Carbon Footprint Measure of Garments

Otto Group researches Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) in clothing.

The Otto Group presented the so-called 'Product Carbon Footprint' of selected textiles at the conference of the Federal Environment Ministry on the topic of 'CO2 identification of goods and services’. The consultancy firm Systain Consulting GmbH carried out the research as part of a research project of the Federal Environment Ministry and the Federal Environment Agency in co-operation with the Institute for Applied Ecology and the Otto Group. 

The Product Carbon Footprint gives information about the CO2 emissions generated during the production, transportation, use and disposal of a product. Systain Consulting GmbH recorded all the climate-affecting emissions produced during the complete life-cycle of an item of clothing, in a comprehensive survey for the Otto Group.

The main result showed that over the whole life-cycle of the product, from manufacture to disposal the CO2 emissions add up on average to a total of more than 10 kilogrammes. The most variable part of this can be traced back to use of the clothing as washing, drying and ironing cause considerable CO2 emissions. In the case of a ladies’ white long-shirt, for example, on average 3.3 kilogrammes of CO2 are produced during use before its disposal, if it’s assumed that it will be washed around 55 times before it becomes rubbish. In the survey consideration was given however to the fact that not every household has a dryer and that not every wash-load is ironed. If the product is put in the dryer each time and then ironed, the CO2 emissions increase, just from use of the product, to almost 12 kilogrammes. The Product Carbon Footprint then increases from approximately 10 to around 19 kilogrammes. 

A total of around 7 kilogrammes of CO2 were generated before the customer took the long- shirt home. Just cultivating the cotton for the long-shirt produced more than one kilogramme of CO2. Production of the item of clothing in Bangladesh uses another 3 kilogrammes of CO2. The spinning company, which processes the cotton for yarn, and the dye works each account for 1 kilogramme of CO2. Manufacture of the material and sewing uses another kilogramme of CO2. The survey also shows that dark textiles cause double the amount of CO2 during dyeing as light or white clothing. The remaining approximate 3 kilogrammes of CO2 are produced by packing, compilation of the catalogue, storage and dispatch of the product within Germany.

Although the shirt covers a distance of around 19,000 kilometres from Asia to Germany, the emissions from transportation by ship only amount to around 70 grammes of the whole Product Carbon Footprint. On the other hand, if the long-shirt comes by plane instead of by ship the Product Carbon Footprint increases by approximately 3.5 kilogrammes. 

"As part of our climate protection strategy, which envisages a reduction of CO2 emissions by 50 per cent by 2020, we have already identified numerous measures in the area of building management and transportation, in order to reduce the impact on the climate. The Carbon Footprint now gives transparency of the CO2 emissions generated by the production and use of textiles", says Andreas Streubig, Director of Environmental and Social Policy, Otto Group. "In the long-term we can derive further fields of action from this." 

"The survey results illustrate how consumers can also actively contribute to climate protection. CO2 emissions can, for example, be reduced by a half if clothes are washed at 40°C instead of at 60°C", Norbert Jungmichel, the Project Manager in charge at Systain, is aware. "In addition, washing machines of the maximum energy efficiency class A++ produce a third less CO2 emissions per wash cycle than models with a worse class of efficiency".

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