The Environmental Impact Of Your Laundry – And What You Can Do About It

The Environmental Impact Of Your Laundry – And What You Can Do About It

environmental impact of laundryWe all want to lower our carbon footprint. The pressures our environment is under to sustain us has recently reached critical levels. But we still need to live. Driving a car, or even doing chores can have a huge environmental impact. Just doing laundry can take up 13,500 gallons of water a year for the average household.

And that’s just the start. Here are just a few ways your laundry habits impact your environment.

Fibres In The Air

Think about what your dryer looks like after a load. Synthetic fibres, like polyester and others, contain microplastics that are released into the air of your home. Some clothing manufacturers also use dyes that can contain toxic chemicals. These can wreak havoc on your skin but are even worse when they’re washed into the lakes and rivers. Tiny plastic fibres and chemical dyes make their way to domestic sewage systems and introduce hazardous chemicals into the water.

Carbon Footprint

Washing and drying a 5 kg load of laundry every two days creates nearly 440 kg of carbon dioxide emissions in a year. Most of that energy is used up in the dryer cycle. Washing in hot water also carries a carbon cost that exponentially increases with the age of the machine. If it’s not in perfect condition at all times, it will take more energy to run. Clogging, or failing to clean out a washer or dryer regularly means having to run it more often and at higher temperatures. This increases the energy output.

Water Waste

The biggest contributor to energy waste in your wash cycle may be the dryer. But the biggest contributor to water waste is your top-loading washing machine. Energy Star claims that the average top load washer uses 30-35 gallons of water with every load.

Toxic Laundry Detergent

Plastic fibres and toxic dyes are only a few of the toxins that get washed into our sewage system when you do a load of laundry. Chlorine bleach and harsh detergent chemicals are another cause for concern. Not only do these chemicals get into your groundwater, and effect surrounding plant life, it can also cause chemical reactions in your body, like skin irritation and asthma.

clothes still need washedBut what can we do? Clothes obviously need to be washed and taken care of, or we’d end up buying more. The clothing industry has one of the biggest carbon footprints on the planet. Still, there are ways to change your washing habits for the better, and help your clothes last longer in the bargain. See below for a list of environmentally-friendly tips and tricks that will lessen the impact of your daily chores.

Wear It More Than Once

The best way to lessen the environmental impact of your laundry load is to do less laundry. Wear clothes two or even three times before you wash them if you can. Hand-treat stains with vinegar and hot water, instead of relying on throwing them immediately in the wash with some harsh bleach.

Use Natural Detergent

Whether it’s about getting into your water sources, or the packaging, manufacturing, and shipping of laundry soap, the detergent you use has a big environmental impact. But it doesn’t need to. There are plenty of organic laundry detergents available that you can use that are better for your skin, your family, and the environment.

Get An Air Purifier

To decrease air pollution in your environment, start at home. We’ve already discussed your dryers spilling fibres both into the air and out through your sewage system. Using an air purifier in your laundry room does several things. First, it protects against the damp that causes mould. Second, it can lower the CO2 increase in the air, from the washer and dryer. Finally, it may even help protect against the fibres in the air or any toxins from heavily scented detergents that have been released.

Hanging Clothes to Dry

It is estimated that your dryer emits more than a ton of carbon dioxide per year. You can easily eliminate all that waste by skipping the dryer altogether. Hang your clothes to dry when you can. It may take longer, but it’s much better on the environment, in more ways than one. Not only do you skip out on using the energy-hogging dryer, but your clothes will last longer, thanks to the gentler drying cycle outside. That means less throwing them out. Better for your wallet, and your environment too!

Cold Water Wash

It’s true that the bulk of your energy cost for doing laundry is coming from the dryer. But a whopping 90% of the energy use in your wash cycle comes from heating the water. Cold water is gentle on your clothes and saves a lot of energy. If you’re worried about stain removal, try pretreating clothes before you throw them in the wash, rather than relying on hot water. You will literally save loads!

Switch To A Front Loader – Or Visit A Laundrette

Front-loading and commercial laundry machines are easier on the environment and better for you. The average front loader Energy Star approved machine uses half and sometimes even a third of the water used in a top-loading, out-of-date machine. So go green and look for the Energy Star label when you’re buying appliances.

Final Thoughts

The manufacturing, cleaning, and disposal of clothes has a huge environmental impact. From toxins in dyes and synthetic fibres that make their way into our water systems and the air to the energy consumption and water waste caused by simply doing laundry two or three times a week. But there are ways to cut down on all of it. Choosing environmentally-safe materials, hanging your clothes to dry, and washing in cold water is just the beginning. Following these tips will help your laundry stay green, your clothes last longer, and your family stay healthy.