Quantifying Apparel Consumer Use Behavior in Six Countries: Addressing a Data Need in Life Cycle Assessment Modeling

Jesse Daystar, Lisa L. Chapman, Marguerite M. Moore, Steven T. Pires, Jay Golden


The consumer use phase of a product life cycle often creates a significant portion of the environmental burdens and in many cases the consumer use environmental impacts can be reduced with small behavioral changes. Due to hot water washing and mechanical drying, the apparel consumer use phase has been recognized as an environmental hotspot significantly contributing to multiple impact categories. Despite the importance of this phase, there is a lack of data describing apparel consumer use behavior that is fundamental to perform comprehensive LCAs. To address this need, consumer data was collected from over 6,000 global respondents spanning China, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States characterizing the use of T-shirts, knit collared shirts and woven pants. A particularly significant variable required for LCA is the total washes per lifetime, for which global averages were determined to be 17.3 washes, 22.2 washes and 23.5 washes for T-shirts, knit collared shirts and woven pants, respectively, with substantial inter-country variation. In addition, clothing lifetime was examined and respondents reported an average first-life use period of 37 months, 40 months and 42 months for T-shirts, knit collared shirts and pants, respectively. Washing water temperature and machine technologies are reported and vary by country. Clothes drying methods were also examined and respondents reported high machine drying rates in the United States (73%) and less than 13% in all other nations. For garment end-of-life fate, Asian countries reported higher values of clothing disposal while European countries and the United States reported more donations to charity. This publication provides robust consumer use data by country and on global levels that can be used in future LCAs and other apparel research. Additionally, these data can be used to benchmark current laundering technologies and identify consumer use behavior changes that could reduce the environmental impacts of apparel.

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