Local clothing: What is that? How an environmental policy concept is understood

Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Vilde Haugrønning & Kirsi Laitala

The textile industry is characterized by global mass production and has an immense impact on the environment. One garment can travel around the world through an extensive value chain before reaching its final consumption destination. The consumer receives little information about how the item was produced due to a lack of policy regulation. In this article, we explore understandings of ‘local clothing’ and how the concept could be an alternative to the current clothing industry. The analysis is based on fifteen interviews with eighteen informants from Western Norway as part of the research project KRUS about Norwegian wool. Five ways of understanding local clothing were identified from the interviews: production, place-specific garments, local clothing habits, home-based production and local circulation. We lack a language with which to describe local clothing that covers local forms of production as an alternative to current clothing production. As such, the article highlights an important obstacle to reorganization: local clothing needs a vocabulary among the public, in politics and in the public sector in general, with which to describe the diverse production processes behind clothing and textiles and their material properties.

Click here to see the article (ingentaconnect.com)

Textile Cleaning and Odour Removal

Kirsi Laitala, Ingun Grimstad Klepp & Vilde Haugrønning

Consumers’ textile care practices today are characterized by frequent laundering. The importance of the removal of odours has increased, especially the smell of sweat. This chapter summarizes knowledge about removing odour from textiles. It provides information on suitable cleaning methods for different textile fibres and types of soils. The considered cleaning methods include laundering, stain removal, airing, hand wash, and professional cleaning methods. The cleaning result from laundering depends on water, washing temperature, length of washing cycle, types and amounts of laundry chemicals, and mechanical agitation applied. Textile material and type of soil that needs removal will determine the right mix of these factors.

Inherent fibre properties affect the soiling characteristics of garments. Comparisons of odours retained in textiles have shown that wool has the least intensive odour, followed by cotton, and synthetic polyester and polyamide garments have the most intense odour. Most textiles can be washed with water and detergents, which are more efficient in the removal of many odorous soils than dry-cleaning, but low-temperature laundering and/or lack of chemical disinfectants such as bleaches can contribute to odour build-up in textiles and in the washing machine. These aspects contribute to the environmental impacts of textiles.

Book chapter in Odour in Textiles: Generation and Control (taylorfrancis.com).

The Consumer Perception of Odour

Ingun Grimstad Klepp & Kirsi Laitala

Human olfaction sense is one of the highly underestimated senses since historical times. Fortunately, this has changed in recent times, as the perception of odour or scent by people has received increasing attention through several research works from different scientific disciplines. Our sense of smell and scent affects our lives more than previously assumed, influencing how we think, act, and behave. Odours both evoke and create memories. The perception of odours is also culturally and situationally dependent. However, there is still a lot that we don’t know about the influence of odour or scent on an individual’s characteristics and odour studies are hindered by the lack of vocabulary. The effect of pleasant odour on the shopping behaviours of customers is one highly researched area, while very few studies have focused on body odour perception. Most of the time body odour is related to self-hygiene and cleanliness, but understanding about the complete social aspects behind odour perception by humans is still at an infant stage. This chapter reviews the current status of consumer research on body odour and environmental odour or scent perception. The chapter also addresses the role of textile materials on body odour perception.

Click here to see the book chapter in Odour in Textiles: Generation and Control (taylorfrancis.com)

Durable or cheap? Parents’ acquisition of children’s clothing

Ingun Grimstad Klepp & Vilde Haugrønning

Abstract

Parents are faced with a plurality of choices and concerns when it comes to the acquisition of clothing for their children. This paper explores how parents employ longevity in consumption of children’s clothing from a practice-oriented perspective. The material consists of 6 focus groups with 40 parents who have at least one child under the age of 18. The aim of the groups was to establish children’s clothing needs: how many they need of each garment, how long parents expect the garment to last and what they understand as quality in clothing.

The analysis shows that parents mainly opt for an ‘one or the other’ strategy; they choose what they understand as quality, often affiliated with specific brands, and accept paying more for the garment, or they mainly choose based on low prices, and expect less of the garment. Quality is evaluated based on the garments’ durability and function. More specifically, the parents measure the service lifetime of a garment based on the number of seasons it lasts, either in terms of wear and tear or the child growing out of it. The expected lifetime is defined by uncertain sources, from their own and friends’ experiences, and their desire to justify their own choices as well as routinised practices.

