Clothing Lifespans: What Should Be Measured and How

Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Kirsi Laitala & Stephen Wiedemann

Abstract

Increasing the use of each product, most often called longer lifespans, is an effective environmental strategy. This article discusses how garment lifespans can be described in order to be measured and compared. It answers two sub-questions: (1) what to measure (units), and (2) how to measure (methods). We introduce and define terms related to clothing lifespans and contribute to discussions about an appropriate functional unit for garments in life cycle assessments (LCA) and other environmental accounting tools. We use a global wardrobe survey to exemplify the units and methods.

Clothing lifespans can be described and measured in years, the number of wears, cleaning cycles, and users. All have an independent value that show different and central aspects of clothing lifespans. A functional unit for LCAs should emphasise both the number of wears for all users as well as the service lifespan in years. Number of wears is the best measure for regular clothing, while number of years is most suited for occasion wear, because it is important to account for the need of more garments to cover all the relevant occasions during a specified time period. It is possible to study lifespan via carefully constructed surveys, providing key data relating to actual garment use.

Click here to read the full article (oda.oslomet.no)

Environmental impacts associated with the production, use, and end-of-life of a woollen garment

S.G. Wiedemann, L. Biggs, B. Nebel, K. Bauch, K. Laitala, I.G. Klepp, P.G. Swan and K. Watson.

Abstract

Purpose

The textiles industry is a substantial contributor to environmental impacts through the production, processing, use, and end-of-life of garments. Wool is a high value, natural, and renewable fibre that is used to produce a wide range of garments, from active leisure wear to formal wear, and represents a small segment of the global fashion industry. Woollen garments are produced by long, global value chains extending from the production of ‘greasy’ wool on sheep farms, through processing to garment make-up, retail, consumer use, and end-of-life. To date, there have been limited life cycle assessment (LCA) studies on the environmental impacts of the full supply chain or use phase of garments, with the majority of wool LCA studies focusing on a segment of the supply chain. This study aimed to address this knowledge gap via a cradle-to-grave LCA of a woollen garment.

Methods

This study investigated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, fossil fuel energy, and water stress associated with the production, use, and end-of-life of a lightweight woollen sweater (300-g wool), together with inventory results for freshwater consumption and land occupation. Primary datasets were used for the wool production and wool processing stages, while primary datasets relating to consumer garment use were supplemented with literature data. Impacts were calculated and reported per garment wear event.

Results and discussion

Impacts per wear were 0.17 (± 0.02) kg CO2-e GHG, 0.88 (± 0.18) MJ fossil energy, and 0.96 (± 0.42) H2O-e water stress. Fossil fuel energy was dominated by wool processing, with substantial contributions of energy also arising from retail and garment care. Greenhouse gas emissions from wool production (farming) contributed the highest proportion of impacts, followed by lower contributions from processing and garment care. Contributions to water stress varied less across the supply chain, with major contributions arising from production, processing, and garment use.

Conclusions

Opportunities to improve the efficiency of production, processing, and garment care exist, which could also reduce resource use and impacts from wool. However, the number of garment wear events and length of garment lifetime was found to be the most influential factor in determining garment impacts. This indicated that consumers have the largest capacity to influence the sustainability of their woollen garments by maximising the active garment lifespan which will reduce overall impacts.

Click here to read the full article (springer.com).

KRUS final report: Enhancing local value chains in Norway

Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Tone Skårdal Tobiasson, Vilde Haugrønning, Gunnar Vittersø, Lise Grøva, Torhild Kvingedal, Ingvild Espelien & Elin Kubberød

From its initiation in 2015 to the end in 2019, KRUS had two goals: to improve the market for and the value of Norwegian wool, and survey the opportunities for local production in a move towards a goal of sustainability in the fashion sector. On a larger scale, KRUS has looked at how we can re-establish an understanding of the connection between the raw material and the finished product within the textile industry and among consumers. It is critical to understand this connection, both to ensure quality products and to reach the market potential for Norwegian wool.

To restore the understanding of “where clothes come from” is also at the heart of challenges currently facing the textile industry. The consumption and production of textiles faces major challenges and changes in the future. Today the industry is characterized by low control and little knowledge, while growth in quantity, environmental impact, as well as stress on animals and humans is high. KRUS has contributed to the debate on sustainable clothing by focusing on local value-chains and locally produced apparel.

