I Switched from Rent the Runway to Nuuly for One Major Reason (Hint, Hint: Plastic)

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I have a confession: I like to shop. Like a lot. So much so that when I had my first job out of college and still lived at home, I learned to ship packages to my workplace so my dad wouldn’t find out about them and inevitably lecture me about the dangers of credit card debt. I had to get really crafty about sneaking a new pair of knee-high boots into my house without him noticing. But that was half the fun.

Now, almost ten years later, I’m still just as obsessed. I mean, I’ve made a career out of shopping (see, Dad, I was just beefing up my résumé). But there’s one major issue: I’ve also become more and more aware of the environmental impact that the fashion industry has on our planet.

It’s hard not to think about packaging waste and emissions, especially when so many retailers don’t even give it a second thought. I’m talking multiple items from the same order sent in different packages or products shipped in boxes ten times their size and filled with Styrofoam peanuts for no clear reason. BTW, did you know that most cardboard boxes aren’t recycled properly? And to make matters worse, tissue paper typically isn’t recyclable. UGH!

First, I Found Rent The Runway

Then Rent the Runway Unlimited came into my life and it seemed like a heaven-sent solution. A revolving closet of designer staples sent four at a time in reusable garment bags—is this for real? I could rent Tibi tops, Rhode dresses and Marissa Webb jackets that are out of my budget, all for $159 per month. It seemed too good to be true—and it absolutely turned out to be. I found myself wrestling with the same plastic problem. The clothing is shipped via reusable garment bags, but everything inside the bag is individually wrapped in a sheet of plastic so giant, that a non-recyclable shipping bag would probably be less wasteful. And then there’s the issue of gas emissions that comes with constantly sending garments back and forth. According to Elle, “Transportation is now the top source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, and online shopping is partly to blame.”

Then I Discovered Nuuly

So, I went on a hunt to find something more sustainable than Rent the Runway and it didn’t take long for the rental gods to bring Nuuly to my attention. For those who don’t know, Nuuly is a new rental service under the Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Free People umbrella that was built on a sustainable and inclusive model, offering a drool-worthy assortment of clothing in regular, plus, petite and maternity sizing for just $88 per month. You can rent six items every 30 days from the aforementioned brands as well as from hundreds of independent designers like Citizens of Humanity, Naadam, LoveShackFancy and Universal Standard—and you never have to worry about dry-cleaning your cute floral dresses or flouncy blouses, because Nuuly does all that for you without plastic dry-cleaning bags. Each item—from pricey knits to bulky jackets—is neatly rolled or folded to fit perfectly inside the recyclable garment bag without the need for hangers or extra padding.

Speaking of Nuuly’s garment bags, each one is made of recycled, post-consumer water bottles that would be otherwise destined for more than 450 years in a landfill (yep, that’s how long a plastic bottle takes to decompose). Once the reusable bags have started to show wear and tear, they are then recycled, too.

Nuuly uses energy efficient wet- and dry-cleaning machines and green products to launder each item before it makes its way to the next lucky renter. The only thing Rent the Runway says on the matter? It doesn't use toxic Perchloroethylene to clean its garments.

I’m now on the second month of my Nuuly membership and I honestly couldn’t be happier with the experience. I get the rush of wearing new clothing every month without contributing to the far-from-sustainable methods of fast fashion. Not to mention, I get to try out new trends and have fun with fashion again—without feeling anxious about the type of waste I’m perpetuating. Plus, 11 PureWow employees have signed up to join Nuuly since it launched this summer—and a ton of them also abandoned RTR to jump on the bandwagon. Seems like this is an eco-chic trend that’s really catching on.

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Brianna Lapolla formerly held the role of Senior Commerce Editor at PureWow covering all things shopping across beauty, fashion, and lifestyle. Now, she's putting her 12 years of...