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The impact of Online vs Offline Shopping

In this day and age, buying online is more convenient than ever. The wide selection of brands and retailers on the web as well as the convenience of express delivery and free returns have made online shopping very appealing. Especially with recent events and the stress resulting from the Covid-19 lockdowns around the world, we have no choice but to hit the ‘add to cart’ button. 

Shopping online instead of traditional retail can be a more sustainable option. Online shopping could have a lower carbon footprint than shopping in-store in spite of the delivery trucks. This MIT study from 2013 concluded that in certain scenarios,  online shopping could emit less CO2 emissions than traditional shopping. However, it could also emit more CO2 emissions in other scenarios. Why?

As you already know, the impact of traditional shopping will depend mainly on the transportation used. Online shopping, on the other hand, has some factors to consider in order to make it a sustainable option. Let’s see how we can make this option the most sustainable one.

What is the environmental impact of online shopping? 

Shipping and delivery

There is a massive amount of energy and pollution involved in transporting products from one place to another. However, the environmental impact from shipping varies drastically depending on where your order has come from, its size, weight, and type of transportation.  Shipping by airplane, for example, has the highest carbon impact. 

Packaging waste

Typically, products are shipped in cardboard boxes or plastic bags. Often, if an item is packaged in a cardboard box, it still has plastic bags inside. With clothing, this is often done to prevent moisture. Even if you purchased something from the store, it was most likely shipped in the same type of packaging after all.

Both cardboard and plastic packaging have pros and cons. Of course, the major issue with plastic packaging is that it is not biodegradable. That’s why options such as paper or tissue are great sustainable alternatives because they are compostable and hold similar properties to plastic. If you purchase from sustainable brands, it is more likely that they will incorporate eco-friendly packaging.

How can you shop more sustainably online?
Image source : Logistex

Here some tips to minimise your environmental footprint from online shopping: 

1. Order from local brands to minimise emissions from shipping

Aviation accounts for 12% of CO2 emissions from all types of transport, compared to 74% from road transport, according to the Air Transport Action Group. If you order from local brands, it is less likely that they will deliver your order by airplane or even by van! According to a study in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, replacing delivery vans with electric cargo bikes can lead to a 26% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.

How can you shop more sustainably online?
Image source: @karl_shakur

2. Plan out what you want to buy

Making multiple and separate online shopping orders every day, and selecting express delivery options instead of combining your orders into one single delivery that will take longer to be delivered can potentially increase greenhouse gas emissions. The return rate for online orders is often higher than from shopping in stores, which also increases emissions. Making wish lists or inspiration boards on Pinterest is a great way to make a plan of what you really want to buy!

Want to be more efficient? Maybe try to combine your online order with friends and family to reduce the impact of waste packaging. This can actually save you some money from shipping and also prevent you from making impulse purchases.

How can you shop more sustainably online?
Image source: @rosiehw

3. Avoid making impulse purchases

The temptation that comes from online shopping is that it makes us buy things that we probably would not buy in-store. Buy what you actually want and need so that you are more likely to be satisfied with your purchase and will not end up returning it. 

Yes, sales and discounts can be very tempting because of their reduced prices. Although there is nothing wrong with saving money, you want to make sure that you will actually make good use of the items your purchase.

But then we know…it’s hard to resist and that’s ok.

How can you shop more sustainable online
Image source: Friends

4. Avoid purchasing items with the intention of returning them

The environmental impact of returning online orders is often overlooked.  A study by Deloitte in 2016 has found that online shopping leads to five times more returned products, which can negatively impact the environment.  In addition,  20% of online returns end up in landfills because they cannot be resold by the retailer, according to GreenStory. If it is possible, you can try to return your online order to a physical store if it is available locally.

5. Familiarize yourself with sizing charts

The disadvantage of shopping online is that you can’t try things on to see how they fit and feel. Sizing charts vary across different brands and that can be confusing when shopping online. When browsing, make sure you check out the size guides, measure yourself, read reviews, or even ask questions about the fit. This way, you will feel good about the item you bought and will not end up returning it. 

Image source: @chainkyr

6. Choose regular instead of express or ‘same-day’ delivery

This allows postal services to wait for full loads instead of delivering orders in half-empty shipments. Once you have selected your delivery option, make sure that your online order is delivered successfully to prevent multiple delivery attempts. When postal services have to make multiple delivery attempts, this increases carbon emissions. 

7. Order sustainable collections

Brands are more likely to have more environmentally friendly delivery services when they have sustainable collections in their offering.  Also, some brands recently have started to carbon offset their airplane deliveries. They are normally registered under the Carbon Neutral Certifications. A great new addition is compostable packaging instead of plastic to minimise waste that goes into landfills! Would you like to have a section on packaging on Renoon? Let us know. 

