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)

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)

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)

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).

Shared use and owning of clothes: borrow, steal or inherit

Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Kirsi Laitala

Abstract

This chapter takes a close look at the different forms of sharing based on empirical material on leisure clothing in Norwegian families. We ask what forms of sharing are practiced, which terms are used, and how consumers draw distinctions between them. We find that the forms are numerous and have an established place in Norwegian clothing culture. Sharing within the household, outside the pecuniary market, appears still to be the most important and also the most understudied form of sharing.

The literature about clothing consumption is increasingly about sharing, but limited to the new forms. However, sharing is a common form of human interaction, often misunderstood or overlooked. In order to understand the role of collaborative consumption in contemporary society, it is necessary to study both new and old forms of sharing. For a more systematic mapping of these forms a good place to start might be the study of relationships between access and ownership, and between different temporalities.

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

Use phase of apparel: A Literature review for Life Cycle Assessment with focus on wool.

Kirsi Laitala, Ingun Grimstad Klepp & Beverley Henry

Summary

This report presents a literature review of clothing use phase. The purpose is to support improved methodological development for accounting for the use phase in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of apparel. All relevant textile fibres are included in the review. However, the main focus is on wool. We ask whether the use of wool has different environmental impacts than clothes in other fibres. The report builds on a review of literature from the past 20 years. The review showed that clothing made from different materials are used, and reused in different ways. Wool is washed differently as it has about ten degrees lower washing temperature than the average laundry in Europe. Wool is also more likely to be either dry-cleaned or washed by hand than other textiles. Moreover, when dried, it is less likely to be tumble-dried.

When comparing the number of days between the washes of different types of clothes, we found that respondents were likely to use their woollen products about twice as long between washes compared to their equivalent cotton products. We also found that woollen products had a longer average lifespan and were more likely to be reused or recycled. There is a lot of research-based information available concerning the use and re-use of clothing, and we believe there are sufficient results available on which to base LCA studies. Furthermore, we believe that environmental tools that compare different fibres but exclude use phase provide misleading results. Including the use phase in fibre ranking benchmark tools will improve the rigour and accuracy of these tools for all fibres, compared to reporting results for fibre production only. However, we have also shown that there are several methodological, conceptual and empirical knowledge gaps in existing literature.

Click here to read the full report (researchgate.net)

Environmentally Sustainable Textile Consumption—What Characterizes the Political Textile Consumers?

Marthe Hårvik Austgulen

Abstract

The textile and clothing industry is considered as one of the most polluting industries in the world. Still, the regulation of environmental hazards connected to the industry is very limited, and much responsibility is placed on the shoulders of consumers. One of the few ways that ordinary consumers can seek to influence the textile and clothing industry is through their own consumption practices and their wallet. This article departs from the discourse on sustainable consumption and the role of the consumer as an agent for change, and the article investigates the characteristics of the consumers who practice deliberate environmentally sustainable consumption of textiles and clothing. This is done through the lens of political consumption. Based on a cross-national survey conducted in five Western European countries, factors that have been found to predict general political consumption in previous research are tested on the field of textiles and clothing. The findings demonstrate both similarities and some discrepancies with previous studies of political consumption as well as significant country variations.

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

Consumption Studies: The force of the ordinary

Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Kirsi Laitala

Abstract

Consumer research deals with the acquisition, use and disposal of goods and services. Our workplace, SIFO, the National Institute for Consumer Research in Norway, dates back to the 1930s, when home economics and testing of products were predominant. The work aimed at guiding consumers, at that time called housewives, through the ‘jungle’ of novel consumer goods. More recently, SIFO’s work combines social science and textile technology to study the social and technical aspects of consumption.

In this chapter, we ask: how can knowledge of clothing consumption contribute to the work on sustainable fashion? We will answer the question through examples from interdisciplinary projects on textiles at SIFO, as well as from consumer research. However, we will not give an overview of consumer research on clothes and sustainability. But first, an admission: fashion – the topic of this book – operates according to a different logic from our field of work. We would have posed the question differently: how can consumer research – and all the other fields of expertise covered in this book –contribute to more sustainable patterns of clothes production and consumption? Therefore, we also have to include a discussion of the concept of fashion.

This article is Chapter 12 in the book Routledge Handbook of Sustainability and Fashion, edited by Kate Fletcher and Mathilda Tham that you can find here (tandfonline.com).

Reading Fashion as Age: Teenage Girls’ and Grown Women’s Accounts of Clothing as Body and Social Status

Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Ardis Storm-Mathisen

Abstract

If you don’t follow fashion, you wear, like, sorta childish clothes

(girl, aged thirteen)

I think about my age before wearing something that seems rather daring

(woman, aged forty-one)

This article discusses the similarities and differences in how women in two different stages of life describe the relationship between fashion and age. The analytical approach is basically discursive, based on Norwegian teenage girls’ and adult women’s verbal accounts of clothing and clothing practices in conversational interviews undertaken in the late 1990s.

Prevailing discourses as to what represents a breach of clothing conventions are to be found in the ways young girls and grown women talk about clothes. When clothes are used in accordance with conventions and norms, they are not noticed much. However, when clothes are used in a way that differs from the norm, this can attract attention and provoke reactions. By comparing narratives of clothing provided by respondents of the same sex and approximately the same class background but of different ages, we gain access to material that is particularly well suited to illustrate the significance of age in conventions governing clothing and fashion.

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