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Jul 7, 2021
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Fashion rental 'not as eco as it seems' - report

Published
Jul 7, 2021

The fledging UK fashion rental market has been given a black mark. Instead of being held up as a positive environmental answer to the world’s throwaway society, it appears fashion rental isn’t at all sustainable.


Photo: Pexels/Public domain



That’s according to a study by the Finnish scientific journal Environmental Research Letters, which claims that rental fashion is worse for the planet than throwing items away.

The report, which assessed the environmental impact of five different ways of owning and disposing of clothing, including renting, resale and recycling, found that renting clothes had the highest climate impact of all. 

The hidden environmental costs were delivery and packaging, the study — which was reported by The Guardian — said. Renting involves a large amount of transportation, taking clothes back and forth between the warehouse and the renter. Dry cleaning is also harmful to the environment, the report noted.

The growing sector has been touted as a possible solution to fashion’s environmental crisis. A report by the World Economic Forum his year suggested that the industry generates 5% of global emissions.

However, instead of solving fashion’s environmental crisis, renting should be recategorised, said Dana Thomas, author of the study, called Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes

“We should think of renting like second-hand shopping. [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”.

The study also found many rental brands misuse the term ‘circular economy’ – the system where clothes are passed from person to person before being recycled – as a form of greenwashing.

It suggests that if rental companies change their logistics to make them more climate-friendly, renting would, environmentally, be on a level with reselling. It also found that the most sustainable way to consume fashion is to buy fewer items and to wear them for as long as possible.

“No executive wants to overhaul their business, and that’s what ‘going green’ will require, not tweaks but an entire overhaul,” said Thomas. “They are too focused on short-term gains to invest in long-term benefits.

Thomas also said the consumer mantra should be: “You want to be sustainable? Buy less, buy better”.

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