Laundry is one of those everyday chores most of us do without even thinking about. Clothes, towels and bedding pile up. We throw them in the washer, slosh some detergent on top, then toss ’em in the dryer when they’re done.
But laundry can make a big impact. There’s the amount of water and energy it takes to run a washer and dryer. There’s the impact of detergents on waterways and the disposal of packaging from detergents and dryer sheets. And did you know that every time you wash your clothes they shed countless microplastics that drain out with the water and end up in rivers, lakes and the ocean?
But as with any area of sustainability, there are changes we can make in our laundry routine to lighten the load. And here are five of them!
Do Laundry Less Often
Us humans are capable of using two impressive methods to decode whether an item of clothing needs to be washed. They’re called sight and smell. Fancy, right?
All jokes aside, there seems to be a learned trait – in North American culture at least – to wear something once and then call it “dirty.” Even if our eyes see no dirt and our noses detect no odour.
So before you toss your jeans, t-shirts, towels, socks (yes – even your socks can sometimes be worn more than once) into the laundry basket, give them a good look. Give them a good sniff. Chances are you can get another wear out of them before they need to go for a tumble.
Invest in an Energy Efficient Washer and Dryer
Okay, maybe this isn’t the easiest way to green your laundry routine as it does involve an investment of time and money up front, but once you have an energy efficient washer and dryer installed in your home you literally don’t have to think about it again. And yet every time you do laundry – you’ll be doing so with a reduced impact.
The best way to source out energy efficient appliances is by visiting the Energy Star website. I used this site a ton when I was researching which appliances to buy for our sustainable home. In order to be Energy Star certified, washers and dryers have to use more than 20% less energy than standard models.
For our washer and dryer, we ended up purchasing an Energy Star rated compact washer and dryer set. Our dryer also uses heat pump technology, which further reduces consumption as it recycles hot air throughout the dryer instead of venting it.
Use Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent
As with the majority of products on the market, there is an overwhelming amount of choices in the realm of laundry detergent. Even in the more specific category of eco-friendly laundry detergent there are a lot of options. Personally, I’ve tried green laundry detergent in a regular plastic jug, compostable soap berries, laundry strips – I’ve even used plain ol’ vinegar.
I’ve been using Tru Earth Eco-Strips for over a year now and they are my favourite of all the green detergent products I’ve tried. Why? Because not only are they gentle to the planet (free of dyes and chlorine) and ethical (not tested on animals and made in Canada), they also smell really, really good.
And the best thing about the Tru Earth strips is that they come in a cardboard package that can easily be recycled. And this package is small let me tell you. So small that, according to Tru Earth, “its light weight reduces transportation fuel consumption and global-warming carbon emissions by 94% compared to today’s leading-brand liquid and powder detergent.”
Microplastics is still an emerging field of study, which is why you may not have been aware of them up until now. And our clothes are a big contributor to the issue.
Most clothing contains plastics like polyester, nylon and acrylic, which shed tiny fibres in your washing machine. Even sustainable clothing made from recycled plastics shed particles, which then end up in our water sources and inside of animals and yes – even people.
But you can actually trap microplastics before they leave your washer by installing products such as this microfibre filter from Girlfriend Collective. And these Cora Microfibre Laundry Balls are made from 100% recycled plastic and trap stray fibres in your washing machine, preventing them from being released into our waterways.
Skip the Dryer
I get it. Hanging all your clothes up to dry can be exhausting. Especially if you have kids or go through a lot of laundry because of your job. But this tip is a perfect example of one of my favourite sustainability concepts – you don’t have to be perfect to be eco-conscious.
Dryers are one of the most energy-guzzling appliances in your home. According to this article by Direct Energy, electric dryers can range from 2000 to 6000 watts. That means using your dryer for 60 minutes can consume anywhere from 2kWh to 6kWh of energy. Meanwhile, hanging one load up to dry consumes nothing.
I myself don’t hang up all of our laundry. I hang up some of it. But every time I do, I reduce mine and my family’s environmental impact by just a little. And that’s better than not at all.
So, what do you think? Are you going to try any of these green laundry tips?
Posted on March 26, 2021
Former architectural technologist. Current treehugger.
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