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.

Naturgarvet skinn i et miljøperspektiv

Ingun Grimstad Klepp & Vilde Haugrønning

Sammendrag

Rapporten tar utgangspunkt i naturgarveriet Jutulskinn (nå ULU) og deres utvikling av en ny kolleksjon i form av friluftslivsklær i skinn og pels. Rapporten er en leveranse i et ‘forprosjekt for innovasjon’ finansiert av Norges Forskningsråd. Målet med dette prosjektet er å plassere Jutulskinns produkter inn i et miljøperspektiv ved å se på råvarer, alternative produkter og hvordan produktene kan minimere miljøbelastning gjennom å forlenge sosial levetid og planlegge for fremtidige reparasjoner, samt forbedringer under produksjon. Rapporten går gjennom flere aspekter rundt garving som håndverk og materialer og råvarer benyttet i produksjonen. Vi ser også på råvaretilgangen for pels og skinn i Norge og finner at det er stor tilgang på råvarer som huder og skinn. Hud og pels fra dyr som felles under jakt eller avlives av andre grunner blir i liten grad utnyttet. Basert på dette ser vi at det er behov for mer forskning om hvordan færre materialer og ressurser kan gå til spille og hvordan vi kan få en større utnyttelse av skinn og pels fra dyr i Norge. Dette krever også en diskusjon om lovverk som regulerer biprodukter og sidestrømmer. Vi konkluderer med at produktene til Jutulskinn har lav miljøbelastning og lavere enn produkter som det er naturlig å sammenligne med. Jutulskinn har mulighet for å bidra inn i en bærekraftig utvikling gjennom å være et eksempel på en bedrift som kan bidra til reorganisert og minsket forbruk og produksjon. Av de ulike miljøfortrinn nevnes at bedriften bruker flere lokale råvarer som ellers hadde gått til spille, at de ikke bruker farlige kjemikalier og et minimum av energi, og ikke minst at de representerer en motsetning til vekst og overproduksjon som er et stort problem med dagens klesproduksjon.

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

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

Stephen G. Wiedemann, 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 15qualitative 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)

Barn og unges forbruk: Klær, mat og kropp

Bahr Bugge, Silje Elisabeth Skuland, Kamilla Knutsen Steinnes og Helene Fiane Teigen

Sammendrag

Denne rapporten, som i hovedsak er basert på en spørreundersøkelse om barn, klær, mat og kropp blant foreldre med barn i alderen 1-16 år, beskriver barn og unges forbruk av klær og mat og hvordan de forholder seg til kropp, helse og miljø. Undersøkelsen viser at mange foreldre gir klær til gjenbruk, men en mindre andel sier at deres barn bruker brukte klær. Spesielt klær blant de yngste barna går i arv. Det er vanlig å reparere barneklær selv, men uvanlig å betale andre for det. De færreste foreldre svarer at barna går med halvskitne klær, men helse og miljø fremstår ikke som spesielt viktige for foreldre når det gjelder klesvask. Det er delte meninger om og erfaringer omkring spørsmål om klær, klesnormer, kjønn, kjøpepress og religion. Hovedansvar for barns klær har mødrene eller ansvaret deles likt mellom foreldrene. Barn og unges meninger om klærs betydning for inkludering og erting er delte, det samme gjelder skoleuniform som mulig løsning. De er mer positive til dette tiltaket enn foreldrene. Resultatene viser at det mangler kunnskap om hvordan vi kan kle barn slik at de får en sunn, trygg og god barndom og hvem som har ansvar for at det skjer.

De fleste barn og unge rapporterer et mat- og spisemønster som er i tråd med ernæringspolitiske målsettinger. Tilgjengeligheten hjemme av sunne matvarer er høy i barnefamilier og tilgjengeligheten av usunne matvarer er lavere, men en av ti sier at de alltid har usunne matvare hjemme. Tre av fire foreldre sier at deres yngste barn spiser matpakke hver dag på skolen, og mange er enige i at matpakka bør erstattes med et skolemåltid. Behovet for å erstatte matpakka med et skolemåltid er størst blant foreldre i de laveste inntekts- og utdannelsesgruppene, og for foreldre som oppgir at barna deres ikke spiser matpakke daglig på skolen. Foreldre synes at det i stor grad er den enkeltes ansvar å spise sunt, men at også myndighetene har ansvar. Mange foreldre er enige i at myndigheter bør benytte seg av prisvirkemidler og at markedsføring og reklame av usunn mat til barn bør forbys. Barn og unge uttrykker både tilfredshet og misnøye med egen kropp og utseende. Ungdommer, jenter oftere enn gutter, gjennomfører en rekke skjønnhets- og kroppspraksiser regelmessig. Det er vanlig blant unge å unngå mat som allment anses som usunn.

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

Summary

This report, which is mainly based on a survey about children, clothes, food and the body among parents of children aged 1-16 years, describes children’s and young people’s consumption of clothing and food and how they relate to the body, health and the environment. The survey shows that many parents give clothes for reuse, but a small proportion say that their children wear used clothes. Especially clothes among the youngest children are inherited. It is common to repair children’s clothes yourself, but unusual to pay others for it. Few parents answer that their children wear half-dirty clothes, but health and the environment do not appear to be particularly important for parents when it comes to laundry. There are divided opinions and experiences about questions about clothing, clothing standards, gender, buying pressure and religion. The main responsibility for children’s clothes lies with the mothers or the responsibility is shared equally between the parents. Children’s and young people’s opinions about the importance of clothing for inclusion and teasing are divided, as is the school uniform as a possible solution. They are more positive about this measure than the parents. The results show that there is a lack of knowledge about how we can dress children so that they have a healthy, safe and good childhood and who is responsible for it happening.

Most children and young people report a food and eating pattern that is in line with nutritional policy objectives. The availability of healthy foods at home is high in families with children and the availability of unhealthy foods is lower, but one in ten says that they always have unhealthy foods at home. Three out of four parents say that their youngest child eats a packed lunch every day at school, and many agree that the packed lunch should be replaced with a school meal. The need to replace the packed lunch with a school meal is greatest among parents in the lowest income and education groups, and for parents who state that their children do not eat packed lunches daily at school. Parents think that it is largely the individual’s responsibility to eat healthy, but that the authorities are also responsible. Many parents agree that the authorities should use pricing instruments and that marketing and advertising of unhealthy food to children should be banned. Children and young people express both satisfaction and dissatisfaction with their own body and appearance. Adolescents, girls more often than boys, conduct a variety of beauty and body practices regularly. It is common among young people to avoid foods that are generally considered unhealthy.

The full report is only available in Norwegian.

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 environmenta 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)

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).