How sustainable is Temu? And a really good alternative

Why Temu is not as beautiful as it seems - and what alternatives you have to save on shopping. Reviewing the sustainability of Temu.

How sustainable is Temu? And a really good alternative

You may have heard of the new star in the fast fashion and bargain sky: Temu.

The app is currently in first place in the App Store and offers extremely low prices for various goods - from clothing to electronics. The goods come directly from retailers in China.

No only since the super bowl ad Temu has grown strongly through aggressive marketing and large discount campaigns. Influencers and YouTubers in particular are paid for their reports on the marketplace.

Are the bargains worth it? Why Temu is not as beautiful as it seems.

Can you save money with Temu?

Rather not. At first glance, it seems clear: the low prices ensure savings. However, the poor quality of cheap products is very often emphasized. It is likely that the Temu product will have to be thrown away very quickly — and that is rather money lost than money saved.

Also be wary of subsequent customs payments. Due to direct distribution from China — without intermediaries — it is possible that not all regulations have been complied with, and import duties may be incurred. At least, you must consider that your package will be hold in customs for several days or weeks [1]

Advantages of Temu

  • Low prices, especially for small household goods and clothing
  • There are currently many discount promotions and free shipping
  • Very wide range of items
  • Better ratings on Trustpilot than other major platforms such as Amazon. It is questionable whether many positive comments are primarily due to vouchers or fake accounts [2]

Disadvantages of Temu

  • As you would expect from the low prices, many people complain about the poor quality of the products
  • The low prices and discounts invite you to buy things you don't actually need.
  • There are also many items that are really unnecessary
  • Customs duties can be incurred when importing into the US, UK or EU
  • As Temu is a marketplace (and does not produce itself), the service and quality also depends heavily on the actual retailers, so you don't know where exactly you are ordering from
  • Presumably, the cheap prices have both ecological and social consequences. A comparable business model to Temu is that of the Chinese company Shein. Shein is known for human rights violations [4] and environmental pollution [3]
  • The purchase contract is not between you and Temu, but between you and the producer — i.e., the Chinese supplier. You cannot find out about this before you buy, and this also makes it more difficult for you to enforce your rights.

Sustainable alternatives to Temu

Avoiding Temu, Shein or other cheap producers not only earns you karma points, it can also help you save money. With these three alternatives to Temu, you have a better chance of saving money:

  • Don't buy at all: ask yourself whether you really need the item now. Perhaps save the link first and close the window. If you come back a week later and still need it, for example, you can still order it, but in the meantime you will most likely have long forgotten about the product or borrowed it from a friend, for example.
  • Thrift shops/second hand: platforms such as Vinted offer similar prices in some cases, but much better quality and sustainability.
  • Swapping and borrowing: ask your friends or neighbors if someone would like to swap with you.

Problems with Temu's business model

Temu attributes the low prices to its own business model. The products are sold and shipped directly from the factories in China without any middlemen. This saves a lot of costs. This is plausible in itself, but it is not the only reason for these prices.

Temu's product range includes more than just fashion items, but in this area Temu's offering is very comparable to the fast fashion company Shein.

  • Human rights violations: Shein exploits workers for the cheap clothes, 17-hour shifts with low pay. Only one day off a month. Some without an employment contract, so that wages are not paid.
  • Environmental destruction: cheap disposable products are an inherent problem for the environment. They produce waste and waste resources. Microplastics are also released from poorly processed plastic and end up directly in our food via detours.

Admittedly, this is a problem that doesn't just affect Shein or Temu. But through fast and cheap consumption, these companies contribute significantly to it.

Video about the problems fast fashion creates

However, Temu is not a producer, but operates a marketplace. Nevertheless, we have to look at the predominant products there. And the quality and prices are very much comparable to fast fashion products - with all the environmental and human rights violations.

Of course, Temu has a code of conduct that retailers have to follow, which sets standards for environmental protection and occupational safety. However, it is unclear to what extent this is enforced. This does not work for Shein, for example.

FAQ about Temu

Is Temu trustworthy and reputable?

Temu is not a fake store. In this sense, the offer is trustworthy and genuine.

However (and this is a big however), it is to be expected that problematic goods will be sold on Temu. Temu's parent company, Pinduoduo, is known in the USA for counterfeiting and product piracy. There are also data protection concerns. [5]

Who is behind Temu?

Temu is based in Boston, USA. However, it is owned by the Chinese group PDD Holdings Inc., which also operates the Chinese e-commerce platform Pinduoduo.

Why is Temu growing so fast?

The app was downloaded around 24 million times. The growth was fueled by an advertisement at the Super Bowl in the USA and very strong social media marketing. Celebrities such as Jason Derulo are also paid for advertising.

In addition, very high discounts are given for recruiting new customers.

What are “Temu Hauls”?

Temu Hauls are videos in which people unpack and examine large quantities of Temu clothing and products on camera. Huge quantities of products are ordered at low prices.

Sources and more information

  1. Temu package stuck in Custom Clearance Completed | Reddit
  2. Temu Reviews | Trustpilot
  3. The deals behind Temu: its hidden environmental price and climate silence | Greenpeace
  4. What Is Temu? The Sustainability of the Online Marketplace That Asks Users to 'Shop Like a Billionaire' | Brightly