Monday, March 9, 2009

No Laundry Day

“Didn’t you wear underwear over the weekend?” I asked my husband this morning.

He gave one of those “are you crazy” looks. The reason I was asking was that the laundry hamper was not as full as it usually is on Monday mornings, and I was wondering why. Turns out, he did wear the appropriate underwear since I last did laundry. Socks and shirts, too, so maybe the lack of laundry had something to do with me.

Nonetheless, I decided to forgo my usual load of Monday morning laundry and wait until I had a full load to do. You have to understand that for me, a creature of routine and habit, that is a large concession. But I have been trying to be more mindful of my water consumption and do things like turn the water off while I am brushing my teeth and take shorter showers, which is also very hard for me. Not doing the laundry on my usual day is a big deal.

How much water does it take to do laundry anyway? And how much am I saving by skipping one load? I tried to find out.

The first place I went was to the Sierra Club website. I did a search on “laundry” and on that site alone I had 204 hits. Most of them had to do with toxic laundry (the use of harmful detergents etc) or advice to air-dry laundry to save energy. One item in a category called Lazy Green Week had many tips on energy savings including one that said, “Let the Laundry Pile Up”.

I searched further and learned a lot more about laundry, including that there are celebrities promoting green detergents and auctioning off tote bags to further their cause. I learned about methods of doing laundry, energy efficient washing machines, and that there is a magazine called Appliance Magazine. Who knew?

It was all interesting and important, because our water is greatly effected by the detergents that we use. But I still wanted to learn specifically about the water aspect of doing laundry. I googled “laundry water usage” and got 2.55 millions hits, and that was just .orgs. There is no lack of information about water usage. Almost every water utility has tips on saving water, as do municipal, state, and federal government agencies.

They all pretty much say the same thing, but the point is that if you want to learn how to save water and energy there is no lack of resources. Of course, you have to look at them – and heed them.

A few facts I gleaned from my research include:
• Laundry consumes about 20-25% of all household water usage.
• Most of the energy consumed by the washing machine is used to heat the water. Cold water works just as well.
• Depending on your washing machine, each load can take from 35 (high efficiency top loaders) to 60 gallons of water.
• You can save 2,000 gallons of water a year just by consolidating loads.
• We should all wear our clothes a little longer before washing them ( well, maybe not the underwear.

I also found a quiz called How Green is my laundry? The quiz asks things like how efficient your washing machine is, if you use hot, cold or warm water, and how much dry cleaning you do. I took the quiz, and although I didn’t fail (I got 72) I could do better. Not doing the laundry today probably boosted my score a good few points. Want to know how you do when it comes to laundry? Take the quiz.

Now if I could just shorten the length of my hot showers, I would be in great ecological shape.

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