Subscription vs. Rentals

Victoria Prew, Co-Founder and CEO of HURR has said that renting clothes will eventually replace fast fashion. HURR launched this year and allows users to rent and lend their clothes, making it environmentally and economically beneficial. Renting clothes is still in its infancy in the UK, but it is slowly becoming more popular. However, there is another way of consumption that is attempting to drown out this sustainable way of shopping.

What is a clothing subscription?

A clothing subscription is a service that allows you to have clothes sent to you (usually monthly). You then pay for what you want to keep and send the rest back. It’s similar to personal shopping but the styling is done through an online profile. It’s convenient and takes place in the comfort of your own home, so its popularity is no surprise.

Why are subscriptions bad for the environment?

This way of consuming is nothing more than giving in to fast fashion. Yes, it is a convenient way of consuming, but it promotes fashion as easily disposable. In an industry where the estimated worth of clothes that end up in landfill is £140million each year, it isn’t clever to have a service that allows you to easily dispose of clothes you don’t want. Not only does the issue lie with the fast fashion industry itself, but also the logistics of the service. Shipping to individual homes and shipping back to the company is incredibly bad for the environment. Transportation of goods contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and WHO (World Health Organisation) have stated that it’s the ‘fastest-growing contributor to climate emissions.’

I was sent an article by The Sun promoting a new pyjama subscription that sends a ‘care package’ every month to your front door. Their excuse is ‘JOMO’ (joy of missing out) It’s one thing to look after yourself, but surely you don’t need a new pair of PJs every month in order to do that. I am all for self-care, but it is no longer self-care when what you’re doing is investing in something so damaging for the environment. How about watching a movie, reading a book, or listening to a podcast? Instead of being sent new clothing each month, wear PJs you already own, grab a hot drink and make use of what you already have in your wardrobe.

Are rentals any better than subscription boxes?

Shipping clothes does contribute to global climate emissions, so at first, I did question whether rentals were more sustainable than subscriptions. But, fashion’s biggest issue is overproduction and overconsumption. Renting clothes promotes sharing your wardrobe and making the most of your clothes. Renting allows clothes to have a longer lifespan, so they don’t end up on landfill. ELLE discussed the pros and cons of renting services but it is a step forward to a more sustainable industry. Renting is certainly more sustainable than subscription boxes, but as ELLE points out, it isn’t inherently sustainable. However, in a world that is relying so heavily on fossil fuels, it is virtually impossible for each individual to be 100% sustainable. Reducing your carbon footprint and using services which are more eco-friendly is far better than using traditional methods. Adopting small changes makes a bigger difference than you may know, and if everyone makes these small changes, it will have a greater effect.

Is it possible to make rentals even more sustainable?

The simple answer is yes. I have recently written an article for a magazine (I’ll post on my Instagram when it’s published) and came across MUD Jeans. They have an extremely innovative system that allows you to rent but with fewer transportation emissions. MUD Jeans allows you to rent a pair of jeans and these jeans can be kept until you no longer want them/they’ve worn out/don’t fit. The consumer sends the jeans back and MUD recycles them and makes a new pair of jeans. Yes, there are still some emissions from the shipping out and return shipping, but it is far less than subscription or regular renting services. They promote a circular way of consuming so the journey from production to consumption is as sustainable as can be.

Renting is clearly more sustainable than subscription services, but perhaps making the most of the wardrobe you already have and donating/buying second-hand is a more sustainable option. But for that special occasion, renting may be your best bet!

S x

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