I ran into a link about sustainable apparel the other week and was shocked to read:
In the United States, the average household does 300-400 loads of laundry per year. A whopping 1,000 loads of laundry are started every second of the day — that’s 13,000 gallons of water per household. Three-quarters of the carbon footprint from a load of laundry comes from drying.
And let’s not forget the amount of chemicals and phosphates that are used in laundry detergent and then leaked back into our water supply, depleting aquatic ecosystems.
To reduce your individual carbon footprint: always wash cold, hang to dry and use phosphate-free laundry detergent.
I thought I had the laundry detergent thing under control — I use just a tiny bit of a brand plastered with bunnies, an Eco seal of approval, flowers, and a cartoon of the planet earth, bolstered by a scoop of baking soda, and vinegar in the rinse compartment. I decided to look up the brand I use on EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning and was SHOCKED (I mean SHOCKED) to see that my eco-friendly detergent was rated a C and contains methylisothiazolinone, which has been found to cause acute aquatic toxicity. Greeeeeeeeat. The cleaner I go out of my way to buy is going directly into our water system and poisoning it.
Needless to say, I won’t be buying that brand any more! EWG helped me find a new one which gets an A: Planet. I’ll still continue to just use a tiny bit (I have a high efficiency machine, so I have to be careful with what I use), and rely on baking soda and vinegar to up the cleaning power and softness naturally. Takeaway lesson? Don’t believe the hype! Just because it has bunnies on it does not mean it is a truly safe alternative to mainstream brands! Do the research yourself.
I was also surprised to see that the average household does 300-400 loads of laundry a year. Surely that can’t be true for me…or am I totally lying to myself like I was with the laundry detergent? I decided to keep a log of each load of laundry I do for the months of February, March, and April. It’s already not looking good — my two person one cat household has done 10 loads of laundry in 15 days! I have a feeling I’m going to be crying when I see my total number of loads for the three month period. How I can get this number lower? I already wear my clothing more than once and change the bedding every other week. I think my weekly “delicate” load has to go, or at least get piled up and saved for every other week. Any other suggestions?
As far as the dryer is concerned, I hang to dry all of my clothing. I do rely on the dryer for towels and such. I try and dry for as short as possible, and take them out a bit damp so they can finish drying on their own. I admit it — after not having a dryer in my first home and having hard towels for a decade, I like the dryer for towels.
Are there any lessons from the 1940s to help me green my laundry practices beyond what I do? After doing a little research, I think we have it much better. Washday looked like a terrible production! I remember my grandmother talking about the wringer washers (including stories of getting her fingers, her apron, and her hair stuck in the wringers) and she still had her old washing board. We also still had a laundry tub like in the photo above in the basement (where, bizarrely — my grandfather would shave and where we had to wash our hair despite the fact that we had a full bathroom upstairs! I didn’t figure out that other people washed their hair in the bathroom until high school! I could fill a book with all of the antiquated habits I grew up with . . . including drinking a raw egg for breakfast every morning! No medigan’ cereal for this kid! But I digress).
So now you’ve heard all of my dirty laundry — including the fact that I drank a raw egg for breakfast every morning (!) I’ll revisit this topic (no, not the raw eggs!) in April, after my laundry log is complete!
(image: from the incredible shorpy.com!)