You can check out sustainable brands such as Holiday Romance that use recycled packaging.

Image source: thehappybag.com

The bottom line 

We may not be able to shop our way to a sustainable future, but we can try to make better shopping choices to get there. Make conscious decisions about what you buy and how you buy it. 

Start doing so by searching for sustainable fashion options on Renoon. 

 

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REINVENT

Use your sustainable values as a fashion statement

You are what you wear

Fashion is much more than just a garment or a piece of clothing- as discussed by our guest speaker María Fernanda Hernandez (Head of Sustainability and Global Communications) at our partner LVRSustainable in our  ReTalks Instagram Live on human rights and social responsibility in fashion.  Fashion is an experience and a powerful form of self-expression that is important in positioning our personal values and how we see ourselves within society. There can be a story behind every shirt, dress, bag, or accessory that we wear.

The way we express ourselves through fashion can provide an influential platform to drive change towards more ethical and sustainable practices in fashion supply chains. Here is where self-expression through fashion has evolved into something bigger – a choice and our way of life.

Use your sustainable values as a fashion statement
Image Source: MATE the label

Your fashion choices can make a big impact.

You may be thinking, how does our self-expression through fashion contribute to a greater sustainable future? Fashion is one of the most influential industries out there in terms of social and political impacts. Worldwide, consumers purchase about 80 million new pieces of clothing each year according to The True Cost Documentary. This also means that today, we as consumers are purchasing 400 percent more clothing than 20 years ago! The magnitude of fashion consumption and production today has a substantial effect on our planet and the communities surrounding it. We tend to buy more clothing because we tend to get rid of the clothes that we already own. 

Use your sustainable values as a fashion statement
Image Source: Pinterest – unknown original source

What are the value-based choices that you can make?

Fashion choices based on sustainable values vary from person to person. Although it is not restricted to the following, here are some value-based choices that you can make when buying fashion:

1. Eco-friendly and environmentally sustainable: if you love the environment and are passionate about minimising the environmental cost of fashion, you can choose to support brands that are sustainable. From a product level, you can choose to buy fashion that holds an environmental sustainability certification.

You could also undertake a slow fashion approach where you focus on quality over quantity. When you actually buy new clothing you invest in high-quality pieces that are made to last. This way, you are maximising the usage of the clothing that you already own! According to Fashion For Good, simply wearing your clothes for an extra nine months, you can reduce waste and water usage by 20-30 percent!

2. Ethical labor and social responsibility:  Are you passionate about human rights? Do you have a strong belief that garment workers should be treated well with good working conditions and fair compensation? You can choose to shop for fashion that is ethically produced. From a product level, you can look for products that are Fair Trade or B-Corp certified for example.  Brands such as Kowtow, People Tree, and Veja have a track record of transparency and social responsibility in this area. 

3. Animal rights (vegan and cruelty-free): If you are passionate about animal welfare and have no interest in wearing animal products, you can choose to buy fashion that is vegan and cruelty-free! Some PETA approved brands that you probably need to know about are Studio JUX and Mud Jeans. Here is a selection of vegan fashion options to check out!

4. Material innovation: If you are fascinated by the exciting new innovations in sustainable fashion materials you can look for fashion made from recycled materials or fabrics that are solving wastage from food consumption. You may want to check out a material like piñatex, a vegan leather alternative made from pineapple leaves! Check out our selection of products made from piñatex.

5. Charitable: If there is a cause or charity that you are passionate about, you can support charitable brands or brands that join forces with charities. You can be involved in the cause and look fashionable while doing so! Brands such as People Tree have their own charitable foundation with a commitment to poverty alleviation and the promotion of environmental protection for communities around the world.

Still unsure of what your sustainable values are? Take this fun quiz and discover what is important to you!

So many options out there…how can you find fashion that aligns with your sustainable values?

If we choose to shop from brands that place sustainable values at their core, we can outwardly express these values through the clothes we choose to wear. Wearing conscious fashion is a very powerful way to express ourselves, and what we believe in. This way, we are moving beyond the materialistic side of fashion.

As consumers, we would need to change the perceptions we have towards clothing. If we create meaningful and long-lasting relationships with clothing instead of giving in to excessive or meaningless consumption, we are actively making a difference towards a more sustainable future. 

If you would like a more comprehensive guide on how you can start your sustainable fashion journey, reading this previous blog post is a great starting point.

