Friday, October 2, 2009

Greening Your Life: Cleaning and Laundry

Green laundry not only keeps you looking good, but it keeps the environment feeling good as well, and though it may seem like a pedestrian chore, doing the laundry has a bigger impact on the planet than you might think. According to reports, between 75 and 80 percent of our clothing's life cycle impact comes from washing and drying because it takes so much energy to heat the wash water, and run the dry cycle.

Enacting even just a few of these steps in your household has huge potential to reduce your carbon footprint, and save some money in the process.
  • If you can, purchase energy-efficient washer and dryers that are Energy Star certified. Local companies often offer rebates for purchasing energy saving appliances, such as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California who is offering a of $85 for Energy Star qualified clothes washers with a Water Factor of 5.0 or lower, and the Southern California Gas Company who is also offering a rebate of $35 for qualified clothes washers with a Modified Energy Factor of 1.72 or greater, and a water factor of 8.0 or lower. (You can find more rebate offers for qualified appliances by visiting the rebate website here.)
  • Save old, tattered towels and T-shirts for cleaning. Cut them into squares and they become useful rags that can replace store-bought rags and paper towels.
  • Use oxygen or hydrogen based bleached instead of chlorine bleach, which is very harmful when released into the environment.
  • Buy products in concentrate when available. You will use less product, making your cost per use much lower than it would be with a non-concentrated brand, and you will be consuming less packaging.
  • Buy a front-loading washing machine; they are far superior than top loaders for saving water and energy.
  • Wash clothes in warm and cold water and you will use 80 to 85 percent less energy compared to using hot water. Only use hot water if you are washing out oily dirt or stains.
  • Buy phosphate-free detergent. Phosphates are a cause of oxygen depletion in water, leading to the loss of aquatic life.
  • Buy a dryer with a moisture sensor setting. The dryer will automatically shut off when the clothes are dry, saving energy and wear and tear on your clothes.
  • Line dry your sheets in warm months. If you have two trees in your back or side yard, you can string up a clothesline in minutes.
National Geographic has created the video below that highlights these, and some other tips on how to save water and energy to help clean your laundry while also cleaning the environment.

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