Reduce, Re-use, Recycle… Return??

It’s 2021 and we’re 51 years into officially celebrating Earth Day. To mark the occasion, we’d like to address the environmental impact of online shopping return rates. This was hardly an issue in 1970, pre-online shopping, but it's super relevant today.

While lax return policies make online shopping feel less risky, it's easy to forget the environmental impact of returns. To be honest, it’s pretty bad. Especially in the apparel industry! 


5 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 certainly important, another substantial problem is the wasted product 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. Lax return policies that include 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.

So how does YALA stack up? 

Our return policy reflects our commitment to continually improve our sustainability and reduce fabric waste. We believe a fair return policy with reasonable boundaries clearly spelled out encourages more thoughtful purchasing and reduces impulse buying. Which we all know is exciting in the moment...but not so much after the fact.

Because of our Earth-loving return policy, our current return rate average is 5%. This number tells us we are doing our part to reduce return-related waste and emissions, and encourage more conscious shopping habits. Hopefully, it’s a reflection of our customers’ satisfaction with the consistent quality of our products, too!

Processing these minimal returns is still inconvenient for our small team but rest assured, we’ll never throw them away. We've made a commitment to reducing our 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 do encourage everyone to do their part to curb the environmental impact of this convenience we all enjoy. Thoughtful selling practices from businesses, and thoughtful purchasing habits from consumers, are a fantastic start. 

From all of us at YALA, Happy Earth Day!     

1 comment

Dear YALA,
I LOVE your clothes and fabric, and have a favor…..a love dolman sleeves…..will you come up with a shirt with dolman sleeves in your amazing fabric?


Erin Catherine Donahue May 07, 2021

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