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.

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Motivations for and against second-hand clothing acquisition

Kirsi Laitala and Ingun Grimstad Klepp

Abstract

One of the possibilities consumers have for more sustainable clothing acquisition is to select pre-owned products. This article explores consumers’ motivations for clothing reuse: why they choose or do not choose to acquire second-hand clothing. First, a taxonomy of motivation categories based on previous studies is presented. This demonstrates that similar properties can be used as arguments both for and against acquisition of second-hand clothing. An analysis of a representative sample of Norwegian consumers shows that both environmental and economic reasons are important for those who take part in informal clothing circulation. Uniqueness and style are more important for those who buy second-hand clothing.

Those who do not take part in any of the forms of acquisition of used clothing, use vague and open justifications, as well as contextual aspects; hygiene, health and intimacy. Previous studies have mostly been based on how clothing is reused as part of a market exchange, and therefore the motives have been embedded with a rational choice understanding of consumption. Studies of the private exchange of clothing should also address additional reasons such as routinized practices and established rituals, family ties, feelings, friendship and love. The article concludes with an invitation for further research to explore several possible motivations that are more relevant for private circulation of clothes.

Click here to read the full article (ingentaconnect.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)

Clothing Reuse: The Potential in Informal Exchange

Kirsi Laitala and Ingun Grimstad Klepp

Abstract

Reuse organised by non-profit and commercial actors is a strategy that recently received a lot of attention. This article discusses the question: what do we know about the amount of clothes that circulate outside the pecuniary markets? And is this amount increasing or declining? The questions are answered based on quantitative material from Norway. Almost twice as many had received used clothing as those who had bought used clothing, and our material do not indicate that this are declining. At the same time 59 per cent of Norwegian adults had neither received nor bought used clothing for themselves during the past two years. For children, inheritance is very common and the younger the children are, the more they inherit. The amount of the private clothing exchange is greater than the formal market in Norway. Therefore, when the goal is a more sustainable clothing consumption we need to include the parts of consumption that are not only related to money.

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Clothing disposal habits and consequences for life cycle assessment (LCA)

Kirsi Laitala & Ingun Grimstad Klepp

Abstract

This chapter discusses the effects of end-of-life scenarios to the life cycle assessment (LCA) calculations. Consumers’ decisions in the disposal phase of clothing are crucial from an environmental point of view, as they affect the lifespan of clothing, as well as the potential for reuse and recycling. In doing this, examples of Norwegian consumers’ clothing use and disposal practices are used.

We will present statistics for the current situation in Norway as well as qualitative material on clothing disposal practices and discuss disposal methods and frequencies. Instead of assuming that all clothes are disposed of equally regardless of type of garment, person and place, the LCA analyses should be nuanced in relation to knowledge of disposal practices. Analysis also shows also that if improvements are made in facilitating reuse, clothing lifespans could easily be prolonged.

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