writing about the entire lifecycle of a cotton T-shirt, from cotton bud to landfill, I was reminded of how much personal power we have to make conscious clothing choices. Truth be told, we all have dirty laundry to air out-- no matter how clean it looks. Most of our wardrobes, thrift store treasures, or designer duds probably passed under the quick fingers of women, men, and children toiling in inhumane sweatshops, paid slavish wages, and living in the most disadvantaged countries of the world. Once made for a cheap price, our clothing will be shipped thousands of miles to our local retailer leaving a big carbon footprint piled on top of the already atrocious mountain of human rights violations.
As concerned, compassionate citizens, our everyday choice to buy non-sweatshop-produced clothing to ensure a living wage and humane working conditions for garment workers makes a big difference. We can also bag second hand bargains to opt out of supporting slave garment labor while simultaneously lightening our impact on this planet's resources and on our wallet. However, how we care for our clothes while we own them is the most potent opportunity for doing good, specifically in conserving our planet’s precious resources.
A study by Proctor and Gamble demonstrates that between 75% and 80% of our clothing’s impact occurs when we launder it. Washing our clothing in warm or hot water, and drying our clothing in the dryer (a topic for my next post!) requires massive amounts of energy and water. Check out the stats for yourself. So, by becoming informed about how to responsibly care for our clothing, we can do the most good and the least harm and still get our clothes super clean.
Here are my 3 top tips for greening your laundry:
- Do LESS clothes washing!
That’s right—only wash what is actually dirty instead of throwing that t-shirt or (gasp) pair of jeans in the laundry basket after just one wearing.
- Use environmentally friendly vegetable based detergent.
Eco friendly soap biodegrades quickly, has no phosphates, and still gets our clothing clean. But it also respects our water and waterways which we and so many other forms of life depend upon. And ditch the toxic, scary, chlorine bleach and go with an oxygen-based bleach or a homemade brew to get your clothes white without the fright.
- Invest in a high efficiency clothes washer.
Recently, as consumer eco-awareness blossoms and our government supports resource conservation with rating systems like Energy Star, high efficiency washers have made big waves in the clothes washing industry. Investing in a high efficiency washer pays for its higher sticker price quickly saving $550 a YEAR in operating costs. That means that in just two years, the benefits of going high efficiency will pay for almost any energy saving washer!
Consider that the average U.S. household does a whopping 400 loads of laundry a year. As informed consumers, laundering responsibly helps each of us do our own part to air out our laundry. Instead of laundry being a mundane chore, we can do less of it (hooray!) and do it with an eco-conscience that transforms it from household work to an act of love and respect for the world we share and brightens the future for us all.
Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed.