Each year tens of billions of garments are being produced and sold each year, which means that the fashion industry’s energy outputs are staggering. In fact, it is estimated that up to 10 per cent of global greenhouse emissions come from the industry. Add the emissions that come from shipping the clothes and it’s clear that we have a problem, particularly when we layer on the fact that many items being produced today are made to be cheap, very “of the moment”, and therefore unlikely to last.
Surely we can do better.
So what’s the answer? Cutting back on what we purchase is one very obvious and important approach. The greenest choices we can make involve wearing and using what we already have.
But consumption is a funny thing. It seems easy to cut, and that’s certainly the most eco-conscious approach, but there are some areas of our life that we just can’t cut out–like clothing. As Lauren Bravo writes in How to Break Up With Fast Fashion “Whether we consider ourselves a fashionista or just an impartial bystander, we can’t really–nudity and prison excepted–opt out.”
Our kids, in particular, need clothes to, you know, be active members of polite society. Plus they just keep growing! There’s no end to the need for clothing when it comes to kids. School dress codes are no doubt problematic, but even I can get onboard with the societal norm of fully clothed kids in the classroom. So what’s a parent to do?
Hand-me-downs and shopping secondhand are great options. We were lucky enough to do both for our kids. But shopping second-hand can be hit-or-miss, as the brands we like or feel comfortable supporting aren’t typically as readily available (trust us–we scour!) Hand-me-downs are a better option, but as with any gift, it’s a bit problematic to demand them on a particular time frame.
Here’s where renting comes in.
Children’s clothes–when well-made–can and should last longer than needed for one child. Kids, especially young kids, grow quickly. We often hear from parents of babies that their kids grow out of cute outfits they’d been gifted–before they even had a chance to wear the outfit!
The good news is that renting can make a difference. If we start to discourage the practice of continuing to consume new clothes when there are perfectly good, wearable and beautiful items that can be circulated, the earth really will thank us.
As Elizabeth L. Cline writes in The Conscious Closet, for every two million tonnes of textiles we keep in circulation and out of landfills, we can reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking one million cars off the road. In fact, reusing a tonne of textiles saves twice as much carbon as recycling a tonne of plastic. That alone makes it worthwhile.
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