Sustainability and Second-hand by Sanne Brännström

Between 18-26 October, GRUDE had a guest blogger on our Swedish blogsite. The blogger was Sanne Brännström, also known as Warginna, who took us into the world of second-hand which is her passion.

Here, you can read a summary in English of all her six blog posts. We hope you will be as inspired as us about her personal writing style which, in a fun way, combines facts with her own experiences and thoughts. Enjoy!

Who Am I?

My name is Sanne Brännström and Warginna is my own company and brand. I come from Tornedalen which is a region in Sweden close to the Finnish border. We have our own language, meänkieli, and our own flag since we are one of the minority peoples in Sweden.

I am very proud of my roots because they have shaped me into the person I am today, with the forest just outside the door and the light of the midnight sun over my childhood home.

I grew up in Pello which is a small village of about 160 people. As you can probably imagine, it is sparsely populated but beautiful in all its simplicity. Even though I had said I would never leave my hometown, I moved away after I turned 19 and graduated.

As we all know, life is not black and white. I my case, I fell in love with a hockey player, also from Tornedalen. Ever since we moved in with each other, we have lived, as we call it, a vagabond life, together with our active dogs Iwa and Izla. Practically speaking, we need to move wherever his career takes us.

Myself I would describe as multi creator. I am a photographer, digital/graphic designer and Instagram influencer within themes of nature and sustainable fashion. In fact, these are the core values in most of what I do. In my everyday life, I try to make as sustainable choices as I can, for example, by buying primarily second-hand and vintage.

My Second-hand History

The dress which first introduced me to the world of second-hand was a one I got to choose from my Finnish grandmother Helena’s wardrobe. It was a black dress from the fifties or sixties and had small pink stars on it.

With this dress on, I took my first selfie with a digital camera. I didn’t have a stand for the camera, so I placed it on the balcony railing and put on the timer. I published the picture on my fashion blog I had at the time, and wrote a post about how I had been given a free hand in my grandmother’s retro wardrobe.

I clearly remember that moment today. I have been interested in fashion for my whole life and I have always liked to express myself through my style. Little did I know, when my mother took me to a Red Cross second-hand store in Pajala for the first time, that I had stepped into my future passion.

Reasons to Buy Second-hand

Did you know that on average 14 kilos of new clothes and textiles are purchased per person in Sweden every year? (Source: Naturskyddsföreningen). How many times would you think we use our new clothes? Well, the figure lays somewhere between seven and nine times, according to a report from the European Environmental Agency. Moreover, we own our clothes only for about 2-2,5 years.

Buying second-hand as a first choice, and actively taking distance from fast fashion has happened gradually for me. At first, it was about the environmental impact that began to catch my interest. The clothing industry for example, releases more greenhouse gases than the flight and shipping together (Source: FN trader body Unctad).

But you know how it usually goes, once you have seen something, it becomes very hard to unsee. The next question that I started to think about were human rights. The working conditions are often very poor in the developing countries where most of our clothes are produced. There are problems such as underpayment, dangerous working conditions and even child labour.

In other words, our consumption choices effect, not only the environment, but also social sustainability in the countries of production. On the other hand, by buying clothes from the Red Cross, for example we can contribute in donating money to high risk areas and people in need all around the world.

Another thing worth consideration is that second-hand clothes release considerably less microplastics in our oceans than new clothes. In addition, second-hand clothes have less chemicals on them which makes them healthier for us to wear.

According to an investigation by YouGov we could save 8100 liters of water per person (!) if one kilo of the clothes we buy in the coming year would be bough second-hand. This is the only New Year’s resolution you need!

Facts about Second-hand in Home Decor

On this last decade alone our consumption of furniture and household items has increased with 47% (Source: Naturskyddsföreningen) Here are my best tips to furnishing your home more sustainably with second-hand:

  • Create colour charts. When I plan to buy something new for our home I always start off from the colour chart I have created for our decor in order to keep it uniform. This also makes it easier to choose suitable colours of contrast.
  • Create a list of things you need for your home in your phone. This will help you avoid impulse buying.
  • DIY! So many things can be repainted, reupholstered or decorated. For example, our couch at home is grey and therefore doesn’t fit very well with our otherwise warm-toned interior. Instead of disposing of it, we have made it work by decorating it with pretty pillows. Why? Because the environmental effects of producing one new sofa is the same as with six old ones (Source: Naturskyddsföreningen).

Myths about Second-hand Shopping 

It’s unhygienic and smells weird!
Pleeease! I like to compare second-hand shopping to staying in a hotel. Think about it, in a hotel you sleep in bedding where thousands of others have slept before you. Moreover, have you ever thought that the smell of new clothes is actually caused by all the chemicals they have been treated with? These chemicals have been worn out from used clothes which actually makes them healthier to wear.

It is difficult! 
Shopping second-hand has probably never been easier! In addition to physical stores, we nowadays have the opportunity to shop second-hand online. You can find second-hand stores even in Facebook!

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle

The cold fact is that the best consumption is the one that never happens. However, we all know that this is not how it works in real life. People will never stop consuming entirely, but what we can actively change, is what and how much we consume.

Using the things we already own and reducing unnecessary shopping, are actually good starting points for becoming more sustainable consumers. It is good to remember that even second-hand shopping can be unsustainable if we don’t think through our purchase decisions.

I my opinion, shopping is similar to voting in an election. What we buy or don’t buy reveals the values we believe in. Like I said earlier, once you’ve seen something it becomes very hard to unsee. This is why I try my best to express my values through conscious and sustainable choices.

Thank you for the honor of letting me write here in the GRUDE blog!

Sanne Brännström

Read all of Sanne’s blog posts in our Swedish blog.