Why You Should Rent Clothes

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Shorter Version

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Reasons to Rent Clothes

The fashion industry is more wasteful than you might think. Research indicates that manufacturers dispose of over half by incineration and landfill shortly after it’s purchased. New clothes often remain in closets, with the price tags still attached. This is because clothing production has doubled over the past 15 years, but utilization has also dropped by 40%. Brands create and sell an increasing number of clothing lines and collections per year, and much of it hangs unworn until it’s discarded.

The Good News Is…

You can be friendly to the earth and wear new styles when you rent your clothes.

Owning clothes has become less necessary as the industry shifts to a fashion-sharing economy. By subscribing to clothing share business models, you become less wasteful and more sustainable. Simultaneously, you’re reducing your environmental footprint while gaining access to high-quality clothing at a reduced price. Clothing rental options increase garment use with one-time rental and subscription services, clothing share platforms, online thrift marketplaces, and zero waste brands.

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Longer Version

Est. Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Why is the Fashion Industry Wasteful?

Traditionally, the way we shop for clothes follows a linear ‘take-make-dispose model. We take resources from the earth to use for textiles, make articles of clothing, and then dispose of them later. Not only is the waste a disposal issue, but the overproduction and underutilization of clothing cause a substantial environmental footprint. For example, the industry uses 98 million tons of natural resources such as oil and chemicals in textile manufacturing each year.

What if I Donate My Clothes Instead of Throwing Them Away?

You might think donating your clothes to a thrift store is better for the environment. However, most donated clothing is eventually landfilled and incinerated too. A more sustainable system is circular instead of linear, where used items are turned into new, and there is zero waste. Very few zero waste clothing options currently exist. Renting also generates less waste, clothing items are utilized for much longer, and the demand for clothing production is reduced.

Reasons to Rent Clothes

Clothing rental and subscription services make sharing easy.

Instead of purchasing items that you’ll need to figure out how to get rid of later, you can rent clothes that you’ll only wear a handful of times. When you rent, the company doesn’t manufacture an article of clothing just for you. So you’re saving materials, water, and energy. Depending on the brand, rental services offer one-time rentals as well as monthly subscriptions. Renting clothing is typically commitment-free and provides dry cleaning, shipping, returns, and reusable garment bags. Because customers share pieces, it’s in the company’s best interest to ensure the garments last – therefore, the products are typically high quality. You can also rent your clothes through these services at a lower price point than traditional retail.

How to Rent Clothes

Vince, NY & Company, Ann Taylor, Express, American Eagle, Rebecca Taylor, Loft, and the Banana Republic have all added rental subscriptions so you can easily rent clothes and find brands you love. Here is a list of rental company options that carry more than one brand:

Earn Money by Lending

Alternatively, if you’re interested in earning money, Tulerie and StyleLend provide lending and renting services. According to Tulerie, you can earn double the amount of money lending your clothing before reselling them. You’re extending your garments’ life and giving others the option to wear second-hand pieces, preventing them from being landfilled sooner.

Don’t Companies Still Discard Rented Items Evntually?

Yes, but at least some of these services are extending the life of clothing longer by using them for a beneficial cause. For example, Rent The Runway uses unrentable clothing for sample sales which offer options to purchase clothing at a discount or gives donations to organizations like Operation Prom. Similarly, Tulerie provides free shipping labels so that anyone with a pile of unwanted clothing can donate to Rewearable. This recycling company has committed to finding other uses for clothing to keep it out of landfills. Working within a linear fashion system, it’s challenging to create a brand that generates zero waste, although a few are doing so.

Circular Brands

Using rental services reduces waste, saves natural resources, and saves money and closet space. But there is still waste once that clothing is unwearable. Not many companies are completely circular, but one Los Angeles-based company called For Days is. They make basic organic clothing that you can swap whenever you want. When you send your old For Days clothing back, they recycle it into new clothes. There is a one-time membership fee, and prices start at $8 per item when you exchange. For members, they also accept any brand of clothing and responsibly recycle it.

It’s rare to see a brand take back their clothing to make new products from it.

Another brand, Eileen Fisher, has a similar program called Renew, where you can send back unwanted and damaged pieces and the company makes new clothing out of them.

Actionable Steps


Read the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is one of the leading organizations committed to helping people understand what it would take to transition to a circular economy. This report is a vision for a new, less wasteful fashion and textiles system.


Watch The True Cost.

Available on YouTube, Amazon Prime, and iTunes, the film addresses how clothing is made. It inclues the damaging social and environmental impacts that are often associated with it.


Listen to a podcast.

Check out Kestrel Jenkins’ super informative podcast, Conscious Chatter, about how what we wear matters. In each episode, she interviews business owners in the sustainable fashion industry.


Shop pre-owned.

thredUP and Material World are also great options for online consignment. You can also sell pre-owned designer clothes to Material World.


Shop consciously.

Some examples of conscious brands are:
●  Tonlé hand weaves their own fabric from textile waste material, and what they can’t turn into clothing is made into paper.
● zero waste daniel, a Brooklyn, NY based brand, makes genderless basics from pre-consumer garment waste.
Rothy’s makes shoes out of plastic water bottles.


Do a little research before donating your clothes.

What will the organization do with your items once they have been donated? The longer your clothes are worn, the better.


Buy High-Quality Items

If you must own and shop for brand new pieces, invest in high-quality items that you will wear often and for a long time.


Lend your clothes.

You can lend your clothes using Tulerie or StyleLend.


Create a capsule wardrobe.

This Washington Post article explains how. The idea is to invest and own a minimal amount of high-quality, seasonless clothing that you love.

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About the Author

Charlotte Scott

Charlotte Scott

Sustainability Consultant

Charlotte Scott is a Los Angeles-based Sustainability Consultant. She started her career in Louisiana, managing waste generated from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Charlotte went on to spend eight years in NYC consulting with companies on environmental best practices, regulatory compliance, waste management, and sustainability programs.
Full Bio | LinkedIn

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