The Real Cost of Your Shopping Habits

January 8, 2019

Not-so-fun fact: The U.N. declared “fast fashion” an environmental and social “emergency.” That’s a pretty big deal, as the industry is the second largest polluter in the world (oil is the first). This environmental damage is only going to increase as the industry grows. Overall apparel consumption is expected to rise by 63%, from 62 million tons today to 102 million tons in 2030.

Since the 20th century, the demand for consistent trendy clothing (a.k.a fast fashion) has skyrocketed. Many fashion companies are adopting the “See Now, Buy Now” retail model to keep up with this behavior. Fast fashion has delivered constant newness to consumers, but at what cost?

What is fast fashion?

“Fast fashion” describes inexpensive designs that move quickly from the runway to production to stores to meet new trends and satisfy consumers. This entire process prioritizes speed and cutting costs to get “of-the-moment” styles to the consumer almost immediately rather than months later like in the traditional fashion cycle. However, this is done at the sake of the environment . The pressure to reduce costs matched with the fast-tracked timeline to get a garment from manufacturing to the store floor means that environmental corners are definitely being be cut.

How many resources are you wearing? Take our quiz to discover the environmental impact of your clothes.


What does that mean for the environment?

Fast fashion apparel is often worn less than 5 times, kept for roughly only 35 days, and produces over 400 percent more carbon emissions per item, per year, than garments worn 50 times and kept for an entire year. Translation: that’s a lot of unnecessary waste and pollution. In 2017, fast fashion contributed to 21 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste, and more greenhouse gas emissions than international flights and shipping combined. However, fashion and sustainability don’t have to be mutually exclusive–in fact they shouldn’t.

How renting flips the script.

So, you need a dress for a last minute invite and you run to the mall to find an outfit. Now what? It just sits untouched in your closet for months, or worse, you end up tossing it in a haphazard closet purge. People throw away more clothing than you may think: The average woman throws away 82 pounds of clothing every year. Think of all the wasted time, money, closet space and environmental resources literally going in the dumpster.

It doesn’t have to be this way. At Rent the Runway, our mission is to build a better future for fashion.


We are firm believers that great style doesn’t have to come at a social and environmental cost. Every time you rent, you’re closing the wasteful fast fashion loop by saving all the water, electricity and emissions used to manufacture a new piece of clothing. In 2018 alone, the RTR community made a serious impact. Together, we diverted over 2,300 tons of textile waste from landfills and recycled 261,540 pounds of plastic.


Buy Less. Wear More.

This January, we’re exploring what happens in your life when you rethink your closet by challenging women to buy less stuff. When you rent your wardrobe, not only do you always look and feel your best, you’re also helping the environment.

Head over to our Instagram to take the 2019 Buy Less Stuff Pledge and let us know what you will be doing more of when you shop less.


Sources: Pulse of the Fashion Industry 2017What is Fast Fashion and How Does it Impact the EnvironmentDirty Laundry: Hidden Ways Fast Fashion Takes a Toll on the EnvironmentA New Textiles Economy: Redesigning fashion’s future.