Did you know one of the biggest energy drains of a garment's life cycle is often overlooked and it happens in our own homes? You might see it as a weekly chore and it’s probably something you don’t think twice about. The energy drain we are referring to is our home laundering process. One of our missions at virtue + vice is to discover everyday ways to save the planet, so we’ve explored this very important part of the product life cycle to find out how much waste washing our clothes creates and how we can reduce our impact.
LET’S START WITH THE FACTS...
According to The Guardian, a load of laundry washed at 40C and dried on the line has a CO2e of 0.7kg. A load of laundry washed, and then tumble dried has a CO2e of 2.4kg. This means that drying alone accounts for over 70% of the eco-footprint of a load of wash. The Guardian goes on to hypothesize that if you did laundry every other day for a year, you would release as much CO2e as taking a flight from London to Glasgow, including taxi rides to and from the airports!
WHAT CAN WE DO?
The Consumer Energy Center estimates that washing machines use anywhere from 27-40 gallons of water per load. An estimated 90% of the energy used doing one load of laundry is just from heating the water. A lot of people suggest hand washing in the bathtub, but did you know a standard bathtub holds about 50 gallons of water? You’re not really saving water washing your clothes by hand in the tub, what you are reducing is your electrical consumption. But, washing by hand in your sink is still a great alternative to running the washing machine when you need something cleaned, but don’t have a full load of laundry to do.
Wash in Cool Water
If 90% of CO2e is from heating water, then that means that only 10% is from running the machine. Try changing your washing machine setting to cool or room temperature water. It will then be using only 10% of the .7kg CO2e, which means you have effectively cut your CO2e to .07kg! Not as perfect as washing by hand, but it’s very low, and that’s pretty great!
Line Dry or Lay Flat to Dry
So we figured out a way to wash our clothes with the lowest impact possible, what about the heavy hitter, our dryers that account for 70% of the total energy consumption? Think how much energy we could save a year just by skipping the dryer and line drying or laying our clothes flat to dry which has a CO2e of 0!
Invest in an Energy Efficient Machine
Sometimes line drying clothes just isn’t practical. Maybe you don’t have space or the time. Most of us are familiar with the ENERGY STAR brand. They sell energy and cost saving high-efficiency washer and dryers. Their washers use 30% less water and 20% less electricity, and their dryers use 20% less electricity. They are a great eco option if you are in the market for new home appliances.
Other Ways To Save
But, what else can you do? Other ways to cut down on drying are to invest in a washing machine with a strong spin cycle. The spin cycle pulls out all the remaining water using centrifugal force so your clothes are as dry as possible when entering the dryer and require minimum time.
What about for those people who are set in their ways, who don’t want to change the way they’ve always done things? Enter the Deflect-o! The name sounds like a joke, but this is a real device you can purchase from Amazon for about $10. The Defelct-o markets itself as an “energy saving system (that) diverts dryer heat and humidity indoors or outdoors depending on the season”. During the winter you can use the excess dryer heat to heat your home, or in the summer pump the air outside to keep your house cool and put less stress on your AC unit. Either way, you are saving electricity and didn’t have to change a thing in your normal routine!
Reducing your carbon footprint isn’t something that happens overnight, it takes time and effort. But, if everyone chose to use just one of our tips the impacts on the environment would be monumental.