Is Renting The Runway Actually More Sustainable?

by: Rosie Dalton | 2 weeks ago | Features

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The rental economy has become increasingly popular over recent years and it is used by women all over the world, for everything from work to occasion dressing. This approach is generally touted as a more sustainable option. But are platforms like Rent the Runway actually more sustainable?

Yes, these rental clothing apps do ensure that clothes are worn multiple times. Which is great, considering YouGov Omnibus market research shows 1 in 5 Australians throw items away after just one wear. But lots of other resources are wasted in the process of renting clothes.

Every time a garment is rented, it needs to be packaged up and shipped to the customer, for example. Once worn, it will then be shipped back to the head office, dry cleaned and packaged up again. Worryingly, transportation is now the top source of carbon dioxide emissions in the US and online shopping accounts for a quarter of this.

Meanwhile, rented clothing often comes in new packaging, much of which either isn’t recyclable or has shockingly low recycling rates. When we invest in quality pieces that we can wear over and over, on the other hand, there isn’t as much packaging, dry cleaning or emissions involved.

In addition to this, trend culture is an important part of how rental fashion businesses operate. And trend culture is a core part of the problem with the modern fashion industry. It is positive that this model allows people to try out new trends, without buying new clothes every season. Especially considering the YouGov Omnibus research also shows Millennial shoppers are very influenced by the ‘trendiness’ of their clothes.

However, trend culture is a fundamental problem with the status quo in fashion. Which is why we should be encouraging consumers to invest in timeless clothing instead; clothes that they can keep for many years to come.

So yes, the rental economy is undeniably more sustainable than fast fashion, but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily the most sustainable option. When in doubt, the most sustainable wardrobe tends to be a values-driven personal uniform that’s made up of timeless pieces you can wear 30 times or more.  

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