Home Rental industry If renting clothes is really worse for the planet than sending them straight to the landfill, what do we do instead?

If renting clothes is really worse for the planet than sending them straight to the landfill, what do we do instead?



Is it time to throw in the towel (of sustainable origin)?

Last week, Stunned published an article titled ‘Renting clothes is worse for the planet than throwing them away‘, based on the findings of a new study by Environmental Research Letters (ERS).

The study analyzed the environmental impacts of different approaches to end-of-life clothing, including extended use, resale, recycling into raw materials, rental of clothing, and standard use with waste disposal. The report concluded that of the five end-of-life methods, clothing rental has the greatest impact on the environment.

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Like me, your first reaction to these findings may be a “Well, damn”. EEco-conscious shoppers like myself believed we had found the sweet spot of consumerism. We thought we could satisfy our urge for “novelty” by renting or buying second-hand clothes, while aAlso disconnect us from the dark underbelly of the fast fashion market.

Outwardly, it seems that the sustainable fashion movement gets stronger day by day. The synchronous clicking of hangers in op stores across the country has never been stronger, and the clothing rental market is expected to reach $ 2.57 billion by 2023.

So, to put it bluntly, reading this study was like a giant slap in the face. But one Analysis of the study by The fashion industry noted that some of the standards used in the research landed a considerable distance from the baseball stadium, so to speak.

For example, the study was conducted on the assumption that each item of clothing, including the “standard use and waste disposal” piece, is worn 200 times. In reality, Studies show new clothes are only worn an average of seven times before being thrown away.

It also assumed that customers would each drive two kilometers to collect their rental items, which would generate a lot of emissions, while many rental services send their packages through the post. Regardless of the perceived accuracies or inaccuracies of the study, the research topic acts as an excellent conversation starter about the future of the study. fashion rental market.

Don’t dismiss the clothing rental industry just yet

Sustainability expert Dr Taylor Brydges says the effectiveness of renting sustainable clothing is highly dependent on its business model. A The “Clothing Rental Business Guide” will introduce you to three different approaches to clothing rental, according to Taylor.

There is the peer-to-peer market; it’s your smallest, e-commerce, short of your back garage rental system. Then there is the rental subscription; companies like GlamCorner, where you pay a monthly fee, get a bunch of clothes for a month, and send them back when you’re done. Finally, you have the dress rental; this is your special occasion, formal style dress rental in high school.

Taylor says of the three, the peer-to-peer market is the least profitable and most environmentally friendly option per garment. “There is so much work per transaction when you hire. You have to have a website, social media, then you have to have a place to store the clothes, get the clothes, pack them, mail them, send them back, assess the quality, and then put them back on the website , then start the whole process again, ”says Taylor.

“And it has to be cheap to compete with the new insanely cheap clothes… so the peer-to-peer bubble is really hard to monetize.” So maybe the ERS study is right. Particularly with regard to the repeated transport of rented clothing, the rental industry could have a considerable environmental impact. But with the aim of reducing the overall production of clothing, it is still a valuable and affordable platform for fast fashion consumers.

Is a “clothing library” the future of sustainable fashion?

In a recent Instagram post, feminist author Clementine Ford planted the seedling of a rental initiative that could potentially oversize the clothing rental game in Australia. “There’s no point in buying new things that will be worn once or twice – let’s just share a big closet, ”she wrote in the post.

Offering free rental of his eccentric wardrobe to his legion of 180,000 Instagram followers, Ford’s post is somewhat of a direct protest against the consumerist “wear it once” culture so commonly endorsed on Instagram.

But beyond the typical “peer to peer” rental, Ford also suggested that local councils “set up shipping containers that could be rented by people to“ share closets ””.

Yes, the idea of ​​a giant community wardrobe lends a slight ’70s community vibe. And as small wardrobe sharing events become more and more popular among Facebook groups and local markets, a Large-scale publishing would require a lot of trust and determination on the part of the community for it to work well.

That said, it should be remembered that the rental system is by no means a contemporary concept. The system of borrowing, using and returning has been central to the functioning of society for centuries.

From houses to cars, to laundry services and books, if we can’t afford to own something, we rent it out. And in the case of the clothing industry, which is the second most polluting industry behind oil, we certainly can no longer afford the environmental consequences of the sector.

So could a large-scale “clothing library” initiative, like the one proposed by Ford, somehow become a standard method of sustainable and affordable clothing for future generations? Taylor seems to think so.

“I think it would be especially good to set it up as some kind of non-profit or social business, where you break out of the cooperative model – everyone donates ten clothes, you volunteer for an hour to work there, and as Clementine suggested, they can send it to you, but you will be responsible for the cleanup, ”she theorized. “And that makes a lot of sense in keeping costs down.”

But as much as we try to reduce the cost per wear of our clothes, or rewire our brains to escape the trap of the “consumer psyche”, the source of the current problem is the production of new clothes. And despite our efforts, clothing production continues to increase.

Each year, the average Australian consumes 27 kilograms of textiles, making us the second largest consumer of clothing in the world. What’s more concerning is that 85 percent of that – 23 kilograms – is then discarded.

Individual action on any social issue is by no means an unnecessary feat, but sustainable methods of clothing consumption will only make a difference if they result in a decrease in the number of new clothes produced.

As Taylor notes, “We always have to hold the big brands accountable and demand best practices from them as well… because renting something isn’t going to make a difference for the rights of garment workers in a land far away. ”

Don’t stop renting clothes because it’s “as bad as brand new shopping.” Like many social movements, the individual action we take to buy sustainably does not only aim to change the practices of large companies. It also acts as a domino effect – an inspiration and an example to others.

Most of us support decent wages for garment workers and understand the dangers of climate change, but the temptations of consumerism are powerfully alluring. So if we can show those around us that it’s easy to cut back on our fast fashion consumption and look damn good doing it, it can push them to make their own changes. And I hope the dominoes keep falling in the right direction.

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