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August 3, 2022

The RealReal pushes Congress to consider circularity

Luxury consignment marketplace The RealReal has urged US Congress to consider circularity in the fight against climate crisis.

By Michelle Russell

Hosting a congressional briefing entitled: ‘Fashion and the Environment – How to Achieve a Circular Future’, The RealReal’s vice president of public affairs and business development, Allison Sommer, raised awareness of the “colossal” negative footprint fast fashion has on the planet and the benefit of circularity.

Leading the discussion, Sommer outlined the impact of producing daily “thousands of low-quality new designs using synthetic materials”, and the accelerated rate at which these pieces end up in landfills. She also highlighted the power of reuse as a waste management solution.

“Since our founding, The RealReal has been committed to protecting our planet; sustainability is one of our founding core values. The precipitous rise of fast fashion is a major contributor to the acceleration of the climate crisis,” Sommer told Congress. “We need to be doing more to hold these brands accountable for wasteful overproduction of poorly made, often critiqued as ‘disposable’ items, and instead encourage circular models. I’m honoured to have had the chance to brief congressional staff on these issues, side by side with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Goodwill, to demonstrate the net-positive impact that circular models have on our climate.”

Sommer was joined by Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s policy and institutions senior manager, Dacie Meng.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, more than half of fast fashion items purchased are disposed of in less than one year. In the US, it is said to be a massive contributor to the 11.3m tonnes of clothing sent to landfills annually. The panel not only showcased evidence that helped position circular economies and sustainable business models as an important part in the fight against climate change, but also demonstrated how the growing domestic industry is creating jobs across the United States while replacing foreign fast-fashion jobs.

“The Ellen MacArthur Foundation envisions a fashion industry where products are designed to be used more, made to be made again, and made from safe and recycled or renewable inputs. We appreciate the opportunity to join the briefing today to discuss how we can be working together with policymakers and industry to make fashion circular and help tackle global challenges like climate change and biodiversity loss,” said Meng.

High-end thrift retailer Goodwill was also present. The company has been an environmental pioneer and social innovator in “reduce, reuse, repurpose” for 120 years. Through a business model of collecting and selling donated goods, Goodwill organisations help communities extend the life of usable items and divert them from landfills.

“The public, private, and non-profit sectors play an important role in advancing solutions that help promote the circular textile economy, and we’re proud to be at the table. Today’s briefing was the first of many conversations we will have with lawmakers and partners on the critical issue of sustainability, contributing to the economic health of communities, preserving resources, and protecting our environment,” said Goodwill Industries international’s manager of sustainability, Brittany Dickinson.

Senate Recycling Caucus co-chair, Tom Carper, who kicked off the event, said: “As a major source of global greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the source of many of the microplastics that are ending up in our ocean, the textile industry has a significant impact on the fate of our planet. At a time when we need all hands on deck to combat the climate crisis, leaders in the fashion and textile industry have an important role to play to promote sustainability and transition towards a circular economy.”

The RealReal has been keen to support and promote the benefits of a circular economy for fashion by encouraging customers to extend the life of their products through resale.

The company most recently teamed up with Burberry on a sustainability initiative aimed at keeping its clothes in circulation for longer.

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