Our discussion section employs these findings and contextualise them within product lifetime discourses. By doing this, we provide knowledge about how quality is understood, and how brand and price are used as indicators. We show how lack of information about products, especially on garments, leads to uninformed consumption practices that have consequences for how quality and longevity are prioritised and understood.

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Consumer practices for extending the social lifetimes of sofas and clothing

Vilde Haugrønning, Kirsi Laitala & Ingun Grimstad Klepp

Abstract

Consumers play an essential role in efforts to extend product lifetimes (PL) and consumers’ practices can determine how long and active lives products get. Applying the framework of Social Practice Theory, this paper argues that in order to suggest changes to how consumers can contribute to longer product lifespans, research needs to focus on consumer practices. The data material consists of 4 focus group interviews with 38 participants about household goods and 29 semi-structured interviews about clothing.

Previous research shows that consumers’ expectations of product lifetime has decreased, while satisfaction with products is relatively high, which may indicate that product break down and/or replacement is more accepted. Therefore, we argue, it is necessary to focus on social lifespans. Our findings show that products such as clothing and sofas often go out of use or are disposed of before their physical lifespan ends, and it is more common to donate or sell old clothing and sofas than buying the products second hand. There are a number of routinised practices, such as disposal of functional items, that are considered normal, which leads to less reflexivity of seemingly unsustainable practices.

The material in products, or the expectation to the material, is highly influential for practices that can extend the social lifespan, such as maintenance. We conclude that by understanding practices as integrated and influenced by elements of the material, social and cultural, policy interventions may have a greater impact on the social lifespan of products.

Click here to read the full article (www.ul.ie)

Reducing environmental impacts from garments through best practice garment use and care, using the example of a Merino wool sweater

Stephen G. Weidemann, Leo Briggs, Quan V. Nguyen, Simon J. Clarke, Kirsi Laitala and Ingun G. Klepp

Abstract

Purpose

Garment production and use generate substantial environmental impacts, and the care and use are key determinants of cradle-to-grave impacts. The present study investigated the potential to reduce environmental impacts by applying best practices for garment care combined with increased garment use. A wool sweater is used as an example because wool garments have particular attributes that favour reduced environmental impacts in the use phase.

Methods

A cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment (LCA) was used to compare six plausible best and worst-case practice scenarios for use and care of a wool sweater, relative to current practices. These focussed on options available to consumers to reduce impacts, including reduced washing frequency, use of more efficient washing machines, reduced use of machine clothing dryers, garment reuse by multiple users, and increasing number of garment wears before disposal. A sixth scenario combined all options. Worst practices took the worst plausible alternative for each option investigated. Impacts were reported per wear in Western Europe for climate change, fossil energy demand, water stress and freshwater consumption.

Results and discussion

Washing less frequently reduced impacts by between 4 and 20%, while using more efficient washing machines at capacity reduced impacts by 1 to 6%, depending on the impact category. Reduced use of machine dryer reduced impacts by < 5% across all indicators. Reusing garments by multiple users increased life span and reduced impacts by 25–28% across all indicators. Increasing wears from 109 to 400 per garment lifespan had the largest effect, decreasing impacts by 60% to 68% depending on the impact category. Best practice care, where garment use was maximised and care practices focussed on the minimum practical requirements, resulted in a ~ 75% reduction in impacts across all indicators. Unsurprisingly, worst-case scenarios increased impacts dramatically: using the garment once before disposal increased GHG impacts over 100 times.

Conclusions

Wool sweaters have potential for long life and low environmental impact in use, but there are substantial differences between the best, current and worst-case scenarios. Detailed information about garment care and lifespans is needed to understand and reduce environmental impacts. Opportunities exist for consumers to rapidly and dramatically reduce these impacts. The fashion industry can facilitate this through garment design and marketing that promotes and enables long wear life and minimal care.

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

Increasing repair of household appliances, mobile phones and clothing: Experiences from consumers and the repair industry

Kirsi Laitala, Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Vilde Haugrønning, Harald Throne-Holst & Pål Strandbakken

Abstract

Increasing product lifespans is one of the most effective environmental strategies and therefore repair is a part of the circular economy approach that aims to keep products and materials longer in use. This article explores drivers and barriers for repair from consumers’ and commercial repair actors view-points, in order to understand how the repair rates of household appliances, mobile phones and clothing could be increased.