The focus on Norwegian wool and the specific qualities of the different breeds has played an essential role for Norwegian textile tradition and dress culture, and a better understanding of this has been essential to the project. An important challenge for Norwegian wool is that it has not been marketed with any kind of label of origin. Private actors have thus entered the field and developed their own private labels for Norwegian wool. In addition, there are few products on the market containing Norwegian wool beyond hand-knitting yarn, which means that availability has been limited.

Throughout the project, we have seen a shift, especially for older sheep breeds, which have posed a special challenge. Their wool is central in keeping Norwegian handicrafts alive, but the quality on some of the wool types has been declining. For others, the challenge is that much of the wool is not taken care of, and constitutes a waste problem. Through breeding-projects, work collaboration, looking closely at labelling systems and business models, KRUS has addressed these challenges.

Click here to read the full report (oda.oslomet.no)

A Louse in Court: Norwegian Knitted Sweaters with ‘Lus’ on Big-Time Criminals

Ingun Grimstad Klepp

Introduction

Early one morning in 2008 I was sitting in make-up for a Norwegian television show and felt the trained hands of the make-up smooth out my face with paint. It wasn’t the first time I’d been there. With a population of 5 million there are not many clothing researchers to choose between in Norway, and with plenty of weather and outdoor activities, clothes are important. Questions such as how to dress children for physical activities outdoors are equally relevant every autumn and before every winter vacation and every Easter, when Norwegians go to their cabins, and the ideal is to spend as much time as possible outdoors. I have talked about the choice between wool and synthetic fibres and also about traditional Norwegian knitwear, but this time the subject was somewhat different.


The Norwegian Islamist Arfan Bhattis stood, as the first person in Norway to be accused of violating a new terror clause in the Penal Code. The striking thing for the Norwegian press was that he appeared in court in a Norwegian knitted sweater, a so-called lusekofte [lit: lice jacket], and he wasn’t the first. Before him, the accused in the biggest robbery in Norwegian history and the accused in the most discussed triple homicide had dressed in the lusekofte in court.

You can find this essay appeared in the book Fashion Crimes: Dressing for Deviance, edited by Joanne Turney, here (bloomsburyfashioncentral.com).

Uniformity Without Uniforms: Dressing School Children in Norway

Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Kirsi Laitala and Silje Elisabeth Skuland

Abstract

This chapter discusses the relationship between Norwegian schools’ ideals of equality and the way in which school clothes are regulated. Interviews with a teacher in a transitional language learning group for newly arrived immigrant children, as well as with children and parents in immigrant families, are used to discuss whether school clothes inhibit or promote integration. The material shows great willingness of children to dress like the others, as well as understanding that clothing consumption is essential for integration in school, and thus society. At the same time, this is not easily achievable either economically, culturally or practically. Little is done to make Norwegian schools inclusive in this field of consumption.

This article is from the book Inclusive Consumption: Immigrants’ Access to and Use of Public and Private Goods and Services, edited by Anita Borch, Ivan Harsløf, Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Kirsi Laitala.

Click here to read the full article (idunn.no).

Dressing a Demanding Body to Fit In: Clean and Decent with Ostomy or Chronic Skin Disease

Kirsi Laitala and Ingun Grimstad Klepp

Abstract

This article discusses what kind of strategies people with a stoma or various chronic skin conditions, such as psoriasis oratopic dermatitis, use to find clothes that fit and enable them to fit in. Based on qualitative interviews in Norway, we study how they manage to dress with a demanding body, a poor market and limited economic resources. This includes describing how purchases take place, which clothes fit, how much clothing is needed, and which laundry practices are used. Their main strategy was to reduce the requirements for their own appearance rather than to cleanliness and body odours. If they were unable to appear appropriately dressed, as a minimum odourless and stain-free, they reduced their participation in social life.

Click here to read the full article (cogitatiopress.com).

