Repair vs. Rental: Who Wins the Eco Challenge?

While repair and rental may seem synonymous in their green endeavors, one of the two yields a higher potential towards a more conscious wardrobe – which one is it?

Repair and rental are two key drivers of sustainable fashion. Yet, most of us have little to no knowledge on how to fix the things we own.[1],[2] While renting apparel still includes high environmental costs, such as transport-related packaging and emissions.[3] So, who’s the eco-winner here?

 

Willing to keep your clothes forever?

The most sustainable fashion piece is the one already in your closet. Loving the clothes you already own, and mending them, when necessary, is a strong commitment to sustainable fashion.[4] That’s because fixing garments extends their lifespan and, consequently, their use. A recent study shows that if we wear a wool sweater that is already in our wardrobes just four times more this winter, we can reduce emissions up to 68%.[5] Here are 6 quick and easy tips to repair your clothes today.

 

A different attitude

Renting clothes engages us in a mindset shift. As Airbnb transformed how we perceive ownership versus borrowing, renting offers an opportunity to alter our consumption patterns towards fewer “throwaway” habits. Research estimates that the rental model has displaced the production of some 1.3 million new garments since 2010.[6] This is equivalent to 44.2 million pounds of emissions, or nearly 1,000 garbage trucks full of waste that is recycled instead of landfilled.[7]

A helping hand

Fashion brands recognize that mending our clothes at home – although planet-friendly – may not be the most practical solution. Eco labels are stepping up their game by not only providing repair services and easy at-home mending guides, but they are incentivizing a “trade back” program where shoppers receive credit for their next purchase when returning a worn out garment. Patagonia’s Worn Wear program does exactly that, keeping the brand’s gear “always in play.” Other designers have entire business models based on repair, like Main Nué, creating new collections from stained, old and ripped garments. “Within a hole or a tear lies opportunities to create something new,” reads their Instagram post. “We will always work to give good materials new life through the touch of our hands.” Browse the brand’s latest collection today.

 

The winner is…

Both repair and rental can help us tackle the climate crisis – but repair does it better. Although rental fashion does help to shift our mindset from a “take, make, dispose” culture, it still requires doing something about transportation, packaging, washing techniques, and garment care to become fully green.[8] Moreover, we cannot keep renting something forever without fixing it, therefore the rental industry also depends on mending.[9]

Curious to start? Mobile apps like Sojo connect you with a community of tailors that bring your garments back to life.[10] Check out this innovative and sustainable approach today.

 

References

[1] “Influence of consumption behaviors, attitudes and barriers toward clothing repair” | Ayesha Jain. Available at: https://era.library.ualberta.ca/items/647c1be3-984b-454e-9134-c8d92bc6424a/view/c83ae6e7-e525-4d97-857f-c259f243d4a2/Clothing%20Repair-%20Ayesha%20Jain%202021.pdf

[2] “Influence of consumption behaviors, attitudes and barriers toward clothing repair” | Ayesha Jain. Available at: https://era.library.ualberta.ca/items/647c1be3-984b-454e-9134-c8d92bc6424a/view/c83ae6e7-e525-4d97-857f-c259f243d4a2/Clothing%20Repair-%20Ayesha%20Jain%202021.pdf

[3] “Innovative recycling or extended use? Comparing the global warming potential of different ownership and end-of-life scenarios for textiles” | Environmental Research. Available at: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/abfac3/pdf

[4] “The future of sustainable fashion: the rise of rental, repair and resale” | Don’t Waste Group. Available at: https://dontwastegroup.com/future-of-sustainable-fashion-part-1/

[5] “Reducing environmental impacts from garments through best practice garment use and care, using the example of a Merino wool sweater” | The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11367-021-01909-x

[6] “Is Renting Your Clothes Really More Sustainable?” | Vogue. Available at: https://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/article/is-renting-your-clothes-really-more-sustainable

[7] EPA. Greenhouse Gases Equivalencies Calculator. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gases-equivalencies-calculator-calculations-and-references#gtrucks

[8] “How sustainable is rental fashion?” | Fashion Revolution. Available at: https://www.fashionrevolution.org/rental-fashion-vs-throwing-away/

[9]  “Costly, time-consuming and a sales barrier: Why fashion hates repairs” | Vogue. Available at: https://www.voguebusiness.com/sustainability/costly-time-consuming-and-a-sales-barrier-why-fashion-hates-repairs

[10] “The future of clothing alterations and repair: Sojo” | The Circle Fashion Magazine. Available at: https://thecirclefashionmagazine.com/clothing-alterations-and-repair-sojo-app

 

Author: Naomy Gmyrek