By now, last Christmas seems like nothing but a distant memory. The lights are long, long down; even the worst of the chocolate boxes has been eaten many weeks ago, and life has finally gotten back on track.

We have survived long past the New Year’s Resolutions and the ‘January Blues’ – and giving up on the New Year’s Resolutions.

For some, it is a sad time; for some, it is a relief that it is over and that the most expensive time of the year is long behind us once more.

For many, December is a period of over-consumption to a catastrophic level; we buy presents and eat food and then we need to buy new outfits because of all the food we have eaten.

Across the UK, Christmas waste adds up to more than three million tonnes each year (*stats provided at, yet only 40 per cent of people feel any guilt over what they are throwing away.

But the guilt of over-consumption, and regret around last December’s gluttony, are loudly present in new year diets, in financial frugality and in a total withdrawal of all over-consumption.

This intensity, and over-compensation for our festive behaviour, typically does not survive long into February, but is indicative of the extremes we believe consumption and spending should be controlled by and the shame we feel along with it.

To combat the shame, the waste, and the overindulgence associated with shopping, I have a simple proposal.

Let 2024 be your year of sustainable shopping. This creates less waste (it actually prevents waste), it is often cheaper than shopping at the big brands, and the guilt is replaced by finding something you love – which is kinder to the planet!

I am aware that this is easier said than done; there are limitations to sustainable shopping, and oftentimes environmentalists can be slightly aggressive in their advocacy for second-hand shopping.

This article does not aim to force people to abandon all the High Street shops, and to never buy anything with plastic packaging again, because that is not a realistic change to make overnight.

If you have a big family, or complex dietary requirements, maybe a major High Street retailer makes your grocery shopping easier rather than relying on independent shops and sellers.

Maybe you need six identical black t-shirts for work, and you know you won’t be able to find them in a charity shop, so you order them online.

Maybe you have to drive everywhere because Fermanagh’s public transport system is entirely unreliable, and an Ulsterbus will never come close to your front door.

These are all totally acceptable reasons, and to ignore their realities is to ignore the privilege that it takes to become an environmentalist.

But it does not excuse abandoning sustainable shopping altogether. Buying one pair of jeans from a charity shop saves over 8,000 litres of water. Read that again.

One pair of jeans from Oxfam saves more water than the average household uses in over two weeks.

You may think that sustainability is pointless, and that your actions have no impact in helping the planet, but 8,000 litres is fairly significant, if you ask me. 

There also seems to be a stigma surrounding second-hand shopping for clothes, as if being the first owner of a piece is what gives it credibility.

I personally could not disagree more; I have lived in many cities filled with the big High Street brands, the streets lined with the latest trends and pieces straight from the adverts you see online.

And yet, amongst all of these brands, my favourite pieces (and the ones I get the most compliments on) have come from Enniskillen’s charity shops.

I barely have a piece of jewellery that isn’t from the Oxfam on Townhall Street; the British Heart Foundation has some of the best denim jeans I have come across for an incredible price; the Red Cross actually has a lot of the big brands you will be surprised by, and I have attended three black tie balls kitted out in formal dresses from either Cancer Research or ForSight.

Enniskillen is not a place the brands want to be, but that does not mean the options for style are beyond our reach – you just have to know where to look.

Second-hand shopping is so much more special than shopping in the main retailers; the feeling of total heartbreak when you find the perfect piece in the wrong size is disappointing, but is far outweighed by finding the perfect little piece which is totally unique.

Second-hand clothes have character, they have a story and they are not going to be like anything else anyone wears.

They are special, and when you find a piece you love, you will really treasure it.

The eclectic mixture of items on offer in any of these charity shops forces you to slow down and consider each piece individually.

Conscious shopping, and having to decide whether you really like the piece without the safety net of returns, is an excellent way to combat the Fast Fashion impulse purchases we have come to know so well.

Taking time to consider how different pieces will fit into your wardrobe is also an excellent activity to help you consider what really makes up your personal style, to know yourself and what clothes make you feel the best.

This means more successful and sustainable shopping when you buy pieces you will love to wear for a long time.

Buying a piece of second-hand clothing shows love to yourself, the piece and the planet.
You will love the piece and you will love yourself for making a sustainable choice.

Big change is made up of small choices, and if you can turn away from the Fast Fashion industry even only a few times, you will be able to make a change.

Emma Gallagher is a student from Enniskillen currently studying a Masters in Politics and Communication in London.