Faculty Advisor

Christie Klimas


Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a methodological tool to describe the impacts of a product over its lifetime, from ‘cradle to grave.’ Despite increased employment of LCA, textile LCA studies are often private, outdated, not transparent, or lack accurate data. Further, we know of no LCA study specific to sweaters. This screening LCA combines published literature and data from OpenLCA databases (Ecoinvent 3.3 and GaBi Professional) to conduct a comparative LCA for four sweaters. To determine the composition of these sweaters, we massed and assessed the material composition of 117 sweaters in October 2015. Based on results, our study compares one sweater of 100% cotton (21% of total sweaters), one of 100% wool (0.08% of total sweaters), one of 100% acrylic (11% of total sweaters) and one 60% cotton and 40% polyester (4% of all sweaters, though 21% of sweaters were cotton-polyester blends). As previous studies on textiles have focused on either material production or the use phase of textiles, we assess a more complete product life cycle for the consumer in the United States. We quantified the environmental burden of fiber production, sweater creation, and use in terms of the ten TRACI (Tool for the Reduction and Assessment of Chemical and other environmental Impacts) impact categories that include global warming potential (GWP) and eutrophication. Although the use phase had the largest global warming potential for each sweater, the use phase did not have the highest impact in all categories. In all ten TRACI categories, the wool sweater had the least impact, in large part because of the assumed consumer behavior (not drying the sweater) that can be applied to any sweater material.