The “hidden” motivations of (un)sustainable laundry practices: A case study at a shared laundry facility in Sweden

University essay from Lunds universitet/Institutionen för tjänstevetenskap

Abstract: Laundry as a household activity has been subject to (un)sustainable consumption studies. The majority of those studies are rooted in mainstream approaches to (un)sustainable consumption focusing on either changing individuals (e.g., their decisions, behaviors, habits) or system (e.g., infrastructure, technology). Moreover, the laundry has been predominantly studied as a washing activity. This research contributes to (un)sustainable consumption stock by applying a practice theory perspective to laundry. The study focuses on mapping laundry practice holistically by observing it in a real-life situation in a shared laundry facility and interviewing practitioners using those to find out its both sustainable and unsustainable motivations. Using zooming in and zooming out as a theoretical framework, the author proposes a Laundry Mapping Model for spotting different elements and practices linked to laundry. The research shows booking practice and the right strategy for storing as sustainable, while increased machine capacity, availability of various machines, sorting dirty laundry, white laundry, shirts, formal clothing as unsustainable motivations. Laundry bags can be both sustainable and unsustainable motivation, depending on their size, while automatic detergent dosing machines have rebound effect potential. Drying cabinets that reduce the ironing frequency need further research to be assessed. The author's Laundry Mapping Model, combined with practice theory, explains how different laundering phases can be as important as washing when it comes to resource consumption.

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