Our scope: Cradle-to-Gate vs Cradle-to-Grave

Lifecycle Assessments (LCAs) are commonly used to evaluate the environmental footprint of products, and in bAwear solutions, two approaches stand out: Cradle to Gate and Cradle to Grave as highlighted in the figure below.

Cradle to Gate: Assessing from Raw Material to Production

Cradle to Gate focuses on evaluating the environmental impact of a product from the extraction of raw materials to the point where it reaches the customer. In the context of textiles, this means analysing everything from the cultivation of fibers, through processing, weaving or knitting, dyeing, finishing, and manufacturing up to the point of packaging,  shipping and warehousing. 

This approach allows producers and manufacturers to pinpoint areas of inefficiency and environmental impact within their production processes. By identifying hotspots, such as excessive water usage, energy consumption, or land use, companies can implement targeted strategies to reduce their environmental footprint. For example, opting for organic fibers or investing in energy-efficient machinery.

Cradle to Grave: Extending the Scope to End-of-Life

Cradle to Grave LCA expands the assessment beyond production and considers the entire lifecycle of a product, including its use phase and eventual disposal. For textiles and textile products, this encompasses aspects such as durability, maintenance requirements, potential for reuse or recycling, and the environmental impact of disposal methods.

This approach offers a more comprehensive understanding of a product's sustainability, as it accounts for factors such as fiber properties, maintenance, cleaning methods, washing temperature and program which shows its influence on longevity and end-of-life management. For instance, a garment designed for durability and easy repair may have a lower overall environmental impact compared to a cheaper, disposable alternative that ends up in a landfill after just a few uses.

The functional unit in the cradle to gate is mostly 1 kg of product. In cradle to grave, another functional unit might be more suitable, like the impact per wear, the impact per wash and wear cycle, and the impact over the total lifetime. This might also help to calculate the total costs of ownership.

Choosing the Right Approach: Balancing Trade-offs

Both Cradle to Gate and Cradle to Grave LCAs offer valuable insights into the environmental impact of textiles and textile products. However, each approach comes with its own set of challenges and considerations. Cradle to Gate analysis provides actionable insights for designers to improve their design choices and for manufacturers to improve their production processes. Still, it may overlook the environmental consequences of product use and disposal. On the other hand, Cradle to Grave assessment offers a more holistic view but can be complex and challenging to implement due to the variability in consumer behaviour and end-of-life scenarios.

In conclusion, both approaches are included in the bAwear solutions because they are crucial in advancing sustainability within the textile industry. Ultimately, the choice between Cradle to Gate and Cradle to Grave analysis depends on the specific goals and priorities of stakeholders involved. Some companies may prioritize reducing emissions and resource consumption in their manufacturing processes, while others may focus on designing products for longevity and recyclability.

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