Use and pro-longed use
All clothes and products should be made in a way so they can be maintained by using low-impact washing procedures. Just by washing clothes half as often, overall energy consumption is almost cut by a factor of two. A study done by Woolite found that a majority of American throw clothes in to the clothes hamper after wearing them one or two times, and hardly ever check if they are dirty.
Life Cycle Assessments in general point to the consumer-phase as one of the "big baddies", but there is much uncertainty connected with these assessments. However, you as a designer or clothing manufacturer can have a huge impact on how the consumer behaves.
According to a study at Nottingham Trent University a return to the sewing on buttons and stitching hems is needed to improve the sustainability of clothing. Well, if buttons didn’t fall off and hems didn’t unravel about a week after one started wearing an item of clothing, the garments would probably stay longer in our closets! The bad quality of the cheap clothes we buy in abundance has the biggest ecological and social impact on the lifecycle of textiles, along with our tendency to over-wash and tumble-dry our clothes. But it doesn’t help to blame the consumer. You have to do your bit to ensure the consumer takes proper care of what you produce and therefore keeps your wonderful design in their drawers and closets, and ultimately hands them down to someone else for continued use. This partly brings you back to choice of raw materials and quality in the production process, but also to designing items that adapt to changes in body shape or that don’t need to be washed very often. And that hopefully never have to see an iron. And if the zipper on the jacket or dress you sell actually breaks, have you considered repairing the items you sell for free?
Have you considered repairing the items you sell for free?
It is important that the designers choose a type of textile which will retain its quality even after frequent washing. The washing and drying of a polyester blouse uses around six times more energy as that needed to make it in the first place. Wool is generally washed at low temperatures and air dried, if washed at all. Just airing a wool garment will generally remove smells. Selecting materials that wash well at low temperatures and dry quickly without tumble drying…
Only 7.5 % of laundry is thought to be “heavily soiled” – so the consumers also need to alter expectations of how often they need to change their clothes and the tendency to wash everything that is not in the wardrobe. If you print the washing instructions on the garment itself, rather than on a label (which is often cut out by the consumer), you could give more pertinent advice and tell them to line-dry rather than tumble-dry! Also, most clothes have no problem becoming clean at 30 degrees Celsius, so adding a recommended wash temperature to the maximum temperature could be a good idea. A study titled “Well Dressed?” by the Institute For Manufacturing at Cambridge University on sustainable clothing discovered that 60% of the greenhouse gases generated over the life of a simple t-shirt come from the typical 25 washings and machine dryings (You can down-load the report under "Transport" and under Resources.)
The carbon emissions created to generate the electricity used to wash clothing in warm temperature water and warm temperature tumble dryers exceeds the carbon emissions created during the growing, manufacturing and shipping of clothing. And this doesn’t include the electricity needed to iron clothing … We tend to iron both linen and cotton clothing which wrinkles easily,or feels stiff when not ironed. So giving your customer good care-advice should be part of your over-all strategy.
A fiber like wool (and also some of the rayons like Modal) you can air if they are smelly; you don't have to wash them. Our washing habits are very much a product of cotton and synthetics, materials we tend to wash way too often - because they feel un-fresh.
(Sources: White Pages, Woolite, EcoTextileNews)