Wardrobe sizes and clothing lifespans

Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Kirsi Laitala and Vilde Haugrønning


It is easy to assume that a large wardrobe is characterized by excessive clothing and high acquisition, with little use of each garment and thus a big environmental impact. However, it is also possible to think the opposite; that the large wardrobe is a result of clothes remaining in use for a long time, that disposal happens rarely, while acquisition can be normal or even low. Whatever the reason, in a large wardrobe it is more likely that clothes become old before the technical life expires. This is because many of the garments are seldom used. Small wardrobes are often presented as favourable for both people and the environment, and as part of an ecological-friendly lifestyle, but we know little about the interaction between wardrobe sizes, longevity and the environmental impact.

In this paper, we investigate this relationship based on survey material from five countries; China, Germany, Japan, UK and the USA. We find that consumers with large wardrobes use their clothes longer, but consumers with small wardrobes use their clothes more often before they are disposed. We conclude that a good utilization of resources is possible with both large and small wardrobes, but in different ways. As we work towards more sustainable clothing consumption, we need to approach consumers differently, in order to give constructive advice to all.

This is a conference article from the 3rdPLATE 2019 Conference. Click here to find the full conference proceedings including this article (depositonce.tu-berlin.de).

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

Kirsi Laitala, Ingun Grimstad Klepp & Beverley Henry


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)

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

Kirsi Laitala, Ingun Grimstad Klepp & Beverley Henry


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)

Klærs levetid – LCA på liv og død

Ingun Grimstad Klepp & Kirsi Laitala


Et av de mest fremtredende trekkene ved de siste 50 års tekstilforbruk er veksten i mengde. Import av klær har økt med 67 % i de siste tjue årene, og ligger nå på 15 kg per innbygger i Norge (SSB, 2014). Vi vet lite om denne veksten, men at den henger sammen med en nedgang i priser og en oppgang i kjøpekraft, er åpenbar. I samme periode har andelen av husholdningenes forbruk av klær og sko falt fra 6,6 % til 5,4 % av utgiftene (SSB, 1999, 2013). Til tross for denne nedgangen har klesforbruket målt i volum økt. Dette har ikke skjedd uten miljøkonsekvenser. Carbon trust (2011) har estimert at 3 % av globale klimautslipp, målt i CO2-ekvivalenter, stammer fra produksjon og vask av klær. I tillegg kommer utslipp av skadelige kjemikalier, uetiske arbeidsforhold, problemer med dyrevelferd, og høyt forbruk av energi, vann og land-arealer (Fletcher, 2008).

Livsløpsanalyser (LCA) blir brukt for å skaffe informasjon om de totale miljøpåvirkningene av et produkt eller en aktivitet. LCA-studiene brukes blant annet som grunnlag for ulike typer verktøy som gir råd til bedrifter, designere og forbrukere om hvordan de kan produsere og handle mer miljøriktig (for oversikt over slike verktøy, se f.eks. Klepp et al., 2015; Kviseth, 2011). Et viktig element i disse verktøyene er at de rangerer ulike fibre mot hverandre. Dette kan få store konsekvenser fordi det brukes som grunnlag for beslutninger om hva klær og andre tekstiler produseres av. Mange bedrifter, designere og forbrukere ønsker jo å ha «miljøriktige» klær, som lett forstås som klær i bestemte materialer. Den store vinneren har så langt vært resirkulert polyester. I dette kapitlet diskuterer vi hvorfor de LCA-studiene verktøyene bygger på er lite relevante, og hvorfor de dermed kan få store miljømessige konsekvenser.

Klikk her for å lese hele kapittelet (researchgate.com)

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

Marthe Hårvik Austgulen


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).

His mother’s dress: growth in the number of clothes

Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Kirsi Laitala.


Eivind Stø likes a tell an illustrative story about his mother who went through World War II with only one dress due to rationing. Today women have many dresses; more than we can wear out in 5 years. Since 1990, Norway’s clothing imports have almost doubled (Statistics Norway, 2014) and we did not lack clothing in 1990. This chapter discusses what we know about this change. What do we know about the number of clothes in use? When did they multiply to such an extent? What sources and methods do we have to describe this growth? In general, growth should be a more central theme in the environmental debate, especially when it comes to clothing and other items where growth in numbers is completely decoupled from a corresponding increase in satisfaction. As long as we produce (and purchase) far more clothes than we need, quantity should be an essential theme.

