Depending on how you do it and how often, laundry can be an excellent source for reducing your household waste.
Because washing and drying your clothes saps up so much energy, doing a load of laundry every two days generates around 970 pounds of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per year. That’s about the same as taking a round-trip flight from San Francisco to L.A.—15-mile car rides to and from the airport included.
Beyond adding a significant amount to your carbon footprint, laundry can hurt the earth in other ways. The average American household does around 300 laundry loads annually, which consumes as much as 6,000 gallons of water each year. In addition, many of the name-brand detergents, fabric softeners, and fragrant laundry products we use contain toxic chemicals that harm wildlife and contaminate our waterways.
Then, of course, there’s the issue of the massive amounts of plastic waste created from jugs of laundry detergent.
With 1,100 loads of laundry initiated each second in the U.S., it’s time to take action. You can help protect our planet by switching to a zero waste, non-toxic laundry routine with these four practical tips.
1. Wash less often
The most effective way to minimize laundry waste is also the most straightforward: do less laundry. No one wants to wear smelly clothes, but you may find you toss clothing items into the laundry that could be worn again. If you can wash and dry your clothes less frequently, you can save energy, water, time and keep your clothes longer.
To reduce your number of weekly loads, follow these tips:
- Practice the “sniff test”. If it doesn’t smell, you probably can wear it again!
- Wash jeans sparingly
- Try spot cleaning clothes between washes
- Keep garments fresh by spraying them with vinegar and water before hanging them up and/or hang your clothing in the open air.
- Maintain clean towels and prevent mildew smells by always allowing towels to dry completely after us.
2. Maximize washer efficiency
When you do run a wash, make sure you have a full load to ensure your machine is working at its optimal efficiency. Many washing machines consume the same amount of water regardless of the size of your load.
Don't hesitate to pre-treat stains with a stain removal stick: simply wet the fabric and rub the soap stick onto the stained area, then wash as usual.
Wash your clothes in cold water. A staggering 90 percent of the energy used by a washer goes towards heating water, and you can cut energy consumption and save around $60 per year by sticking to a cold cycle. As an added bonus, washing your clothes less frequently helps prevent fading, shrinking, and microfiber shedding.
3. Air Dry
When it comes to energy wasted when doing laundry, the dryer is one of the greatest offenders. Drying your clothes in a machine accounts for nearly three-quarters of laundry’s carbon footprint. You can work towards zero waste laundry and save a ton of energy by opting to hang your clothes out to dry on a clothesline. Not only will you take advantage of free solar energy, but you’ll also help your garments and linens last longer. In addition to drying clothes, the sun’s U.V. rays can actually whiten and disinfect clothes, and even help remove stubborn stains.
4. Use eco-friendly laundry detergent
Many store-bought detergents contain toxic chemicals and fragrances that can be detrimental to your clothing, skin, and the planet. In addition, with only 9% of plastic is recycled in the U.S, the plastic jugs of liquid laundry detergent will probably go pollute our oceans and crowd our landfills.
Skip the commercial liquid laundry detergent and go for a greener, non-toxic laundry powder. Steer clear from liquid detergents, which include preservatives and sometimes trace amounts of formaldehyde—a known carcinogen and skin irritant.
Powder detergent, on the other hand, is much more shelf-stable and does not require the use of preservatives. In addition, powder is more powerful than liquid and is typically packaged in cardboard boxes or steel canisters, which are lighter to ship and easy to reuse, refill, and recycle. You can take a step towards adopting a greener laundry routine with the people- and planet-friendly laundry powder from Meliora.
When it comes to saving the planet, even small changes can make an impact. By adopting a zero waste laundry routine, you’ll minimize your carbon footprint and water consumption while cutting costs, saving time, and helping your clothes last longer.
Which strategies will you implement first to incorporate a zero waste laundry routine into your life?