Overconsumption and the tremendous disposal of unwanted apparel has a negative impact on the environment and people, therefore that has became a worrying global problem. According to the New Textile Economy Report by Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the horrifying truth is that 87% of the total fibre input used for manufacturing clothing is landfilled or incinerated. More than half of ‘fast fashion’ produced is disposed of in under a year, and less than 1% of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing. We’ve got to work to find another, a better way!
‘More than USD 500 billion in value is lost from the system every year due to under-utilised clothes and the lack of recycling’ Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Unfortunately there is no easy solution to fashion’s environmental harms but increased attention is being paid to a circular economy that is believed to be much better system as it helps to extend the life of our apparel. The practice of circularity refers to an economic system that focuses and supports the continual use of resources in order to eliminate waste. It's an important step towards a sustainable economy, and therefore also in everyone's best interest to support this movement.
While recycling can help to achieve circulatory by designing out waste, it is still energy intensive and may still require the use of other new materials. Secondly, while it resolves some of fashion industry's sustainability issues, it does not adequately address the problem that consumers buy too much and keep clothing items about half as long as they did 15 years ago. Fashion should not be disposable but this is exactly how some consumers treat the lowest-priced garments - discarding them after just seven or eight wears (Mckinsey & Company, 2016). The WRAP predicts that rentals are the future and wants to support an innovative or alternative business solutions that can give clothes a longer life but at the same time reduce material use and carbon emissions.
‘Circular is the new black! We need a fashion industry based on three principles: clean, fair and good’ Antoinette Guhl, Deputy Mayor of Paris
We need to find a way how to keep our garments longer in circulation. Luckily it's promising as the resale sector is expected to grow, while retail is projected to shrink. There are growing amount of consumers who understand that thrifting and second-hand renting is the key for circular fashion. The latest Resale Report by ThreadUp has reported that ‘70% of women did buy or were open to shopping secondhand in 2019’, compared to 64% in 2018. Also great to know that ‘young shoppers are adopting secondhand fashion faster than any other age group — generation Z is powering the growth of secondhand shopping as 80% say there’s no stigma to buying used fashion’.
There are different ways how to extend the life of our garments and live more consciously in order to lower our impact on the planet. As mentioned before, we should reuse more the goods we own and buy less, so, I encourage everyone to repair old garments and buy only new quality stuff that is thoughtfully made to last. As well as, share and rent apparel. I also did some further investigation last summer in order to find out what other people think about reusing, sharing and renting kidswear products in Estonia. I conducted a market research in-cooperation with another eco-minded entrepreneur Kristiina Koort. We targeted mums-to-be and parents with young kids, and focused on childrenswear sector because it's wasteful from its nature — as babies and toddlers grow fast, the need for new garments is just inevitable. The research obtained press coverage and supported further discussions, so, now we are working on the ‘kidswear rental marketplace’ pilot project.
Based on 1002 responses, 5 key findings are:
- 82% of all respondents pass on their used kidswear to relatives, friends or acquaintances;
- Almost one-quarter of respondents keep their kids outgrown clothes uselessly in closet;
- 79% of respondents are willing to consider renting out their kidswear;
- 66% of all respondents and 74% of new mums (mums-to-be) are interested in renting kidswear instead of buying;
- 70% of the respondents think they would rent clothes for 0–3 year old kids and 30% for older children.
The product categories that parents considered the best for rental are kids occasion wear, toys, outerwear and pushchairs:
The textiles industry accounts for significant greenhouse gas emissions and if it continues on its current path, by 2050, it could use more than 26% of the carbon budget associated with a 2°C pathway. Moving away from the current linear and wasteful textiles system is therefore crucial to keeping within reach the 2°C average global warming limit (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017). Through the practice of reusing, sharing and renting we can move towards a sustainable economy that has the potential to reduce waste and increase the lifespan of garments, but in order to be successful, we desperately need a systemic change in business practices and consumer behaviour.