Sustainably, stylishly second-hand: lots to celebrate World Environment Day

World Environment Day (WED) bills itself as the largest international annual recognition for the environment.

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Catherine Hyde, The Adoration of the Earth, mixed media, 2000. Offered for £100-200, this picture has an estimate of £100-200 at David Lay Auctions in Penzance. View the catalogue entry here.

Held on June 5, it is the United Nations’ vehicle for promoting awareness for the protection of the environment. But while the day might be big, it’s easy to feel small in the face of it.

Led by the United Nations Environment Programme and held annually since 1973, it has a different theme every year. This year it’s ‘Only One Earth’. Despite the clarity of the message – to make sustainable choices and speak out about climate change – it can be difficult to know where to begin.

However, the WED website offers a downloadable practical guide, which includes strategies that individuals can take to improve matters. One section gives advice on “stuff”.

“Consumer choices are vital in shifting to a circular and sustainable economy,” it reads. “Buying products and services with a low environmental footprint – and only buying items that you really need and can share with others – boosts green businesses while shrinking polluters. It’s a way to invest in a better future.”

Buying at auction is an ideal way to source items second hand and reduce your energy consumption. Here we take a look at some upcoming lots that might fit the bill this year.

Forward thinking, backward looking furniture 

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Fight deforestation, cut down on your carbon footprint by skipping that trip to the flat-pack furniture shop and looking for some timeless designs at auction.

For example, this 6ft English oak sideboard was made by the workshop of renowned British furniture designer Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson. That means you’re not only owning a great item, but also a little piece of national history. It is offered at Tennants’ 20th century design sale of June 25. Estimated at £2500-3500 it features the classic carved mouse trademark. View the catalogue entry here.

Sweet Sweden

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Each year WED has a host country. This year Sweden will be the centre of the celebrations. In fact, it was host to the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, widely seen as the first international meeting on the environment.

That reminds us that antique Swedish furniture has a real appeal, so if you’re in the market for, say, a table, you could opt for this one. It’s a 17th century Swedish demilune fold-over table in softwood with a painted frame and unpainted top. It’s offered with an estimate of £300-500. That’s right, it’s from the 1600s – that’s a lot of recycling. It goes under the hammer at Sworders’ Fine Interiors Two Day Sale of June 14 and 15. View the catalogue entry here.

Flower Power

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The fashion industry has come under fire for unsustainable practices in recent years. “Buy fewer and better clothes that you still like even when they show their age,” the WED advises, and stay away from ‘fast fashion’. “Fashion is cyclical – create your own style with quality used clothes from decades ago!”

Vintage fashions regularly go under the hammer and can carry real appeal – think Kim Kardashian’s recent appearance in Marilyn Monroe’s dress at this year’s Met Gala.

Get a bit of pre-loved glamour yourself with items such as this 2015 Flower Power Extra mini flap bag, offered at Fellows’ Designer Collection Sale on June 6. It has an estimate of £700-1000. View the catalogue entry here.

Pre-beloved bling

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All eyes are now turning to the jewellery industry as it cleans up its act and starts prioritising sustainable practices. Gold mining leads to deforestation and huge amounts of earth must be moved to allow for the extraction of diamonds. But you could sidestep the issue by plumping for an antique – or at least second-hand – piece.

This early 20th century sapphire and diamond ring, with the central stone weighing around 32ct, is on offer at Roseberrys in London on June 15 with an estimate of £8000-12,000. View the catalogue entry here.  

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