The study is based on a consumer survey of 1196 respondents in Norway, and 15 qualitative interviews with actors in the commercial repair industry working with repairs of household consumer goods. A surprisingly high share of repairs was conducted by consumers themselves. The main barrier is the consistently low price of new products, and often of poor quality, which contributes to low profitability in repair work for businesses and low motivation from consumers. Furthermore, access to competent personnel is a major challenge for the repair industry, a need which is expected to increase in the coming years.

Both the industry and consumers agree that better quality of products is a starting point for increased product lifespans, and this will also increase the motivation and the number of profitable repairs. These results have political implications on how to promote longer product lifespans through repair such as increased utilization and knowledge of consumers’ complaint and warranty rights.

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

Global differences in consumer practices affect clothing lifespans

Kirsi Laitala & Ingun Grimstad Klepp

Abstract

Most studies of clothing and related habits are carried out within a country. However, apparel production and sales are a highly globalized industry, with many of the same large chains operating worldwide. It is thus quite possible that the use of the same mass-produced clothing differs between various geographical areas. Based on a practice theoretical approach, we have studied differences in consumption, use and disposal of clothes in different countries that may affect the lifespan of apparel.

The paper is based on an international survey in five countries with large apparel markets: China, Germany, Japan, UK and the USA. 200 respondents from each country answered to a comprehensive web-based survey on their wardrobe content. We found differences in practices that could affect the lifespans of clothing in these five countries. At the same time, we find many similarities. For clothing acquisition, buying new items dominates in all the five markets, and washing machines contribute to the main chore of keeping clothes clean. Home production and second-hand clothes constitute a very small part of clothing consumption in all five countries. Many respondents showed low sewing skills, and repair activities were done irregularly. Thus, many of the challenges to increasing the lifespans of clothing are similar for all the five countries. At the same time, there are significant differences. These differences open up for the possibility to learn «best practice» by studying the countries and transferring knowledge between regions. When defining use phase in LCA and other sustainability tools, it must be taken into account that despite the fact that clothing is a global industry, consumption is part of local practice.

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

What Affects Garment Lifespans? International Clothing Practices Based on a Wardrobe Survey in China, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the USA

Kirsi Laitala and Ingun Grimstad Klepp

Abstract

Increasing the length of clothing lifespans is crucial for reducing the total environmental impacts. This article discusses which factors contribute to the length of garment lifespans by studying how long garments are used, how many times they are worn, and by how many users. The analysis is based on quantitative wardrobe survey data from China, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the USA. Variables were divided into four blocks related respectively to the garment, user, garment use, and clothing practices, and used in two hierarchical multiple regressions and two binary logistic regressions.

The models explain between 11% and 43% of the variation in clothing lifespans. The garment use block was most indicative for the number of wears, while garment related properties contribute most to variation in the number of users. For lifespans measured in years, all four aspects were almost equally important. Some aspects that affect the lifespans of clothing cannot be easily changed (e.g., the consumer’s income, nationality, and age) but they can be used to identify where different measures can have the largest benefits. Several of the other conditions that affect lifespans can be changed (e.g., garment price and attitudes towards fashion) through quality management, marketing strategies, information, and improved consumer policies.

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

Laundry Care Regimes: Do the Practices of Keeping Clothes Clean Have Different Environmental Impacts Based on the Fibre Content?

Kirsi Laitala, Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Roy Kettlewell & Stephen Wiedemann

Abstract

Clothing maintenance is necessary for keeping clothing and textiles functional and socially acceptable, but it has environmental consequences due to the use of energy, water and chemicals. This article discusses whether clothes made of different materials are cleaned in different ways and have different environmental impacts. It fills a knowledge gap needed in environmental assessments that evaluate the impacts based on the function of a garment by giving detailed information on the use phase. The article is based on a quantitative wardrobe survey and qualitative laundry diary data from China, Germany, Japan, the UK and the USA.

The largest potential for environmental improvement exists in reducing laundering frequency and in the selection of washing and drying processes, and through a transition to fibres that are washed less frequently, such as wool. Adopting best practice garment care would give larger benefits in countries like the US where the consumption values were the highest, mainly due to extensive use of clothes dryers and less efficient washing machines combined with frequent cleaning. These variations should be considered in environmental assessments of clothing and when forming sustainability policies. The results indicate the benefits of focusing future environmental work on consumer habits and culture and not only technologies.

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