One of the best ways to green your home and reduce your carbon footprint is by changing the way you do laundry. Washing and drying one load of laundry every two days can create up to 440 kg of CO2e every year while releasing harmful, toxic substances into our waterways. And it’s likely, especially if you have kids, that you’re doing more than a load every two days.
So, what can you do to green your laundry practices, and maybe save a bit of cash at the same time? Check out these seven tips for ways to get started!
- Wear things more than once- Probably the best way to reduce the impact of your laundry activities on the environment is to do less of it. Of course, there are some things you’ll want to wash after one use (like undies, socks, gym clothes and anything you wear to do sweaty manual labor). But other things can be worn twice or more before being thrown in the dirty clothes hamper. Sweaters, jeans and especially pajamas come to mind.
- Make Your Own Green Laundry Soap: With just washing soda, borax and unscented bar soap, you can easily make an effective, environmentally friendly laundry soap that is better for your health and much easier on your wallet than conventional, toxin-laden laundry detergent. Check out the recipe here. (Tip: Don’t use borax if you reuse gray water from your washing machine to water your garden. Borax can be deadly to plants! But if your gray water goes into a septic or sewage system, no problem.)
- Fabric softener: Vinegar is the best green fabric softener there is, in my opinion. You can add it directly into the fabric softener compartment if your washer has one, or premix it by the gallon: Use one gallon of white vinegar and 30-40 drops of your favorite essential oil to leave your laundry soft and fresh-smelling!
- Stain removal: We wrote a detailed blog post a couple of years back on how to tackle the most common types of stains, including coffee, wine and blood (among others). Check it out here.
- Reduce your water and power usage: Newer washing machines use less water and less power than older models. You might want to consider upgrading to conserve water and electricity if you’re still using an older top-loader. But there are other ways of conserving without replacing your machine. First, you’ll want to make sure that every load you wash is a full load. Second, use the cold water setting. Heating the water for your laundry cycle takes a lot of energy, which costs you a lot of money, and probably isn’t actually necessary. Conventional wisdom tells us to use hot water to keep our whites looking white, but there are other (cheaper and more sustainable) ways to take care of your whites! (See tip 6.) Finally, hanging your laundry out in the sunshine to dry will save you huge amounts of money on your electric bill over time- and future generations will thank you for your sustainable sensibilities!
- No More Chlorine Bleach! Here are two tips on how to keep your whites bright without resorting to stinky, toxic chlorine bleach. If it’s nice out, then hang your clothes out to dry in the sunshine. This not only brightens your white articles of clothing, but leaves them smelling fresh. If your weather is depriving you of sunlight, however, you can add ¼ to ½ cup of lemon juice to your load of laundry along with your regular laundry detergent or the homemade recipe above.
- Felted Wool Dryer Balls: These awesome laundry accessories can help reduce your drying time, eliminate static and are a great fabric softener alternative. And you can make them yourself! Check out this article for instructions.
Give these tips a try. You don’t have to do all of them (unless you’re super inspired to!) But even one or two of these changes could make a huge difference in your carbon footprint and your budget!