• Greening Your Laundry

    Posted by   |  March 16, 2016
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    Most Americans do their laundry every week, with no small amount of grumbling. The regular chore has become an indispensable part of our lifestyles as we ensure we look – and smell – our best. But all that cleaning can have an unexpected impact on the environment. Between the energy used to operate our washers and dryers, the chemicals present in detergents and the general consistency of it, laundry day in fact comprises a substantial part of our growing eco footprint. Fortunately, we can keep the Earth as fresh as our clothes with a few alternative options.

    The Washer

    Although the washing machine can guzzle resources, it may surprise you to know that it’s easily avoidable. Some 90 percent of energy used by the washing machine goes towards heating up water. Using hot water for washing and rinsing cycles together uses three and a half times as much energy as using cold water for the rinsing cycle. If every U.S. household used cold water only, it would reduce the country’s emissions by 34 million tons – roughly eight percent of the Kyoto Protocols’ target!

    You can also switch to a more efficient model; an Energy Star-qualified front loading machine can save up to 7,000 gallons of water a year, and save up to $70 annually in energy costs. Over the lifespan of the machine, it will also save you money, as the efficiency will keep it operating longer.

    Larger, more infrequent loads will also save energy, as your machine will have to work less often. Some articles of clothing, such as jeans, do not require washing after every use. Levi’s recommends washing jeans every two weeks, and in fact states that frequent washing can wear down the value of the product.

    Drying 

    Instead of stuffing your loads into the dryer, try using the sun instead. Spring is on its way, and with it comes the opportunity to hang your clothes on a line and let them dry naturally. The dryer consumes an immense amount of energy, second only to the refrigerator in household costs. You’ll also save energy on ironing. The impact of drying, along with the choices made in washing clothes, can cause a significant difference for the environment. A single load of laundry washed at 60 degrees Celsius (140 fahrenheit) and dried in a combined washer drier gives off over five times as much in carbon emissions as a load washed at half the temperature, dried on a line. If every household in America did a single load of laundry a week, that number comes to 18,807,588,072 kg of CO2e annually. In fact, Americans do nearly six times as much.

    Detergent

    Like many inconspicuous household items, laundry detergent can take a shocking toll on the environment. The industry itself requires a great deal of transportation, to the point that each individual load has a greater carbon footprint than driving a car a mile. By using harmful chemicals such as phosphates, detergent companies endanger our water resources and endanger aquatic species’ habitats. Look for detergents with low toxicity and low phosphate to ensure the harmful material doesn’t wind up polluting our limited and vital resources. Even though you’re not pouring your detergent directly into the water supply, 76 percent of the phosphates used to make it wind up there, anyway.

    By following these guidelines, you can cut back your energy consumption in a big way, and help keep the environment healthy and vibrant.

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