After working in the apparel industry, Renewal Workshop co-founders Nicole and Jeff noticed an opportunity to change the way brands view unwanted and excess product, in an effort to keep textiles out of landfills. For example, when a product is returned to a brand with a rip or a dysfunctional zipper, this garment cannot be sold as new apparel and typically ends up in a landfill.
As consumers, we tend to return an article of clothing and never question where the garment goes after the return. The returned item is out of sight and out of mind for most consumers. Nicole & Jeff wanted to bring a fresh perspective by encouraging consumers and brands to consider the afterlife of discarded garments through the restoration of apparel at Renewal Workshop.
“Even though it’s a process and we don’t have all the solutions, we wanted to create a program that would change the way people think.” –Nicole Bassett, co-founder of Renewal Workshop
Renewal Workshop is a business built on partnerships. Brands such as Prana, Ibex, Toad & Co., Thread, Indigenous, and Mountain Khakis already take part in sustainable practices and are increasing their impact by partnering with Renewal Workshop. Renewal Workshop takes unwanted apparel off their partner’s hands and restores or transforms the garments into a sellable product.
When Renewal Workshop receives garments from their partners each item is inspected and evaluated. If the article of clothing can be repaired, restoration begins. For garments that are too damaged to be repaired items are upcycled and turned into a new product. After the garments are transformed, each item is carefully inspected to make sure the product is good as new.
In the year that their Oregon factory has been open, Renewal Workshop has repaired around 5,000 garments and had a significant impact on the environment. Within the first three months of operating Renewal Workshop had saved enough energy to power 8,000 lightbulbs for a year, cut carbon impact equivalent to the burning of 9,000 gallons of gasoline, save enough water to fill 41 Olympic sized swimming pools, eliminated 39,000 pounds of toxic chemicals, and diverted 2,750 pounds of waste from the landfill.
How can consumers take action? While textile recycling programs are in the process of being developed in America, Nicole believes there are steps consumers can take to reduce the amount of apparel in landfills.
- Question what happens to your apparel after you are done wearing it and start asking brands to take responsibility.
- Instead of getting rid of garments swap clothes with a friend to give your clothing a longer life.
- Donate your clothes to charity.
- Your actions DO make a difference. The sum of many actions will create change. If a handful of consumers demand action from brands this will encourage brands to consider the possibilities of a garments afterlife.
I am amazed with my renewed racerback! To think this lovely tank top was going to end up in a landfill is crazy! The pattern is fun and the fit is comfortable. I inspected the tank carefully and did not have a clue what the tank had been like in it’s previous life. I encourage all Honest Consumers to check out Renewal Workshop apparel. Their mission is incredibly unique and their products are wonderful quality. The garments are like new and the prices are reasonable! Currently customers can purchase renewed apparel through Renewal Workshop’s online marketplace.