From freshmen to graduate students, no one can escape the chore of laundry. However, as we come back to school, one thing everybody should consider is the environmental impact of cleaning our clothes.
Doing laundry can be banal and repetitive, yet our actions leave behind a sizeable energy footprint.
When washing your clothes, for instance, between 85 and 90 percent of the energy used by the machine is just for heating water, according to Energy Star, the official government organization tasked with labeling energy-efficient products. By switching from hot to warm water you can cut your electricity usage in half.
Unless you are trying to remove greasy stains, cold water can do the same work as hot water. And, cold water will not fade your clothes. There are even new specialized cold-water detergents available from Tide. Plus, with cold water, colors don’t bleed so you can throw everything in one load, thereby saving water.
Drying clothes actually requires the most energy. According to the department of energy, clothes dryers are the second largest user of household energy in the U.S.
In fact, a study done by Tesco reveals that the average carbon footprint for every load of laundry is 4.4 pounds of carbon dioxide.
As a part of a living and learning cohort last year that focused on sustainable lifestyles, my building experimented with drying racks as an alternative to dryers and found the results to be very positive.
You simply take your clothes out of the wash machine and place them on the drying rack, and, in less than a day, your clothes are dry. Besides helping the environment, that’s less money drained from your GWorld to pay for drying fees.
There are several added benefits to using drying racks. First, they retain the quality of clothes by not shrinking, and they only cause minimal wrinkling. Thus, the clothes hold their shape better and they allow the fabric to last longer.
You can find drying racks for only $20 on Amazon.com, and they are certainly worth the investment. But, if you have to use a dryer or cannot tear yourself away from one, there are many steps you can take to further reduce your energy usage.
To keep heat moving efficiently through the dryer, make sure that you clean the lint filter after every cycle. Also, avoid overloading and underloading and dry loads back-to-back to conserve heat.
I’m not saying we should immediately remove all the dryers from our campus. But even though dryers can be convenient, we should at least be aware of the energy we are consuming. GW can do a lot of good for the environment and our wallets by placing just a single drying rack in every laundry room across campus.
While using drying racks may seem like a small step, the potential is huge. If every student used a drying rack for half of his or her clothes drying, GW could reduce its energy by tens of thousands of kilowatt hours per year.
As the evidence of climate change continues to build and as we realize the emerging threats climate change may pose, taking small steps to reduce our own carbon footprint will matter all the more.
The writer, a junior majoring in business economics and public policy, is the founder of the Revolution Green LLC.
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