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Please do not throw away your clothes: why some people are arguing it is a more sustainable option than renting
Lo and behold, there was a bit of controversy recently in the world of making fashion better. Important research carried out by the University of Finland stated that renting is worse than throwing away your clothes. Though the paper is jam-packed with helpful information, some people felt a bit… uneasy after reading it.
Lo and behold, there was a bit of a controversy recently in the slow fashion world. An important research carried out by the LUT University in Finland compared the global warming potential of different ways of purchasing and using jeans and how we dispose of them. Some scenarios included: throwing the jeans away, wearing the jeans for longer, re-selling them, recycling them through industrial processing into new raw materials, or sharing them through a rental service. Though the paper is jam-packed with helpful information, some people felt a bit… uneasy after reading it.
Here is where things start to go downhill for this study.
It concluded that renting clothes, which is highly known as a sustainable way of shopping, has a higher global warming potential than throwing them away, which is not that sustainable (shocker, we know) . Lots of news sources fixated on this bit of information, reporting to their audiences that “Renting clothes is ‘less green’ or ‘less sustainable’ than throwing them away” (@dazedfashion, we see you).
But, is this really a big deal?
For starters, it urges people to throw away clothes because of misinformed information. The article never stated that renting is less ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ as a whole than throwing away clothing.
‘Green’ and ‘sustainability’ can mean many different things like we talk extensively about on Renoon, and it doesn’t always mean super low carbon emissions. They say explicitly in the study that their analysis should, but doesn’t, include impacts on water, land, biodiversity, and human communities.
Let’s really think about it: how could throwing out an item instead of renting it save natural resources? Or divert waste pollution? Does it magically disappear off the face of the earth? Can we easily click the ‘delete’ button on clothes? Because if that’s the case, then sure, the article is right! Otherwise, we don’t think so.
Moving on, there is also the teeny tiny issue of generalising information. It is not possible to generalise all clothing.
Let’s take jeans as an example. On average, they are worn many more times than occasion wear, which is typically only worn once or twice before getting donated or thrown away. Renting jeans for a week doesn’t really extend how many times the jeans are getting worn, but renting an occasion wear piece for a week would nearly double the amount of wear of the garment every single time it is worn and decrease the need to buy new.
On top of that, the study also generalises the transportation and washing practices employed by renting companies. Some renting sites are only city-wide, so senders don’t have to mail their items far to get to you, while others are global, having significantly different carbon footprints. Some rental places dry-clean every item while others wash them normally. Some renting places rent pieces for a week, while others can rent to you for up to years at a time. Some rental places use eco-friendly packaging, while others use plastic. Shall we continue listing the differences?
And now that you’re in the loop, what’re you supposed to do?
As usual, it is all up to you and your priorities when shopping responsibly. If carbon emissions are your top concern, maybe stay away from global renting companies until they change their transportation habits. Or maybe just rent occasion-wear. It is completely up to you.
But please, pretty please, don’t just throw your clothes away. Let’s opt for more responsible ways!
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