Some stains are easier to remove than others — which is why we try to avoid them in the first place. The chore of doing laundry — is there anything more mundane? — is like that, too. Just as clothes will pile up in the hamper if you avoid washing them long enough, the environmental consequences of how we do our laundry can add up over time, too.
Consider that the average U.S. household goes through 300 loads of laundry annually, and you can begin to understand the impact this ordinary task can have on the air, our waterways, and our health. So just because we need to do it doesn’t mean we can’t greenify how we do it. Sorry, we can’t help you sort, fold, and put clean clothes away. But we can give you some advice on how to make the task of washing clothes as eco-friendly as possible.
Choose your clothes responsibly
Before you do a single wash, think about what you’re wearing in the first place. Not only is 20 percent of the world’s water pollution attributed to the textile industry — it also uses hundreds of carcinogenic chemicals during production. Avoid so-called fast fashion brands and seek sustainable clothing brands that use GOTS-certified organic cotton, are fair trade certified, and employ biodegradable packaging. Once you’ve picked your wardrobe, keep it. And keep your clothes out of landfills.
Do less laundry
The simplest problem-solver is to do laundry less often. Now, some garments should be washed more often (you know what they are), but think of jeans, jackets, and pullovers. You can easily wear them at least a couple of times before tossing them on the dirty pile. Curbing your washing urges can have an impressive impact on your ecological footprint. Washing jeans after every five wears instead of every two reduces energy use, climate change impact, and water intake by 80 percent.
Choose the right detergent
Around one billion laundry jugs are discarded in the U.S. annually. Of those, only thirty percent are recycled. The others mostly end up in landfills, or clog oceans and waterways. These jugs serve no greater purpose than to hold detergent for a short amount of time. Instead, replace them with a low-impact alternative like SaltyLama’s eco-friendly detergent strips.
Hypoallergenic and free of harsh chemicals, they’re pre-measured and housed in bio-degradable packaging. (Traditional liquid detergents are known to contain toxic and carcinogenic chemicals.) You can use them without worrying about harming the planet. Sample some now — you don’t have to wait in a line at the store to buy them.
Opt for cold water
The science is in: washing clothes in cold water is as effective as washing them in hot water for everyday loads, according to a study from Harvard University. Going cold is good for the planet — and your wallet — since 90 percent of the energy the washing machine uses is to heat the water, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Colder water also doesn’t shrink clothes, it prevents color bleeding and helps your clothes last longer. Win-win-win for sustainable laundry.
Wash full loads
Try not to wash until you have a full load ready — even if that means collecting the laundry of other members of your household. Make sure that your machine is operating at peak efficiency by filling the washing machine up to the recommended capacity — that’s around three-quarters full in most cases. If you can’t manage to fill her up, use the “load size selector” option (some machines have it) to match water levels and load size. There is another unintended consequence of larger loads. According to researchers from Northumbria University, they decrease the release of microfibers because of a lower water ratio to the fabric.
Summer is almost to its end, thank goodness. Aside from a break from the debilitating heat, the end of summer also means a cooler breeze, perfect for air-drying clothes. Dryers are energy consumers on steroids. If you have the possibility, dry your clothes the old way: hang them on the clothesline and leave them to the sun and wind to work their magic. If air-drying is not an option, consider a heat-pump dryer — they are more expensive upfront but, compared to traditional dryers, more efficient and can save you lots of money on energy bills.
Upgrade your appliancesNow, we’re not telling you to go out and replace your washer and dryer today. But, when you do find yourself in the market, keep in mind energy and eco-friendly appliances. Front-loading washing machines use around 7,500 liters less water annually than their top-loading cousins. That’s about 50 regular bathtubs, filled to the brim. Front-loaders can also help you save heaps of energy. Firstly, by using less water — which means less work for heaters —and, secondly, by employing faster spin cycles. This means front-loaders force more water out of your clothes, so they don’t have to spend as much time in the dryer. Yes, front-loaders are generally more expensive than top-loading machines, but investment is well worth investment in the long run. Front-loaders typically use less energy and water and create less friction which curbs the shedding of microfibers. On the other hand, top loaders are often cheaper to buy, but less efficient, which will show on the utility bills.
So there we have it. We all need to wash our clothes, but it doesn’t mean that we have to destroy our big beautiful blue marble in the process. Take these tips and try them out on your next laundry day. You’ll see a difference in not only how much energy and water you use but also in your pocketbook. Happy washing, little Lamas.