Nicole Bassett and the team from The Renewal Workshop aims to divert one million pounds of clothing from landfills by 2025.
Each year, untold tons of imperfect but fixable outdoor clothing are sent to landfills across the United States, deemed unsellable for minor issues like broken zippers or missing buttons. It’s often easier to toss these goods rather than repair and sell them, coming at both a financial and environmental cost.
Renewal Workshop, an outdoor and lifestyle apparel company based in Oregon, has lofty goals to change this mindset. By 2025, the company aims to have diverted 1 million pounds (450,000 kg) of waste from landfills through repairing and reselling these pieces of clothing. The end goal is a system in which brands have little to no landfill waste in the manufacturing process, ultimately making for a more sustainable industry.
Along the way, they also want to encourage people to be more responsible in how they shop, return and dispose of apparel.
“We’re trying to build a circular movement,” says co-founder Nicole Bassett, who started the company together with Jeff Denby in 2016.
Currently, Renewal Workshop has 22 brand partners including Icebreaker, Prana, and The North Face, and has diverted roughly 80,000 pounds (36,000 kg) of apparel from landfills since its founding. To get to 1 million within the next six years, Bassett says one key is to bring in more brand partners.
A novel business model
Here’s how it works: Apparel brands end up with an imperfect, damaged or soiled product somewhere along the way, or it’s returned and can’t be resold. Previously, companies that now partner with Renewal Workshop would throw these items away. Now, they pay Renewal Workshop a fee to take the clothes, which is roughly comparable with the cost of sending these products to the landfill.
Renewal Workshop then clean and repair the items and sell them online and in select stores. Bassett additionally points out that brands also have the opportunity to share in the profits from renewed item sales, or to own the sales channel outright, meaning they will repair the goods and the original brand will recoup the profits from selling the items.
The fast fashion industry has fostered a culture that finds it easier—and cheaper—to throw away and replace clothing many years before its time has come. Bassett is optimistic that the outdoor industry and current DIY trends will help reverse these bad habits. Sometimes, a needle and a thread are all it takes.
“We want to teach people how easy it is to fix clothing rather than junk it,” says Bassett.
Photo: The Renewal Workshop