Lifecycle thinking has little relevance when the cycle ignores use. To put it another way, without knowing anything about the amount we can hardly reach a future where production matches our need to be warm and beautiful. Nevertheless, there are a few relevant studies of this growth. We will use previous investigations of clothing consumption in Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, as well as material from SIFO’s projects on clothing consumption, where we have attempted to approach an understanding of the number of clothes that people possess.

This article is from the book in The Consumer in Society – A Tribute to Eivind Stø, edited by P. Strandbakken and J. Gronow.

Consumption Studies: The force of the ordinary

Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Kirsi Laitala


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).

Sustainable clothing design: use matters

Kirsi Laitala and Casper Boks


Many life cycle assessment studies document that the use period is the most resource-demanding phase during the clothing life cycle. In this paper, we discuss how design can help to reduce the environmental impacts of clothing. Motives behind clothing disposal, acquisition practices and maintenance habits are analysed based on two surveys, qualitative interviews of households, and examination of disposed clothing. The main reasons for clothing disposal were changes in garments, followed by size and fit issues, taste-related unsuitability, situational reasons, functional shortcomings and fashion or style changes. Several design solutions can enable the users to keep and use the clothes longer, and reduce the need for laundering, thus potentially decreasing the total environmental effects of clothing consumption.

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

Miljøbelastninger fra norsk fritidsforbruk – en kartlegging

John Hille, Carlo Aall og Ingun Grimstad Klepp


For første gang er det internasjonalt gjort en identifisering av og sammenstilling av det samlede nasjonale fritidsforbruket. Omfanget av fritidsforbruk er målt i form av antall ”hendelser”, forbruk av tid og forbruk av kroner. Videre er det gjort beregninger av samlet direkte og indirekte energiforbruk, som igjen gjør det mulig å vurdere energiintensitet; dvs energiforbruk per time og per krone for de ulike kategoriene av fritidsforbruk. Det er gjort beregninger for i alt 35 kategorier av fritidsforbruk (Feriereiser; Besøk slekt/venner; Bibliotek; Museum; Teater/opera; Kino; Konserter; Kunstutstillinger; Temaparker o.l.; Badeland; Sirkus og tivoli; Restaurant/kafé; Friluftsliv; Lystkjøring / motorisert friluftsliv; Hytteturer; Treningssentre; Handarbeid og sløyd; Samleraktiviteter; Kjæledyr; Årstidsfester; Musikkutøvelse; Fotografering; Alle uspesifiserte ; Lesing; Tradisjonelle spill; Fjernsyn og radio; Lyd- og bildeapparat; Datamaskin/internett; Religiøse organisasjoner; Annen organisasjonsvirksomhet; Idrett som deltaker; Idrett som tilskuer). De tre kategorier fritidsaktiviteter med samlet sett størst energiforbruk er (1) feriereiser, (2) besøke slekt og venner, og (3) moderne hjemmeunderholdning (PC, DVD, fjernsyn osv).

Klikk her for å lese hele rapporten (vestforsk.no).

Hvorfor går klær ut av bruk? Avhending sett i forhold til kvinners klesvaner

Ingun Grimstad Klepp


Denne rapporten handler om hvorfor kvinner slutter å bruke klær og ønsker å kvitte seg med dem. Årsakene til avhending diskuteres i forhold til kvinnenes klesvaner. Klesvaner er både hvordan vi kler oss, og hva vi tenker om dette. Spørsmålet stilles med bakgrunn i et ønske om et mer bærekraftig tekstilforbruk. Tekstiler er forurensende både i produksjon, transport og som søppel. I 1998 kastet vi i Norge til sammen 110 000 tonn tekstiler. Av dette kom 75% fra husholdningene. Hver og en av oss kastet gjennomsnittlig 19,7 kg tekstiler dette året, av dette var ca 11,2 kg klær. I følge Statistisk sentralbyrå blir bare 7% av tekstilene gjenbrukt eller resirkulert.

Klikk her for å lese hele rapporten (oda.oslomet.no)