The average American family does roughly 300 loads of laundry every year. That will require about 12,000 gallons of water and will consume an enormous amount of energy. According to one study, the carbon dioxide emissions of our doing laundry is somewhere around 179 million metric tons. Things you can do to reduce your energy usage and save money are:
- Replace your older machines with Energy Star appliances. Energy Star certified washers use about 25% less energy and 33% less water than regular washers. If every clothes washer purchased in the U.S. was ENERGY STAR certified, we could save more than $3.3 billion each year and prevent more than 19 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions, equal to the emissions from more than 1.8 million vehicles.
- Whenever possible, wash your laundry in cold water. Around 90 percent of the energy used by a washing machine goes to heating the water. The American Cleaning Institute estimated that a household could cut its emissions by 864 pounds of carbon per year by washing four out of five loads in cold water.
- Another benefit of washing in cold water is that fabrics won’t break down as much, and this could reduce the amount of microplastics getting into the environment. A single wash can release up to 700,000 small synthetic fibers that make their way into our rivers, streams and eventually the ocean.
- Air dry your cloths whenever possible. If it isn’t possible, then use the high-speed spin on your washer, and use dryer balls to help separate cloths and shorten drying time.
In addition to energy consumption, there are other environmental concerns lurking in the laundry. Many laundry detergents on the market today contain a host of harmful chemicals including formaldehyde, phosphates, ammonium sulfate, and dioxane (this carcinogen can cause skin, eye, and lung inflammation and can spontaneously combust!).
Many dryer sheets emit endocrine disrupting compounds and chemicals associated with asthma. And they are not safety tested since manufacturers of laundry and cleaning products are not required to test them.
The good news is that there are more and more companies offering safer alternatives to our present laundry habits.