How often clothes are worn is the most influential factor in determining environmental impacts from clothing, according to the world’s first peer-reviewed textile fibre cradle-to-grave LCA study.
Why is garment lifespan important?
The purpose of clothing is to be worn and the more often it is worn over its lifetime, the more completely it fulfils its purpose. This world-first study calculated the lifetime impacts of the garment per single wear event and found the duration of garment lifetime was the most influential factor determining the impact of woollen garments.
The total number of wears was estimated to be 109. However, if this garment was disposed of after only one season, or 15 uses, this would result in a 5.8- to 6.8-fold increase in environmental impacts and resource use.
Increasing the total number of wears to 400 reduced environmental impacts by 49 to 68%, indicating substantial improvements are possible if a garment’s lifetime is extended.
4 reasons wool lasts longer
Quality clothing in use for longer periods needs to be replaced less often, reducing the need for new resources to manufacture replacement clothing.
- Wool’s natural resistance to odour, stains and wrinkles means wool clothes require less washing. This not only saves time and money - on energy and water bills - but it also preserves the as-new look and feel of the garment, enabling consumers to continue wearing it.
- Wool represents just 1.3% of the global textile market. Yet studies show the donation rate of wool is high, at about 5% demonstrating wool garments may have many lives and continue to be in use, long after the original owner.
- According to a global wardrobe audit, the average lifetime of wool garments was more than 50% longer than cotton garments, reinforcing the importance of accounting for the use phase in LCA studies.
- Wool is a natural and renewable fibre which requires less washing and is frequently recycled, extending its use phase even further. In addition, wool fibres are 100% biodegradable in both land and marine environments and do not contribute to microplastic pollution.