As families move toward more sustainable and environmentally responsible lifestyles, people are realizing that small changes can make big differences. So many of our normal household routines can have a negative environmental impact, or increase our carbon footprint, that it is imperative we begin to make these small changes. After all, as we become more mindful of the way we live our lives, and the impact we have on the world around us, we can create long-term change in a powerful way.
One of the biggest ways we can lessen our daily impact is by making changes to the way we do laundry. Washing and drying clothes is one of the more resource intensive household chores, and by tweaking our routine in just a few simple ways, we can really make a difference in the big picture.
Unless your clothes are legitimately dirty, like with visible dirt or discernible odor, there is no need to wash them. I know that seems to run counter to what we've always been taught, but what we've always been taught tends to run counter to sustainability, so it's time to rethink our methods, right? Even towels should be used a few times before you toss them in the laundry pile. Less laundry means less detergent, water, and drying. It also means less doing laundry, which is definitely a bonus.
As manufacturers respond to increased demand for sustainable, eco-friendly products, there are more options than ever before for safe, environmentally responsible detergents. Brands like 7th Generation and Mrs. Meyers are available at big box stores, and old favorites, like Tide, are selling their own versions of green detergents.
Modern front loaders use dramatically less water than older model top-loaders, and are more energy efficient. Machines with a lower water-factor use less water per load and are more environmentally friendly options than their counterparts. Being familiar with Energy Star ratings can help when you go shopping for a new machine.
During the warmer months of the year, you can ditch the dryer entirely and dry your clothes the way nature intended. Not only will you save electricity, but clothes dried outdoors smell nice and generally don't need ironing. Adding a cup of vinegar to the wash water works to soften fabrics and you can't smell it at all once your laundry is dry.
Since the majority of the energy used during a wash cycle is used to heat the water, washing everything on cold can make a big difference in your impact, and your electricity bill. Unless something is very soiled, cold water cleans just as well as warm or hot.
Instead of expensive, chemical-laden fabric softeners, felted wool dryer balls are a great alternative. Not only do they increase air circulation by bouncing around the dryer and separating clothing, they also help absorb moisture and decrease drying time.