Grant has been away for just under a week, and I’ve been thinking about laundry. At first these two topics seem unrelated; however, I bring them up because whenever Grant is out of town, my laundry seems to go down drastically.
It’s not just 50% as you might expect. When he’s out of town, I can go for weeks without doing laundry (I know those of you with kids are sighing with envy at this point). The need to do laundry is signaled only when I completely run out of underwear.
Is it just that he has fewer clothes or that he gets them dirty more easily? Or is it that my standard of clean clothes leaves something to be desired?
One of my old co-workers used to wash his pants every time he wore them. Every time! Even if he just wore them at the office!
I was shocked when I heard that, but then I started thinking – maybe that isn’t so unusual in this society. I mean, we are a little obsessed with cleanliness and germs aren’t we? Maybe I, with my two-weeks-worn jeans, am the anomaly.
But you have to agree, doing laundry can be quite wasteful. Washers and driers hog electricity, detergents and bleaches pollute the waterways, and the whole system gradually breaks down your clothing (that drier fluff doesn’t come from nowhere).
A couple we know actually decided to go with disposable diapers over cloth for their child because of the environmental effects of laundry. I can’t say I agree with that one, but at least they gave it some thought.
The good thing about laundry is that, while we all have to do it, there are many ways to be less wasteful while doing it. Energy efficient appliances are all the rage and biodegradable laundry soaps are widely available. You can even go package-free and make your own laundry soap.
Two of my friends have told me in the past month about how they don’t use their driers. Ever. They both said line drying makes their clothes last longer and saves electricity.
It turns out that next to your fridge, your clothes drier is the household appliance that uses the most energy, so line drying starts to make a lot of sense (and don’t give me the “cramped apartment” excuse because both of these friends live in apartments and use fold up drying racks)
Truth be told, I use a drier all the time in the winter (it is, after all, convenient). On the other hand, I do participate in some energy & waste-saving laundry activities:
-I don’t use fabric softener (who wants chemicals spread all over their clean clothes anyway)
-I wash and dry full loads
-I use cold water (about 80% to 85% of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water)
-I use a clothesline in the summer
Although we don’t have a mandate to reduce energy consumption as part of the Clean Bin Project, after thinking so much about waste, we’re definitely starting to think about conservation in all aspects of our lives.
And as a final note to Chad – I hope you read this and think twice about washing your office pants when they’re not even dirty.