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Why You Should Rent Your Clothes

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Shorter Version


Est. Reading Time: 1 Minute

The fashion industry is more wasteful than you might think. Research indicates that over half of all clothing is disposed of 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 dropped by 40%. Brands create and sell an increasing number of clothing lines and collections per year, and much of it is hanging unworn in closets until it’s discarded.

The good news is…

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 options at a reduced price. Companies that provide clothing rental options increase garment use by offering one-time rental and subscription services, clothing share platforms, online thrift marketplaces, and zero waste brands.

Skip to Actionable Steps

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, where 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 are causing a substantial environmental footprint on the earth. For example, 98 million tons of natural resources such as oil and chemicals are used in textile manufacturing each year.

What if I donate my clothes instead of throwing them away?

You might think that 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, which makes renting a better option than owning because less waste is generated, clothing items are utilized for much longer, and the demand for clothing production is reduced.

Renting 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. By renting, the article of clothing isn’t manufactured 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 the pieces are shared, it’s in the company’s best interest to ensure the garments last, and therefore, the products are typically high-quality. You can rent your clothes through these services at a lower price point than traditional retail.

How to rent your clothes

Vince, NY & Company, Ann Taylor, Express, American Eagle, Rebecca Taylor, Loft, and Banana Republic have all added rental subscriptions to their offerings so you can easily rent your 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 are platforms for lending and renting services. According to Tulerie, you can earn double the amount of money lending your clothing before reselling them. By lending clothes, you’re extending the life of your garments, and giving others the option to wear second-hand pieces, preventing them from being landfilled sooner.

Don’t rented items still need to be discarded eventually?

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 have 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, a recycling company 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

Extending the life of clothing through rental services reduces waste, saves natural resources, and helps people save money and closet space, but there is still waste once that clothing is unwearable. Not many companies have become completely circular. One Los Angeles based company that has is called For Days. They make basic organic clothing that you can swap whenever you want for any reason. 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


1

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.

2

Watch The True Cost

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

3

Listen to a podcast

Listen to Kestrel Jenkins’ super informative podcast, Conscious Chatter, about how what we wear matters. Each episode, she interviews business owners in the sustainable fashion industry.

4

Shop pre-owned

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

5

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, is making genderless basics from pre-consumer garment waste.
Rothy’s makes shoes out of plastic water bottles.

6

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 being worn, the better.

7

If you buy new…

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.

8

Lend your clothes

Lend using Tulerie or StyleLend.

9

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.

Still need help? Ask the coaches!

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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