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Laundry: how to make it green

The Ecologist

4th March, 2011

From chemical-based washing powders to electricity-hungry dryers, doing the laundry is worse for the planet than you might think. Here’s how to clean it up

Despite advances in washing technology, doing the laundry still has one of the biggest household carbon footprints. While washing machines produce around 51kg of carbon dioxide per year, the worst offender is the tumble dryer which produces, on average, a staggering 159 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide annually. So how can you reduce the impact that doing the laundry has on the environment? First, ditch the tumble dryer and switch to drying clothes outside or on an indoor line. If you really must use a tumble dryer, keep it to a minimum and then only when you need it. Wash clothes on an energy saving 30 degree cycle and make sure that you only wash when you’ve got a full load. But there’s also washing powder to consider and that’s where brands such as Ecover come in.

Traditional washing powders contain ingredients such as petroleum distillates, phenols and bleach; all of which are toxins that are thought to be cancerous. Many also contain optical brighteners which are intended to make whites look even whiter but form an irreversible chemical bond with the skin. Rather than expose yourself to a smogasbord of chemicals, try using an eco-friendly laundry brand such as Simply or Ecover instead. Ecover’s products, for example, use plant-based surfactants [the ingredients that lift the dirt] rather than ones derived from petrochemicals and use the naturally occurring enzymes, amylase and protease in the biological washing powder. Check out the new Non Bio Concentrated washing powder, £3.99 which works well at 30 degrees, smells pleasantly of lavender and has absolutely no nasty chemicals involved. The company also uses 100 percent biodegradable packaging made from polyethylene, polypropylene and recycled cardboard. While Ariel, Bold and co are attempting to improve the environmental performance of their washing powders by creating products that clean well at 15 degrees, there are still too many chemicals involved to make them ecologically sound. In the meantime, it’s safer to stick with something tried and tested.


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