Clothing washers and dryers are among the costliest appliances to operate, but they’re not the only environmental concern associated with the seemingly harmless chore of doing your laundry. Although not all of us have clothing washers and dryers at home and do our laundry at a laundromat, most of us (especially those of us who have children) do at least a few loads of laundry each week, so it’s worth taking some easy steps to make more sustainable choices when it comes to your laundry.
How Are My Laundry Habits Impacting the Environment?
Let’s start by talking about how your laundry choices are affecting the planet.
Energy Use and Your Carbon Footprint
If you happen to have a washer and dryer at home, you may be unpleasantly surprised to learn that the laundry room is one of the largest water and energy-consuming rooms in your home (or anyone’s home for that matter). As you know, all electricity generation has an environmental impact on our air, water, and land, although it varies on the type of energy that is being generated (i.e. solar, wind, hydro, natural gas, etc), so despite whether or not you are doing laundry at home, energy conservation should always be a priority. One of these effects is of course carbon dioxide emissions and therefore contribute to your carbon footprint
It may come as no shock to you that hear that each that you do a load of laundry, the water doesn’t just magically disappear. Instead, each load produces wastewater that is pushed into the sewer system and eventually makes its way into our waterways or the ocean. One of the reasons this is harmful is because every time you run that washing machine, you may release over 700,000 microscopic plastic fibers into the environment. These microplastics are derived from synthetic clothing items that release the fibers into the water when they are washed. Microplastics can poison or starve aquatic animals that accidentally swallow them. Additionally, if you’re using detergents that contain phosphates, they can cause eutrophication when they reach our waterways. Eutrophication is an excess of nutrients that causes rapid plant growth and a lack of oxygen in the water, which also harms or kills aquatic animal
The average residential washing machine uses about 41 gallons of water per load and a clothes dryer alone is responsible for approximately 6 percent of the average home’s energy use. Only 1% of Earth’s water is potable, and about 844 million people don’t have access to safe water, which means that we can’t afford to waste it.
How Can I Make Laundry More Eco-Friendly?
Luckily, there are a handful of easy actions you can take to help make your laundry routine more energy-efficient and earth-friendly. Check out our favorite eco-friendly laundry ideas below.
1. Wash your clothes less often
We previously talked about how often you should be washing your clothing. The United Nations Environment Programme discovered that you can consume up to five times less energy by wearing your jeans at least three times, washing them in cold water, and skipping the dryer or the iron. While items such as undies and socks need washing after each wear, clothes that don’t sit directly on our skin (i.e. jackets, coats, and jeans) can be worn five or more times before needing a wash
2. Use eco-friendly detergents
One of the easiest ways to be green with your laundry is to use a biodegradable detergent. This because all detergents contain surfactants (which are responsible for removing all the grime from your dirty clothes) which enter our waterways and pose a threat to marine life. Try using an eco-friendly detergent that biodegrades within days of its use, there will inevitably be less potential for water pollution. Look for varieties that are made of plant-based ingredients, rather than petroleum-based. (These are much, much more likely to be biodegradable.) USA Today recommends brands like Mrs. Meyers and Method
3.Use cold water
Water heating is a major energy hog. Hot water for showers, laundry, and washing dishes consume a quarter of residential energy used worldwide, according to the authors of Project Drawdown. Coldwater is good for most garments and most detergents.
4. Air dry your clothes
Clothing dryers are another big energy hogs. Plus, using the dryer also wears out your clothes faster, meaning they will be headed to the landfill sooner rather than later. You can use an outdoor clothesline, or if you don’t have any outdoor space, a drying rack, or even just hangers-on a shower rod for small loads
5. Shop for clothing sustainably
Look for clothing made out of for fibers like organic cotton, linen, hemp, and silk to help prevent microfibers from entering our waterways
Every decision we make has an impact on our planet. Even the most mundane of activities, such as laundry, can pose a threat to our surrounding environment. These are just some of the ways you can green your laundry routine. If you’re interested in finding other ways to help protect our planet, visit Spring Power & Gas today to learn about our eco-minded energy and natural gas products and the ways we work towards a sustainable future.