Second-Hand and Sustainable: A Special Report From Auction Technology Group

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Firms selling second-hand items such as antiques can now quantify the environmental advantages thanks to a new report. They can also improve their competitive edge by auditing and publishing their own green credentials.

Footprint reduction

The annual carbon footprint of a person in the UK is 13 tonnes (which includes all their consumption and travel), so saving almost a tonne in one purchase by buying a second-hand watch is a significant contribution to reducing personal carbon emissions.

The Auction Technology Group research, conducted by independent firm Small World Consulting founded by Mike Berners-Lee (see page opposite), has found notable carbon emissions savings for other secondhand purchases often seen at auctions including gemstone rings (0.42 tonnes) and furniture such as sofas (0.56 tonnes), dining tables (0.46 tonnes) and chests of drawers (0.32 tonnes).

This information is particularly welcome at the moment with increasing interest in interiors and design prompted by many people spending more time at home over the past two years and seeking to improve their home furnishings.

Others have moved away from cities (as they no longer need to commute to work) to live in larger countryside premises which they are furnishing with second-hand and period pieces bought at auctions, fairs, and dealers’ shops.

As Olivia Lidbury, founder of, says: “I’ve seen people sharing powerful slogan-type messages on platforms like Instagram, highlighting shocking statistics about how much furniture goes to landfill.

“Antiques are enjoying a huge moment thanks to the cottagecore trend, and people are keen to share their unique finds to all their followers, and that’s as much about creating an interior personal to them as it is about shopping sustainably – which often seems to be a happy by-product.”

Recycle, reuse, reupholster

Furniture can also be reupholstered to prolong its life and fit in with a modern home. And it’s even better when second-hand or leftover textiles can be used for this.

With over a decade working in interiors, Jules Haines, founder of Haines Collection, has seen first-hand the high volume of waste the industry creates so she set up her own business with a mission to reduce waste by selling leftover designer fabrics and accessories.

“I established my firm in 2020 to help counter the staggering 400,000 tonnes of homeware textiles that end up in UK landfill each year,” she says.

“Since then, by salvaging and repurposing waste fabrics and furnishings and making them easily available online, we’ve been able to re-home over 14,000 metres of unwanted textiles. We started with rescuing textiles but now also resell wallpaper, cushions, mirrors and lights.”


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