Clothing rental and exchange companies certainly have their time and place; for example, if you need a dress for a special occasion or if your kids are growing out of their clothes faster than you can buy new ones. However, a new study published in Environmental Research Letters reminds us that the truly greenest form of fashion is simply buying a small amount of high quality goods and making them last for as long as possible.
The study analyzed four different forms of clothing shopping, including recycling, renting, resale, and buying new in-person. Surprisingly, they found that overall, renting is the most energy intensive and environmentally detrimental because of hidden emissions and waste in packaging and shipping. Dry cleaning the items between rents is also energy-intensive.
Dana Thomas, author of Fashionopolis, urges consumers to think of renting clothing as a special occasion activity:“[It’s] not something we do all the time, instead of buying our clothes and swapping out outfits nonstop, but on occasion, when the need arises, like proms [or] weddings.”
Just because renting isn’t as sustainable as we thought doesn’t mean we have to give up shopping altogether. Buying used clothes from a local thrift shop, hosting a swap meet to exchange clothing with community members, and modifying clothes you already have to make them more wearable are all fun and environmentally-friendly fashion options.
Source study: Environmental Research Letters – Innovative recycling or extended use?