Meet Amanda

It starts with one

I read a rather depressing article the other day about how one person making their lifestyle greener will not change anything — the ice will continue to melt, the world will get hotter, the trees will die. I’ve forgotten now where I saved it so I can’t add a link but you don’t want to read it anyway. Not only because it may also depress you too but also because, after I stopped being depressed, I decided that the author was wrong. Yes, bad stuff will continue to happen no matter what one person does, or maybe even what a million people do, but change won’t ever happen if you do nothing at all. One person choosing to not embrace single use plastic, (this was her example — she had stopped using single use plastic yet plastics were still being produced), can lead to others, which can lead to yet more others, and then more, and more, and more — much more than if you simply did nothing at all. I get that the road ahead can seem long — unbelievably long, and full of potholes too, — but, there is oh so much power that can come from the action of one. Like the actions of Amanda. She is a friend of mine and has been leading the charge to shop second hand (particularly at op shops) for a long, long time. Her exploits and excitement of previously loved goods have led others to follow, and this is a good thing. A very good thing!

A long, long time, as long as I have known her actually, Amanda has existed in my mind as the op shop queen. She got into the op shopping thing when she was around 15. It was the early 90s. I was wearing wide legged white jeans and some weird coloured acrylic fuzzy jumpers — which is what the shops were selling at the time. Amanda, always ahead of the pack, realised that this trend was not particularly attractive for anyone and so she moved into op shop land, where she could, carefully and patiently, curate her own look that focused heavily on patterned, vintage clothes from the 60s and 70s. And she has kind of stayed in op shop land since then, visiting one a week to search through each and every rack looking for a hidden gem — she likes the challenge that the jumbled racks provide.

Amanda’s exclusivity for op shop shopping (she tells me that, on the rare occasions that she enters a department store, she finds it “boring”) has resulted in a wonderfully eclectic wardrobe and an impressive collection of novelty knitted jumpers, (depressingly, she lives in Brisbane so they don’t get to come out that often). Shopping on the internet has opened up a whole new world of second hand shopping options. Last week, Amanda bought a pair of new Blundstones (worth $150 for $50, including postage) from Gumtree. This week, she is off to look at a large leather bag, priced to sell at $45 but would be $300+ new. As she said: “Why would you ever buy new?”

A few years back, Amanda branched out from sourcing only clothes: she now uses a combination of GumTree, Facebook, Ebay and op shops to buy a variety of items, like paint, cleaning products, fabric and electronics, (just don’t mention the $15 air fryer she found at the Salvos in Belconnen last year as she is a little bit obsessed about it and the conversation could go on for while). This is a shout out to anyone who has Queenslander windows and doors for sale. If you do, please contact Amanda as she is currently on the look out for these (she has put out a “want to buy” ad on Facebook buy/swap/sell and various other community pages already).

In Canberra, you don’t even have to search Facebook pages or community group sites or the classifieds at work (fun fact — the classified intranet site at my work is apparently the site with the highest traffic. With ads like “chest of drawers, ski poles and an adult mermaid costume” one can easily see why). A few weeks ago, we sold our couch on Gumtree to a group of university students moving out of home and into a share house together. These three enterprising students had managed to buy or find their entire house off Gumtree and the side of the road. When you stop and look, it is amazing the amount of great stuff that is put out on the side on the road in my hood. (I know this because I spend a large proportion of my days taking photos of things I find on sidewalks).

Amanda says shopping second hand gives her a “feel-good factor” — buying knowing that she is not contributing more waste to landfill makes her happy. And it should. The environmental impact of clothes manufacturing — any kind of manufacturing — is huge. On clothes, you need to remember that:

  • 20,000 litres of water is used to produce 1 kg of cotton and 1 kg of cotton produces one t-shirt and one pair of jeans;
  • 33 trillion gallons of oil and 23 billion pounds of chemicals are used annually in the world’s textile industry;
  • Dyeing textiles is water and chemical intensive: for almost 1kg of textiles 95–150 litres of water is used; and
  • 23 kilograms of textiles per person are thrown away every year in Australia.

When you stop and think about the drain on the environment to produce clothing, then I think you have to conclude that Amanda’s second hand clothes shopping is a brilliant solution. We can’t consume just once. Stuff has to be thought of as circular not linear. It should go round and round and round to different people who need it at different times, not to one person only and then straight to the trash. This is Amanda’s lesson: buy recycled, re-used and pre-loved, find it on the footpath or leave it on the footpath for someone else who may want it, wear a patterned knitted jumper from a bad 80’s Christmas themed movie with pride — all of it is important, inspiring and indispensable for greater environmental change. It starts with one.



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Julie Boulton

Stories about me and the future health and happiness of our world | sustainability professional | support my work @