Fashion, Sustainability

Do Sustainability and Clothing rentals go hand-in-hand?

It’s a bit more complicated than you’d expect.

words by: Natasha Marsh
Aug 31, 2022

When contemplating on how to make your wardrobe more eco-friendly, you might think of using a clothing rental company. And you wouldn’t be wrong, the environmental impact of clothing alone (millions of textile waste, annually) would make you want to choose an alternative to shopping for new clothing.


Sure, the impact on monthly subscription boxes from places like Prime Wardrobe, Trunk Club, and Menlo Club, allow you to have an ongoing rotation and have been marketed as a greener way to dress, but, the logistical process behind rental clothing subscriptions might not actually be.


The problem behind logistics and supply chain

Some of these companies offer you the option of purchasing the items you rent from, but the biggest cost is in the logistics and the high impact on global warming. Think of the shipping, packaging, constant cleaning that is offered, and the need to maintain clothes between each renter.


Then there are the cars, boats, trains, and commercial aircraft that contributes to greenhouse gas emissions — 29% of it to be exact, as reported in a study of 2019. Most of clothing items are delivered with these transportation modes, and then delivered via bike or another carbon-emitting vehicle that could harm the environment.


Not to mention the constant cleaning

And then once the account member returns the items, the apparel companies then dry clean everything. Some have found environmentally friendlier practices, but for the most part will still clean after you return the items. Some companies select biodegradable detergents free from added fragrances and zeolites (large group of dehydrating minerals) — like non-alkaline and phosphate-free cleaning solutions that are known to be more gentle on the environment than traditional household detergents like Tide.


Is there any good news?

You’ll find that some rental companies encourage all their customers to keep the plastic out of landfills by sending it back with their garments. Brands that opt for this, typically will recycle through a third party who would then turn the plastic into a wood-alternative building and decking material.


Of course, the main goal of these companies is to inspire customers to buy less and wear more (keeping clothing in rotation for as long as possible) for a more sustainable future. A ton of them have released statements confirming their ongoing work at improving operations and supply chains for an even more cleaner approach.


Translation: They are clued into the environmental harm they are making. Of course, the argument is that mass textile production and manufacturing is far worse than rental clothing services. But you have to decide if that “far worse” is good enough for you.


If you are looking for ways to support cleaner fashion, here’s 5 bags made out of recycled materials for you to shop.


Photo via Prostock-Studio/Getty Images