The life cycle of clothing
Clothing in Sweden today has an average life cycle of 2.3 years. It is affected by various factors such as the quality of the material, how the garment is used and how it is handled between uses. If we look at the whole life-cycle perspective of clothing, extending the lifetime of garments plays a significant role in reducing environmental impacts.
Just One Shirt
A shirt bought in a shop in Sweden generates about 40 kilos of carbon dioxide in its life cycle, from manufacturing and processing to transport, washing and drying. The environmental footprint decreases with the number of times the shirt is used. For example, a shirt that is used ten times has a carbon footprint of four kilograms, while a shirt that is used a hundred times has a carbon footprint of 0.4 kilograms.
Valuing the Clothes
The question is how to take care of the clothes to make them last as long as possible. Drying and washing account for only three percent of the total environmental impact over the life cycle of an average garment, but each wash wears down the garment and shortens its life. Drying is more abrasive than washing, as the mechanical action of the dryer loosens fibres from the garments as they rub against each other. Hang-drying is gentlest on both the garments and the environment.
Think About Transport
Many of us think that transport to and from Asia accounts for a large part of the environmental impact, but worldwide freight only accounts for 4% of the total climate impact of a garment's life cycle. On the other hand, our trips to the clothing store account for a whopping 22%. By raising awareness and taking simple steps, we as consumers can help to reduce the environmental impact of clothing consumption – valuing and caring for each garment to extend its life, combined with thinking about how we get to the store.
Each Month Counts
By extending the life of an average garment by three months, the carbon footprint is reduced by up to 10%.