Is renting really sustainable?

Regularly crowned as the be-all and end-all of eco-friendly fashion by rental companies; how sustainable is renting fashion, really?

We’re committed to creating the best service possible for our customers, which requires an honest approach to looking into rental practices. The Eco Bahn found 4 key cons of rental, so we looked into how we tackle this, and how we can further improve.

  1. Dry-cleaning

The Eco Bahn mention that there is a high level of water used for dry-cleaning versus normal washing. They also discuss customers expecting clothes in pristine condition which requires cleaning after every rental.

It is indeed true that clothing may be washed more than if owned, however we have taken steps to combat this with our washing. We’re extremely pleased to say we have been using Wet Cleaning, one of the most sustainable cleaning methods in the world, since our launch in summer 2020. This method uses 50% less water than even a traditional washing machine, therefore much less than with dry cleaning. It also uses non-toxic water solvents meaning hazardous waste isn’t produced from aggressive chemicals used to clean, and we use fast wash and dry wash cycles to reduce electricity usage. You can view more about Wet Cleaning here.

  1. Shipping

“Every single rental will require both outbound and return shipping”. Absolutely! We’re seeing the negative environmental impacts on return rates more and more each day. In 2018, Optoro reported that e-commerce returns contributed (US)$6.5 billion of landfilled waste in the US alone, and 15 million tons of carbon emitted into the atmosphere. Recently, there has also been outrage with many of Amazon’s returns being sent to landfill, which you can read about here.

To help tackle this issue, we’ve partnered with a carbon-neutral delivery company to drop off and return parcels. Our company use a unique way of collecting and delivering with their swap-it service- where they collect and deliver our boxes at the same time! This means our customers always have their rental boxes without waiting times in-between, and they only need to be in for one delivery/collection without even needing to leave the house to drop boxes off. However, most importantly, this means the delivery driver only needs to do one trip per customer for delivery and collection, rather than two journeys transporting new and old boxes separately.

  1. Packaging

The Eco Bahn also mention that new packaging is used for each rental and return, whereas regular purchases only use one piece of packaging. Rentals may even arrive in extra packaging like plastics and tissue paper which often isn’t recyclable.

We’ve created our packaging from recycled and recyclable cardboard boxes designed with eco-friendly ink. It’s sturdy enough to be used on both the delivery and return journey, and sometimes longer! If it can’t be delivered to a customer again, it’s either re-used in-house, or recycled as the last option. Our clothes are packaged neatly inside, meaning we don’t need to add extra packaging, and therefore extra waste! We are also looking into re-usable packaging that can be sent backwards and forwards, improving the packaging life-span further.

  1. Clothing lifespan

A paying rental customer will expect clothing to arrive in an ‘as-new’ state, and may be less careful with items they do not own, hugely reducing lifespan when compared to ownership.

It’s absolutely correct that our customers will expect ‘as-new’ clothing, and we wouldn’t rent out anything less. To maximise the life-span, we undertake a number of steps. Aside from our Wet Cleaning outlined above, we try to ensure the longest life-spans possible. Damage and stains are covered in our insurance for the customer, and we do our best to fix any damage so clothes can be re-worn. We send any torn pieces to a professional tailor, and our Wet Cleaning process does a great job of removing stains and marks. If anything cannot be re-rented, it heads to our outlet to be sold or our charity partner Shelter, further lengthening the life-cycle!

Finally, as a part of our buying process, we only pick garments that are crafted consciously, made with quality, long-lasting materials, or choose one-off vintage pieces to be rented.

Renting clothes is a great alternative to fast-fashion and the ‘wear it once’ culture, to make the future of fashion sustainable, but there is always more to be done. We’re continually looking into more sustainable practices as we grow, and we’re pleased to see other companies in the rental industry are doing the same.

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