Let technology help you to communicate your sustainable values through fashion

We are in the digital age where we are coming across continuous developments and innovations in Fashion Tech. Technology has made it easier than ever to find fashion that is based on your sustainable values. 

Sustainable Fashion App

Renoon is an innovative search-engine platform that allows you to search for sustainable fashion options based on your personal values and outlook on sustainability. We are soon launching the second version of our app, in the meantime take a look at the current version and let us know what you want us to build in the next one:

Download the Android App here 

Start expressing YOUR sustainable values in what you wear today

Being a conscious and knowledgeable consumer makes us be part of something bigger: a sustainable future. Choose the brands that you shop your clothes from or research about sustainable materials, certifications, and ethical labour.  Need a little help with this? Browse through our sustainable fashion glossary that guides you to all sustainable-fashion related words and certifications to help you when you shop!

Although using your sustainable values as a fashion statement may seem small, you are still contributing to change. Make your fashion choices be your identity, your voice, and your contribution to a greater sustainable future. 

Start searching for sustainable options based on your values 

 

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REINVENT

These 7 benefits are making everyone go for second hand fashion

We see it, we like it, we want it. In our world where the ‘new’ and trendy are a thing,  buying second hand fashion has received a little bit of hype. Due to the growing popularity of sustainable fashion, buying second hand has become increasingly mainstream. Aside from being trendy and looking ‘cool’, there are several benefits to buying second hand fashion. 

Here they are:

1. Wallet speaks first

This is probably the most obvious advantage of buying fashion second hand. You can find your favorite brands and designer items second hand at a lower price. This is simply because they have previously been worn by someone else and/or are no longer used by the previous owner. The wallet then speaks: you can access the latest trends or go back in time without risking to bump into fast fashion. 

Check out our curated pre-owned items that meet our sustainable standards!

2. Reduced textile waste

Besides being one of the most polluting industries globally, the fashion industry is also one of the most wasteful; where 85% of textile waste ends up in landfills (according to World Wear Projects). Moreover, estimates by the Ellen McArthur Foundation suggest that just less than 1% of used clothing is recycled into new garments.

If you buy fashion second hand, you are helping to recycle and reuse clothing, which leads to less textile waste! To know more about what *really* happens to our clothes when they end up in landfills, have a read at one of our previous posts.

7 benefits of buying second hand fashion
Image Source: Stella McCartney

3. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions

The fashion industry contributes to 10% of the world’s carbon emissions each year (according to statistics published by the UNEP and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation). For example, buying just one brand new white cotton shirt can generate the same amount of emissions as driving a car for 35 miles, according to Oxfam. By purchasing second hand instead of purchasing brand new clothing, you can help to minimise the growth of carbon emissions!

4. Saved water

The production process for our clothes requires a lot of water. By a lot we mean it takes  2,700 litres to make a cotton t-shirt (assessment by World Wildlife Fund) and 10,000 litres of water to make a single pair of jeans! (Statistics by the United Nations). Yes, that is A LOT of water and these are just a couple of examples.

If more of us recycle and reuse second hand clothing, the water used for the production of clothing can be repurposed. For example, it can be used to provide more drinking water instead of ending up as industrial waste! 

5. Where did you find that again?

We have to admit, it can be a little awkward when you come across somebody wearing the EXACT same clothing item as you. Buying second hand can prevent this problem! Because it is from a previous season or a different decade, chances are that you will not find someone wearing the exact same item that you have found second hand. From rare pieces by your favorite brands to sought-after vintage gems, you will surely find a unique piece that complements your personal style!

7 benefits of buying secondhand fashion
Image Source: Elle

6. Old trends are new trends

We all know that fashion trends come and go. Fashion that was once considered to be out-of-date is suddenly trendy again. Old school fashion trends such as wide-leg jeans or those oversized shoulder pad blazers that were very popular in the 80s (for example) have suddenly made a comeback today. Chances are, you can find trendy items second hand! 

7 benefits of buying secondhand fashion
Image source: @deborabrosa

7. Better quality

As time has gone by, the perceived consumer value for clothing has declined over the last 15 years. The quality of fashion has gone downhill or is not the same as it was previously. The popularity of low-cost fast fashion in the late 90s and early 2000s is partially responsible for this. Fast fashion retailers began to replicate design elements from designer brands and produced them cheaply and fast. 

Therefore, it is possible that sometimes, older or vintage items can hold better quality.  Second hand fashion is often sold in good enough condition for continued wear, which already proves that it has stood the test of time. 

Overall, without spending a fortune, we can all try to be more sustainable in an attempt to save our planet. Let’s not forget that to look our best in the process!

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