Room by room, we can all make simple sustainable changes.
This post is for the laundry. A room in our house we all use, but can have a large environmental impact.
The Washing Machine
This is the machine that releases plastics into our waterways and also harmful detergents.
Your washing powder is a simple change. A biodegradable brand is not only better for the waterways, but also for your health, as you wear these clothes against your skin.
Choosing a plastic-free brand will help a transition to a zero waste lifestyle. Personally, I use Eco Store powder, but find it needs warm water to properly dissolve. Instead of fabric softener, I add a few drops of either lemongrass or tea tree essential oils to make the clothes smell fresh.
Microplastics have recently been making the news. One source of these is from our washing machines. The clothing we wear, which we wash, shed particles every wash. There are many different studies on just how much they release, it can be up to 250,000 microfibres from one piece of synthetic clothing every time it is washed.
How can you change this?
Wear more natural materials, such as cotton, linen and wool. Yes, these materials can also have environmental problems, so aim for organic versions when possible. This doesn’t mean you need to throw out all your polyester, nylon, acrylic, microfibre and other synthetic clothing (most work uniforms are made from this!) as that would be adding plastic to the landfills. Just be conscious in your future clothing purchases.
Wash less. Yes, those smelling gym clothes definitely need a wash. But perhaps not your winter clothes every day, you’re not exactly sweating in them. Jeans can be folded and placed in a plastic container and put in the freezer overnight. The cold gets rid of unwanted smells.
Water from our washing machines goes into grey water waste. This is essentially all the water flushed down your drains that isn’t from the toilet. This goes to a treatment plant where most of the plastic fibres (about 60 to 90%) are filtered out, times that by how many garments, how many people and how many washes per day, an average town of 100,000 would release the equivalent of 15,000 plastic bags into the environment every day. This ends up in our waterways, which find their way to the ocean, which makes its way into our food chain. New research suggests that 80% of plastic pollution is unseen. As in microplastics, everywhere.
What can you do to help prevent this?
There are many nifty inventions coming out after this awareness of microplastics made the news. The Guppyfriend is a bag used for your synthetic clothing in the washing machine. This gathers most of the shed fibres in the corners or the bag, you then wipe them out and throw in your landfill bin.
If you are in the market to purchase a new washing machine, top loaders are found to release 7 times the amount of the synthetic fibres than a front loader. Also, check their water rating to make sure they are efficient.
Hopefully washing machine manufactures can develop their own filtration systems in the near future too.
Reuse your water
Grey water can be reused. Depending on council regulations, you can install a system that takes your grey water waste into a tank and then disperses it over your lawn or reused to flush your toilet. You cannot reuse your kitchen grey water.
The greywater system is not to be used on any edible plants. Rainwater harvesting is much better for this.
Greywater recycling systems need a switch to divert the greywater directly into the drain rather than be reused, this is especially good if you are going to be using a drain for something you do not want on your lawn. There are not only council requirements but also building code requirements for a system such as this.
What this all comes down to is that you should be very mindful of what you put down your drains. Toxic chemicals such as drain cleaner, bleach etc. should not be used in your home, but instead something more natural that you can actually inhale safely and like the microplastics, is not harmful to the environment that this eventually ends up in.
We all see these as little energy suckers and I know in winter they are almost essential.
Drying clothing indoors
Drying your clothing inside on clothing racks has actually proven to pose a health risk. It adds moisture to the air with contributes to a damp home. Which, in Wellington means mould.
Sometimes there is nothing to be done about this, as you need to dry your washing and you have no covered outdoor space.
Consider a drying rack (popular in Europe, why aren’t they popular here?!) that you can use in your laundry, open the windows and shut the laundry door with a draft stopper beneath. They use a pulley system so they can stay up high and out of the way.
It would be possible to make one yourself.
If you are looking at purchasing a new tumble dryer, there are thankfully much better options on the market that use less energy than conventional vented machines.
A Heat Pump tumble dryer is one such thing. This uses up to 50% less electricity than a condenser dryer.
In general, there can be minor changes you can make to your laundry room to make it more sustainable. A more environmentally friendly washing powder, maybe a Guppyfriend bag to stop releasing plastic into our waterways and reconsidering how we dry our clothes.
Major changes should only really happen if you have never owned a washing machine or tumble dryer before, they are broken and can be stripped for parts or repaired and sold, or are simply inefficient for you, but can be passed on to another person who cannot afford new.
I am not an advocate of getting rid of things simply because they are outdated.
I am not affliated with any outward links in this post, I just want to share information and hope people gain insight and knowledge from it.