Microfibres from apparel and home textiles: Prospects for including microplastics in environmental sustainability assessment

Beverly Henry, Kirsi Laitala & Ingun Grimstad Klepp

Abstract

Textiles release fibres to the environment during production, use, and at end-of-life disposal. Approximately two-thirds of all textile items are now synthetic, dominated by petroleum-based organic polymers such as polyester,polyamide and acrylic. Plastic microfibres (b5 mm) and nanofibres (b100 nm) have been identified in ecosystems in all regions of the globe and have been estimated to comprise up to 35% of primary microplastics in marine environments, a major proportion of microplastics on coastal shorelines and to persist for decades in soils treated with sludge from waste water treatment plants.

In this paper we present a critical review of factors affecting the release from fabrics of microfibres, and of the risks for impacts on ecological systems and potentially on human health. This review is used as a basis for exploring the potential to include a metric for microplastic pollution in tools that have been developed to quantify the environmental performance of apparel and home textiles. We conclude that the simple metric of mass or number of microfibres released combined with data on their persistence in the environment, could provide a useful interim mid-point indicator in sustainability assessment tools to support monitoring and mitigation strategies for microplastic pollution. Identified priority research areas include: (1) Standardised analytical methods for textile microfibres and nanofibres; (2) Ecotoxicological studies using environmentally realistic concentrations; (3) Studies tracking the fate of microplastics in complex food webs; and (4) Refined indicators for microfibre impacts in apparel and home textile sustainability assessment tools.

Click here to read the full article (oda.oslomet.no)

Care and production of clothing in Norwegian homes: Environmental implications of mending and making practices

Kirsi Laitala and Ingun Grimstad Klepp

Abstract

Mending, re-design, and altering are alternatives for prolonging the use period of clothing. It is a common assumption that nobody mends clothing anymore in Western societies. This paper studies Norwegian consumers’ clothing mending and making practices. We ask how common the different mending and making activities are, has this changed during the past several years, who are the clothing menders and makers, and further, are these practices related to consumers environmental opinions?

We build on three quantitative surveys in Norway from 2010, 2011, and 2017. Many consumers do mend their clothing at least occasionally, especially the simpler tasks, such as sewing on a button and fixing an unravelled seam. Women and the elderly are more active in making and mending, whereas the young are a bit more likely to make something new out of old clothing. The mending activities were correlated with respondents’ environmental opinions. Mending clothes is more common than is usually assumed. Knowledge of current practices and barriers for clothing mending enables us to recommend measures that can potentially increase the use time of clothing. These results can be beneficial in clothing design, home economics, and crafts education as well as understanding consumer behavior and making policies that aim at environmental improvements within clothing consumption.

Click here to read the full article (mdpi.com).

Does Use Matter? Comparison of Environmental Impacts of Clothing Based on Fiber Type

Kirsi Laitala, Ingun Grimstad Klepp & Beverley Henry

Abstract

Several tools have been developed to compare the environmental impact of textiles. The most widely used are Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) and MADE-BY Fiber Benchmark. They use data from production to evaluate the environmental impacts of textiles differentiated by fiber type. The use phase is excluded from both tools. This article discusses whether there is evidence that the use of textiles differs systematically between different fiber types and examines the consequences of comparing the environmental impacts of clothing based on differences in production of fibers alone without including differences in their use.

The empirical material in this paper is based on analysis of rating tools and a literature review on clothing use. It shows that fiber content contributes to the way consumers take care of and use their clothing. When use is omitted, major environmental problems associated with this stage, such as spread of microplastics, are also excluded. This one-sided focus on material production impacts also excludes the importance of product lifespans, quality, and functionality. The consequence is that short-lived disposable products are equated with durable products. Comparing dissimilar garments will not help consumers to make choices that will reduce the environmental burden of clothing. We need an informed discussion on how to use all materials in the most environmentally sustainable way possible.

Click here to read the full article (oda.oslomet.no)

Nisseluelandet—The Impact of Local Clothes for the Survival of a Textile Industry in Norway

Ingun Grimstad Klepp & Kirsi Laitala

Abstract

The article discusses the importance of local clothing for the survival of the Norwegian textile industry. It draws upon stakeholder interviews, as well as desktop research. Local clothes are discussed as they are understood by consumers, as knitted sweaters, bunads (Norwegian national costumes), and home-made clothing. The review shows how these products, and especially the materials used in their production, have been crucial for the continued existence of the Norwegian textile industry. We argue that the concept “local clothes” can contribute to showcasing resources outside the global “fast fashion” manufacturing system.

Click here to read the full article (tandfonline.com)