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Sustainability 2018, 10(7), 2524; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10072524

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

1
Consumption Research Norway (SIFO), Oslo Metropolitan University; 0130 Oslo, Norway
2
Science and Engineering Faculty, Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Brisbane, QLD 4001, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 8 May 2018 / Revised: 10 July 2018 / Accepted: 13 July 2018 / Published: 19 July 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Sustainable Use of the Environment and Resources)
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PDF [325 KB, uploaded 19 July 2018]

Abstract

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. View Full-Text
Keywords: sustainable clothing; fiber properties; clothing production; fashion consumption; maintenance; environmental sustainability tools; fiber ranking; material selection; LCA sustainable clothing; fiber properties; clothing production; fashion consumption; maintenance; environmental sustainability tools; fiber ranking; material selection; LCA
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Laitala, K.; Klepp, I.G.; Henry, B. Does Use Matter? Comparison of Environmental Impacts of Clothing Based on Fiber Type. Sustainability 2018, 10, 2524.

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