We all are beginning to understand the negative environmental impact caused by the production and disposal of our clothing, but have you considered the damaged caused by how we care for our clothes?
How we wash our clothes may seem unrelated to lowering our carbon footprint, but in actual fact, research has found that when you look at the life cycle of a piece of clothing, everyday washing & drying are said to damage our natural environment the most.
Kate Fletcher, who in her 2008 book Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys looking at 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 emissions come from washing and drying clothes. Just doing laundry can use up to 13,500 gallons of water a year for the average household. This along with the power used to wash our clothes and the addition of harmful substances hidden in common detergents are having a major impact on the environment.
A lot of our clothes are also made from synthetic fibres and with each wash, synthetic fabrics can shed thousands of plastic particles, leading to broad-scale contamination of our waterways. In a recent investigation by Orb Media that was shared by the Guardian they found ‘Scores of tap water samples from more than a dozen nations were analysed by scientists. Overall, 83% of the samples were contaminated with plastic fibres’.
A more natural approach to laundry is vital for our planet and us. So how can we lower our carbon footprint whilst still carrying out our daily chores?
We consider some practical steps on how to make the switch & reduce our impact:
THE best way to lessen the environmental impact of your laundry load is to do less laundry. Wear your clothes for longer, spot clean and only wash when really necessary. “If everybody washed their clothes in the washing machine 10% less each year, the carbon footprint would reduce by 2.6%. (WRAP, 2012a p.41)”.
Washing less will also increase the lifetime of our clothing, as over-washing tends to cause colour fading, shrinkage and misshaping. This small shift towards ‘responsible laundry’ is the easiest change to make.
At Rockholly we recommend you only wash your coat when completely necessary (on a mild wash). Washing more often, as with any waterproof coat, will affect the performance over time.
Hand wash or cool wash
90% of the energy use in your wash cycle comes from heating the water, so switching to a ‘cool wash’ or even better hand washing will be gentler on your clothes and saves a lot of energy. Pre-treating clothing with a stain remover before you pop them in the wash will sort out any tough stains without the need for a high temperature. Higher temperatures also can result in more fibres being released from our clothing, with a lower temperature wash being less aggressive and therefore less likely to shake out plastic fibres.
Hang clothes to dry
Hang your clothes to dry when you can. The tumble dryer is said to emit more than a ton of carbon dioxide per year. Hanging our clothes outside is also gentler than using a dryer, meaning your clothes will last longer too. If the weather isn’t great, an indoor drying rack should do the trick!
Fill your machine
A full washing machine not only means we are using less water and energy, but also reduces friction between items – in other words, they don't rub against each other as much and release plastic fibres. If you have to do a smaller wash, remember to reset the water level. Also remember to clean your washing machine filter regularly to keep your machine working efficiently.
Switch to a natural detergent
Standard washing detergent contains toxins that end up in our waterways, so switching to a more natural eco friendly detergent is an easy win. Most supermarkets stock brands such as BioD and Eclover or even look to swap to a laundry egg, which are completely chemical free.
Use a laundry bag
Using a washing bag such as a ‘Guppy Bag’ in your washing machine, works by capturing the extremely small fibres that break off during washing and end up polluting our waterways. The fibres are collected in the bag and can be discarded at the end of the washing cycle in your plastic recycling bin.
What do you do be more conscious when it comes to your laundry? We would love to hear at firstname.lastname@example.org