The Sustainable Impact of Clothing Rental
As many consumers are waking up to the reality that fast fashion leads to a huge amount of textile waste and environmental pollution, as well as the exploitation of garment workers, more sustainable ways of staying on trend are rising in popularity. Buying less, borrowing, repairing and upcycling are all ways to extend the life of your clothes so they don’t end up as part of the estimated £140 million worth (around 350,000 tonnes) of used clothing that goes to landfill in the UK each year.
By renting your clothes, it’s possible to implement these sustainable practices into your everyday way of shopping. When we think of rental clothing, it’s likely we associate it with a one-off piece for a special occasion; it could be anything from a dress you wear to your cousin’s wedding to the extravagant designer gown Rihanna wears to the MET gala. These items are often only fashionable for one season or are too much of a statement for everyday use, and so renting, rather than buying, makes sense. However by renting your everyday wardrobe, consumers can shop for high-quality pieces and remain on trend in a sustainable way.
It may not be intuitive to think of our carbon footprint in relation to what we wear, however the fashion industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and 20% of global wastewater, (from fabric dyeing and treatment). At this pace, the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will surge more than 50 % by 2030. Over consumption and the inevitable waste this produces have become alarming global problems too large and too significant to ignore. Systemic changes are clearly needed, however we, as the consumer, do have the ability to change the environment in a positive way through our purchasing decisions. Every time you throw out an item of clothing, it is most likely incinerated or sent to landfill, and your carbon footprint goes up. Depending on the textile composition of the garment, it could be toxic to the environment and end up polluting rivers and streams. Over time, if you are constantly buying the latest fast fashion trend, only wearing it a couple of times before moving onto the next fad, your carbon footprint produced by your fashion consumption can be huge. One of the simplest ways in which rental clothing provides a sustainable alternative is by extending the life of a garment. When one item is rented by dozens of people, as opposed to each of them buying it themselves, ultimately this means fewer garments are produced and less raw materials are used, reducing waste. As renting is generally cheaper than buying, consumers have more access to ethical slow fashion, which is usually more expensive due to using better materials and ensuring good working conditions. By buying less clothes, you can build a wardrobe of high-quality basics that will last you for decades and rent statement and occasion pieces to experiment with your style. Renting can also be an excellent way of shopping sustainably for consumers with changing needs, for example fluctuating weight.
Whilst the impact of buying less clothing will make a positive change, ensuring environmentally-friendly practices throughout the process of renting is crucial to making it a truly sustainable way to shop. Reason to Rent only partners with brands that have a strong focus on ethics and sustainability throughout their business, from the raw materials used to the working conditions of their employees. Once a brand has partnered with Reason to Rent, we only buy items once there is sufficient demand from customers, this minimises waste and reduces the risk of holding stock that isn’t rented.
The view that our clothing is disposable, brought about by brands bringing out 24 collections a year and new trends constantly shown as ‘must-haves’ via social media, is an extremely harmful misconception. Some brands are making great strides in moving towards more sustainable production methods, such as outdoor retailer Patagonia making polyester fleece out of recycled plastic bottles. However we can support this progress by also rethinking our way of shopping. It’s clear consumers don’t want to sacrifice the adoption of new styles or self-expression to reduce carbon emissions - and nor should they - when clothing rental makes it possible to do so without costing the Earth.