Dirty Laundry in Manila: Comparing Resource Consumption Practices for Individual and Shared Laundering

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Industrial Ecology, 2018, 22 (6), pp. 1389 - 1401
Issue Date:
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© 2017 by Yale University Changing lifestyles in developing and emerging economies entail a shift in technology use, everyday practices, and resource consumption. It is important to understand the sustainability consequences of these changes and the potential for policy to guide practices toward more sustainable lifestyles. In this study, we investigate laundry practices in the City of Manila, the Philippines, and compare the resources consumed in three different modes of laundering. We examine (1) traditional washing by hand, (2) washing by machine at home, and (3) using a laundry service. In addition to comparing the consumption of water, energy, and detergents, we also examine the social aspects of laundering using the lens of social practice theory. We use empirical data gathered in interviews with laundry service operators and people laundering at home to undertake qualitative and quantitative analyses of laundry practices and resource consumption. We find that hand washing uses the least water and energy, but large quantities of detergents. Machine washing and laundry services are comparable for water consumption, but energy use is much higher for services as they use dryers. Social changes, such as an increase in work available for women and the nature of future housing, are likely to influence the dominance of either shared or individual laundering methods. These findings illustrate the social complexity of transitions to product-service systems and the interdependencies between their social and environmental impacts.
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