“I’ve always been a charity shop girl,” says Rosie Coltman, a 32-year-old teacher from Leicestershire.
In recent years, she has shifted from fast fashion towards renting and repairing clothes, or buying secondhand or higher-quality items. She has bought a waxed Barbour jacket that, while more expensive in the short term, she hopes will be cheaper overall due to its durability. For a friend’s wedding, she hired a black Ganni dress for £50 from the app By Rotation. She also batch-cooks food to avoid waste, and prioritises buying from ethical and sustainable companies.
Coltman’s new habits echo a wider social shift. Faced with a cost of living crisis, the looming threat of climate disaster, and the pandemic’s upending of daily life, which has led many to rethink their habits, more people are pledging to consume less and spend more sustainably – reducing the strain on planet and pocket.
According to YouGov, 46% of Britons surveyed in August 2023 said environmental sustainability had affected their general household purchases a “fair amount,” rising from 41% of those surveyed in February 2020. (Although people responding that it affected spending to a “large extent” fell from 18% to 15%.) Meanwhile, financial burdens continue to weigh people down, with 1.8m UK households – almost 3.8 million people – having experienced destitution at some point in 2022, according to Joseph Rowntree Foundation research, and a KPMG survey finding that two-thirds of UK consumers planned to cut discretionary spending this year.
For Kat Butler, a 36-year-old graphic designer, the last straw came when the stitching came unpicked in a new pair of leggings she had bought. “Then I said to my family, ‘Yeah,