Author: Liam Taylor
Doing the laundry has a surprisingly large impact on our natural environment, but some small changes can have a dramatic effect on the environmental footprint of your washing.
Numerous studies have shown that when looking at clothing overall, the greatest environmental impact occurs not in its production, transport or disposal, but in the washing, drying and ironing undertaken by consumers.
A 2008 book by Kate Fletcher investigating the environmental impact of the fashion industry reported that up to 82% of its energy use, 66% of its solid waste and over half of its greenhouse gas emissions occur as a result of washing and drying clothes. Water usage is also significant, with a 2003 study showing the average household washes almost 400 loads of laundry every year, adding up to over 50,000 litres each year.
Thus, greening your laundry habits can have a big positive impact on your environmental footprint and the planet. Here are some simple tips to get you started.
This is the most simple and achievable method of reducing the environmental impact of your laundry loads. The first and most important thing to remember is that it takes as much energy and water to wash a full load as it does a half load, so try to only use the machine when it’s actually full. Using bathroom scales to see just how many kilograms of clothes you can get in may surprise you. Washing in cold water also uses significantly less energy than washing with hot water whilst offering almost the exact same wash performance, especially for non-white items.
If looking to buy a new washing machine or dryer, make sure to look for the energy rating label and the overall kilowatt hours it uses to run. This makes it easy to compare models and choose the most energy-efficient machine for you.
Use that Australian sunshine
We are blessed in Australia to have an abundance of sunshine and daylight hours, so make the most of it by drying the clothes outside on the line whenever possible. Clothes dryers are among the most energy-intensive appliances in the household as they generally use electricity to generate their heat. As a result, it’s estimated that air-drying your clothes can reduce the average household’s carbon footprint by over 1,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions every year. So, hang the clothes out to dry and help out the environment while also saving some money on the electricity bill!
Reuse or recycle containers and scoops
Every time a new laundry detergent is bought, that means another piece of packaging to dispose of and, usually, an extra scoop too. When you think of how many of these products we go through each year and multiply it by the number of households in the country – that’s a lot of waste being generated! Try to reuse the containers in creative projects or in the garden. If this is not achievable, ensure you are recycling the packaging correctly by visiting RecyclingNearYou.
Environmentally friendly laundry products
Planet Ark is proud to endorse the Aware Sensitive product range. Aware Sensitive has become one of Australia’s most popular laundry, cleaning and air freshener brands for good reason. Not only does it uphold a strong commitment to have minimal impact on the environment but also on our personal health. Aware Sensitive laundry detergents are 100% Australian owned and made, readily biodegradable, palm oil and phosphorus free and septic and bio cycle safe (meaning the grey water from your wash is safe in the environment). Need another reason? Aware laundry detergents come with no scoop, because a spoon works just as well.
There is a growing body of research on the unseen microfibres and microplastics that are produced each time we do a load of laundry. Estimates vary significantly, but it’s possible that a single load could release hundreds of thousands of fibres from our clothes. Because synthetic (read: plastic) fibres now compose about 60% of the material in our clothing globally, this means significant amounts of plastic entering the natural environment through the laundry
One answer could be innovative solutions such as the Cora Ball, which collects the microfibres during each wash and prevents them from going down the drain. The ball is made from recycled material and is 100% recyclable.
Liam is Planet Ark's Communications Coordinator. Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia.