Buying at auction - the sustainable option

Whether you’re looking for fashion, furniture or watches, buying pre-loved items at auction is always a sustainable choice compared with buying newly manufactured goods.

A sideboard

This Skovby light oak sideboard sold for £120 at David Duggleby in January 2023.

Here we take a look at these three areas and focus on the way that buying items at auction can reduce your carbon footprint and help the environment.

Antiques are Green

It sounds obvious – if you buy an antique or vintage item, no trees have to be cut down, no new resources have to be mined, no new materials have to be used and there’s no pollution from the industrial process required to make it.

Buying antique, vintage and second-hand items therefore reduces carbon emissions but it also saves resources, reduces landfill (by buying an item that might otherwise end up being thrown away) and cuts down on the transportation of new goods from abroad.

Indeed the antiques trade has been described as ‘the oldest recycling business in the world’ and yet it also fulfils the modern mantra – 'sustainable, re-usable and re-saleable'.

Vintage Fashion

More and more people are now looking for ethical options when it comes to buying clothes. Vintage clothes and accessories like handbags are now a major recycling industry and plenty of items are offered at auctions on every week.

Buying pre-owned items is a way to limit your carbon footprint as well as a cheaper option for acquiring certain brands and lines. According to research, such as the statistics complied by GlobalData, if everyone bought just one used clothing item in a year, it would save £449m of waste annually.

Designer brands are available to buy pre-owned on, often at much more affordable price-points to newly manufactured products, and here are a few examples to give you a flavour of what has previously come up.

This Prada Gaufre black bag sold for £180 at Catherine Southon.

A Prada bag

This Prada Gaufre bag sold for £180 at Catherine Southon.

Another famous French designer brand is Hermès. This Hermès designer silk scarf sold for £170 at Halls in January 2023.

A scarf made by Hermès

This Hermès scarf sold for £170 at Halls. A new scarf by the same brand of the same size typically sells for over £400.

And this lot of two Hermès silk ties sold for £30 at Bamfords in August.

Two ties

These two Hermès were bought for £30 at Bamfords in August.


When it comes to furniture it’s a case of ‘Buy antique, Be green’.

The older the piece, the lower its carbon footprint. This is due to both its initial construction and long lifetime of use. Vintage and antique pieces are built to last and can have many owners over the course of their lifetime, usually outlasting modern flatpack furniture.

A twin pedestal desk

At Wilson 55 on January 12 this Edwardian twin pedestal desk sold for £180.

A study commissioned by Auction Technology Group, parent company of, estimated the carbon emissions saved by buying items second-hand. It found, for example, that buying a vintage table could save 0.46 tonnes of CO2 emissions compared with buying a similar table new.

With many more people working from home these days, this desk is typical of the sustainable options buyers have been picking up at auction for far less than they would cost new from a high street store. It sold for £190 in September.

Hundreds of such pieces of pre-loved furniture and antique specialties are offered every week on, including high quality and superbly constructed examples. 

A blanket box

This panelled oak blanket box sold for £75 at David Duggleby on January 12.

Whether you’re looking for large or small pieces of furniture you’re certain to find the perfect sustainable option by using our search box.

Here’s an example (pictured above) of a large blanket box that provides ample storage. It cost £75 at David Duggleby in Yorkshire. If you have smaller rooms, no problem - there are plenty of compact blanket boxes coming up for sale almost every week at auction.

You can find good value designer furniture at auction. This extendable dining table and four chairs (pictured below) was snapped by a bidder for £120. A new, similar table would cost a lot more than that - and that's without the chairs.

A dining table and chairs

This mid-20th century Scandinavian teak extending dining table with four chairs cost £120 at David Duggleby.

If you are seeking to furnish a home on a budget look out for job lots - where the auctioneer groups multiple objects together - particularly at an auction house near you (so that you can pick up in person rather than pay for packing and delivery).

Bedroom furniture

At Cheffins in January, a bid of just £50 secured this painted bedroom suite, comprising a two-door linenfold wardrobe; a three-drawer chest; a cupboard with three drawers; a three-drawer dressing table; a rectangular dressing table swing mirror and a pair of ladder back chairs.

You really can furnish a room or many rooms for very little.

Pine furniture

This job lot of pine furniture sold for £20 at Richard Winterton in September.


An article on the Watchpro website stated that "mechanical watches are about as sustainable a durable good as the world has ever produced. Many timekeepers from the 18th century are still ticking and, unlike today’s washing machines, the mechanics of a modern day automatic are likely to keep working with little or no maintenance for decades."

An Omega watch

This Omega Seamaster sold for £420 at McTear's on January 12.

The sustainability factor of buying watches at auction combines with the fact that preloved watches can be purchased at a significantly cheaper price than at retail, making them an ideal choice for many buyers. The Auction Technology Group carbon emissions study found that buying a watch second hand would save an estimated 0.8 tonnes of CO2 emissions compared with buying a new one.

Plenty of options are available on including many by the famous brands like Rolex, Omega, Patek Philippe, Tag Heuer and Cartier.

An example is this Omega Seamaster wristwatch (pictured above) which sold for £350 at Tennants in September.

Another famous brand is Longines and various models appear regularly at auctions on this website. This Longines watch sold for £880 at Fellows in January.

A Longines wrist watch

This Longines watch with a stainless steel case with rose metal bezel sold to a buyer on the saleroom for £880 at Fellows on January 19.

Browse and bid

You can search today to find watches, furniture or fashion items (and anything else you fancy) coming up at auction over the next few weeks.

And if you're new to bidding at auction, check out our helpful auction buying guides - it's easy once you know how.

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