of clothes owned by adults in the UK as well as the longevity of those clothes and the number of clothes that have not been worn in the last year. Using its data, it is possible to build a picture of the contents of the average wardrobe. Using estimates of the weight of each type of clothing item from the European Commission, we have calculated the weight of the average wardrobe to be 32.64 kg, and the weight of all unworn items to be 9.12 kg.

Precise calculations, available on request.

About Second Hand September

Oxfam launched Second Hand September in 2019 to inspire people to shop in a way that is kinder to people and the planet. Second Hand September is a campaign to encourage people to donate and buy second-hand items in September.

Participants can use the hashtags #SecondHandSeptember #FoundInOxfam on Instagram, TikTok and Twitter when they post their finds, and tag @OxfamGB

When you shop with Oxfam, not only are you helping to keep clothes out of landfill and refreshing your wardrobe without costing the earth, but you are also helping to raise money to help people beat poverty.

With climate change affecting all of us, there's never been a better time to act. Join the movement today and take the sustainable style challenge with the amazing feel-good factor. Click here to take part:

Press contact

For comments, interviews, or information please contact the Oxfam GB Media Team: