Second nature: Shopping at Oxfam
Most consumers would prefer that their fashion choices had a positive effect rather than a negative one. However, it's difficult to be a conscientious consumer and shop with confidence when most retailers and labels are ignorant of both the ecological and the social destruction that the fashion industry wreaks.
Fashion is delightful but, behind all the glamour, there is a lot of exploitation and environmental damage.
However, when you shop at Oxfam, you know that you are doing some good. Every penny that you spend in Oxfam shops is put to good use around the world. As a non-governmental organisation, Oxfam provides emergency relief, changes our awareness of developing countries, gives practical, long-term assistance, and, at all times, it remains sensitive to the dignity of the people it deals with.
It is also the only charity shop I know that fully engages with the principles of recycling and sustainability: it tries to make every donation achieve a further purpose. Dumping truly is a last resort.
Today, our fashion pages feature great vintage pieces sourced from Oxfam shops all over Ireland, proving that the second time around can mean first-class style.
With the economic downturn, donations to all charities have been much affected. Hoarding in times of shortage is a natural human reaction. But Oxfam could sell that dress you will never wear for €20, and that €20 could then provide schoolbooks for a year for a child in Tanzania. Or, by donating that vase your sister gave you, you can help Oxfam buy three buckets, specially designed to keep water clean, for Malawi.
Many of us know that giving unwanted items to charity shops cuts down on landfill and the wastage of natural resources. I donate obsolete household items or toys directly to www.dublinwaste.ie/freetrade, or to Oxfam. Oxfam treats donations with respect, and creates specific shops for specific things. Apart from its Fair Trade and general Oxfam stores, it has Oxfamhome, Oxfamvintage, Oxfambooks, and Oxfambridal. With 49 shops around Ireland, see www.oxfamireland.org to find out what type of store is near you.
Being so trend-driven, high-street shopping lacks individuality and the unexpected. When you shop in charity shops, however, the possibility of making a fabulous discovery is ever-present.
But what I most love about recycling is that one man's rubbish is another man's gold. At Oxfam, that gold goes a lot further.