Can you shop sustainably at Everything5Pounds?


I’ve written about the pros and cons of clothes shopping at Everything5Pounds before, but mainly from the perspective of value for money and customer service.

As time goes by, many of us are thinking a lot harder about the environment, but there’s also a cost of living crisis coming down the line. Most of us will need to cut our spending, often quite significantly. This got me wondering: is it possible to dress for less, but still shop sustainably – at least to some extent?


A quick note about how E5P works

If you haven’t already tried shopping at Everything5Pounds, nearly everything they sell is de-labelled stock, so they won’t tell you which brand/shop it comes from. Some of what they sell has an original retail price several times higher than the £5 price tag, but other items are worth less than £5.

There are a few other, smaller shops around that sell de-labelled stock in the same way, plus a few market stalls and eBay sellers that work in a similar fashion. The same principles apply to the way they obtain and sell stock, with similar issues relating the environmental impact, so the following points apply to those retailers too.


De-branded clothes & sustainability

There are multiple, complex issues to consider when looking at this rather broad subject. For example, you might want to look more closely at any of these areas:

  • Type of fabric used
  • Methods of fabric manufacture
  • Garment manufacture & ethics
  • Packaging and/or transport
  • Fast fashion ‘churnover’ issues


sustainability plants and planet


Type of fabric in garments

Even though the products have been de-labelled, they usually still have their care labels intact. Failing this it tends to be listed at the point of sale.

What you’re primarily looking for here are biodegradable fabrics/materials that will break down in compost or landfill. These commonly include:

  • cotton
  • leather
  • linen (sometimes confusingly referred to on E5P as ‘flax’)
  • rayon/viscose/modal
  • Tencel / Lyocell
  • wool

It also technically includes acetate, bamboo, ramie, jute, hemp, silk and fur, among other fibres, but I haven’t seen these listed on the E5P site. Rayon is usually biodegradable, but this can depend upon whether its fibres have been treated to make them waterproof.

Non-biodegradable fabrics won’t break down in landfill, and can release microplastics into the environment. Common ones to you might want to try to avoid include:

  • acrylic
  • nylon
  • polyester
  • spandex/Lycra/Elastane

Yes, you can recycle polyester, which does reduce some of the environmental impact and keeps things out of landfill. However, I have never seen an E5P listing that mentions recycled material.

Just to make things a bit more complicated, Everything5Pounds does have completely missing information about the garment fabric on some listings, although this isn’t very common.


Fabric manufacturing methods

If you don’t know the brand, you have very little chance of finding out how they select their fabrics. For example, I have never seen cotton described as ‘organic cotton’ on E5P, which would at least give you some idea of the environmental impact of growing the plants, particularly the use of pesticides and intensive farming methods.

Likewise, animal welfare or country of origin won’t be mentioned when you’re seeing ‘wool’. The chemical processes won’t be listed if you’re looking at treated leather or biodegradable polymers such as rayon/viscose either, and these can make a huge difference if you’re looking for reduced environmental impact and all-round sustainability.

Sometimes you’re lucky and you can actually work out the brand after a product arrives. The label may not have been fully removed, or branded buttons, rivets or other details give the game away. Unfortunately you only find this out at the end, not before you’ve made the purchase.

Commercial sewing machine in garment factory


Garment manufacture & ethics

There are the same problems here too, if you don’t know the brand. There’s no real way to know whether it’s been made ethically, or by low-paid workers in sweatshop conditions, or via child labour, or political prisoners in work camps.


Packaging and transport

All the clothes sold by Everything5Pounds now seem to arrive packaged in individual clear plastic bags, only some of which have recycling instructions. Shoes arrive tied together or in cardboard boxes. The whole order is then put into a large opaque plastic bag or a cardboard box, but there’s no ability to choose the box.

I’m fairly sure they use a range of different couriers, so it’s tricky to work out how sustainable a delivery might be.


7 sustainability tips for E5P orders

  1. Only buy new if you really need to
  2. Avoid fads, or things you’ll hardly ever wear
  3. Check the fabric composition carefully before buying
  4. If something doesn’t truly fit or suit you, send it right back
  5. Recycle any packaging, if at all possible
  6. Take good care of anything you purchase, so it lasts longer
  7. Once you’ve finally finished with an item, sell, swap or donate it (or take it for recycling, or compost it yourself)



Is it possible to shop sustainably at shops with de-branded stock? Well, it’s a mixed picture.

If your most important requirement is for all the sustainability issues boxes to be ticked, you’d be better to save up and spend more with retailers and/or brands that are completely transparent about all their materials, manufacturing, ethics, packaging and so on.

On the other hand, if you’re on a tighter budget and genuinely need affordable new clothes, it’s still possible to meet at least some sustainability standards when buying discounted de-labelled items. In particular, it’s usually possible to shop moderately, and to choose biodegradable fabrics. It could also prevent many surplus items of stock from going straight into landfill, which is still a far more common issue in fast fashion than most of us realise.


Are you trying to live more sustainably? Is de-labelled clothing an acceptable compromise for someone on a budget?


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