Are Clothing Returns Bad for the Environment?
It's 2021; we're 51 years into officially celebrating Earth Day. Let's address the environmental impact of online shopping return rates to mark the occasion.
While lax return policies make online shopping less financially risky, it's easy to forget the environmental impact of returns. It's pretty bad. Especially in the apparel industry!
The Environmental Impact of Online Returns
Five billion pounds of returned goods go to US landfills each year. When we think of the environmental impact of online shopping, we often consider the carbon footprints of delivery trucks and packaging materials. While these factors are undoubtedly important, another substantial problem is waste generated by returns.
This is especially common in the apparel industry, where many fast fashion brands throw away, burn, or otherwise dispose of their returns because the labor involved in processing and repackaging them costs more than what the garments are worth. In addition, lax return policies like no time limits and free return shipping contribute to impulse buying, which increases return rates and clothing waste.
Return rates vary by industry between 15-40%, but apparel lands at the higher end of that figure and spikes during peak holiday shopping periods.
How does YALA stack up?
Our return policy reflects our commitment to sustainability and reducing fabric waste. A fair return policy with reasonable boundaries spelled out encourages more thoughtful purchasing and reduces impulse buying, which is exciting in the moment but fades fast.
Because of our Earth-loving return policy, our average return rate is 5%. This number tells us we are doing our part to reduce return-related waste and emissions and encourage more conscious shopping habits. This low rate reflects our customers' satisfaction with the consistent quality of YALA products!
Processing these minimal returns is still inconvenient for our small team, but we never throw them away. We're committed to reducing fabric waste at every stage, from raw material to finished product. When we do receive returns, unopened items get resold. Opened items go to our annual warehouse sale, where locals get stellar deals on samples, returns, and discontinued styles.
Online shopping isn't going anywhere
And we wouldn't want it to! But we encourage everyone to do their part to curb the environmental impact of this convenience we all enjoy. Responsible selling practices from businesses and thoughtful consumer purchasing habits are a fantastic start.