How to green your dirty laundry
There are some crazy ideas floating around the scientific community on how to combat global warming. Pumping gigatons of sulfur into the atmosphere; dumping iron into the ocean; and launching trillions of tiny mirrors into space to deflect the sun’s rays are just a few of the more radical solutions to the planetary crisis. But before you stand on your roof and hold up a mirror, remember that the only real, lasting solution to climate change is lifestyle change. We’ve got to stop using so much darn carbon! Today, GreenerPenny looks at the American household’s biggest energy waster according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy: laundry. Waste from doing laundry is huge. The average clothes washer emits 160 pounds of carbon a year; the average dryer, 2,224 pounds. The average American does 400 loads of laundry per year, which amounts to 13,500 gallons of water, or enough for one person’s lifetime supply of drinking water. In this era of peak oil and peak water, what can you do to green your dirty laundry? When you load up, make sure to run entire loads to get the most out of your water, and use the cold setting whenever possible. The ACEEE states that the hot water setting is responsible for 90% of the energy used to run the washer, and costs 5 to 10 times more. Running just half your loads in cold water will cut out 72 pounds of carbon annually. Washers last for about 11 years, so if you bought yours in 1997 or earlier, it’s probably time for a replacement. Opt for an Energy Star model. Over 11 years, one of these energy- and water-saving models will save you $500 and enough water for 6 people’s lifetimes. The clothes dryer is the biggest carbon emitter in this equation, and the simplest answer is to not use it. Take advantage of summer days by line-drying your laundry. Again, even drying only half your loads this way cuts out 723 pounds of carbon per year according to the Green Guide’s global warming calculator. (Some homeowners’ associations have regulations against line drying laundry, calling it “unsightly,” but the national Right to Dry movement has your back on this one.) Line drying may not be an option if it’s snowing outside, so when you do crank up the dryer, make sure you’re using the auto-dry setting rather than the timed setting. Most better-quality dryers have moisture sensors in the drum and automatically shut off as soon as your clothes are dry. Other less efficient models test the temperature of the exhaust air to infer dryness. Either option is better than the timer, which can over-dry your clothes, waste energy, shorten clothing lifespan, and generate pesky static electricity. And try to dry multiple loads in quick succession to take advantage of residual heat. If mirrors in space sounds like a cartoon episode to you, make a habit of going green with your laundry and other common household chores. Future generations will thank you.
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