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Imperative ways to reduce the carbon footprint of washing clothes and practical solutions involving masses are discussed in this proposal.



A quintessential part of our lives, washing of clothes, involves a lot of energy from using hot water for the cleaning of clothes to drying them in machine dryers, every step releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

While eco-friendly fibers and new age technology to recycle used materials are being developed, it is the time we also think about the entire life-cycle of a cloth. It is estimated that 75-80% of the impact of a cloth's lifecycle comes from the process of washing and drying. As the population is increasing, the number of loads of laundry done per year is also increasing which is emitting a considerable amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses. 

Simple techniques, involving the common man can alter these figures completely. Replacing the normal washing machine with energy efficient machines, top loading machines by front-loading ones, which save up to 2/3rd of water consumed by the former, adopting traditional ways of drying clothes in sunlight and the use of eco-friendly detergents will definitely help in reducing the carbon footprint involved in the life cycle of a cloth.

Unifying masses, from the common man to industrialists heading companies which produce detergents, to act upon the stated solutions will solve the problem of large carbon footprint involved in the washing of clothes. The solutions are simple techniques which don't involve a lot of money. It can be adapted in every house and in every place of the earth.

What actions do you propose?

Actions to reduce the carbon footprint of doing laundry will involve many stakeholders.

  1.  Common man: The average American family does approximately 400 loads of laundry each year, and they should be made conversant with the benefits of using a front loading washing machine in place of a top loading machine. The front loading machines have been estimated to use half of the electricity as used by top loading machines and an even lesser amount of water. The sources also quote that 90% of  the energy used in washing   clothes is used up in heating the water. Using cold water can curb the carbon dioxide emissions completely and if necessary gas heated water can be used. It has been estimated that an average top loading machine gives away 3.22 pounds of carbon dioxide per load in comparison to top loaders with an electric water heating system, which gives away 8.9866 pounds of carbon dioxide per load. Along with efficient washing machines, techniques for drying of clothes should be monitored. Machine dryers consume a lot of energy and it can be easily replaced by line drying in the natural sunlight. Though some owners and municipalities, do not allow tenants to put up their clothes for drying naturally, Right to dry movement is slowly garnering more and more supporters. Such practices should be encouraged all over the world.
  2.  Detergent Industries: More and more eco-friendly(phosphate free) detergent industries should be encouraged. Detergents containing phosphates, pollute the water bodies where waste water is discharged. The high amount of phosphates aids algal growth which eventually leads to bad odor and river water becomes unfit for domestic uses due to higher biological oxygen demand. Apart from phosphate free detergents, detergents available in bulk with simple packaging should be used to significantly reduce the carbon footprint involved in packing and transporting the detergents to local shops. Handmade detergents using Baking soda and Vinegar can also be used to clean cotton clothes effectively.
  3. Government: Instead of urging individual families to buy front loading machines, in developing countries, a coin operated laundry space for public use can be set up in every locality (bifurcated according to the number of households). This technique is already employed in developed countries like the USA, but it needs to be generalized to all countries.


Lastly, although easier said than done, a piece of cloth can be worn more than once (not applicable to all types of clothing) to effectively reduce the number of loads of laundry to be done.

Who will take these actions?

The proposal involves everyone from the common man to lawsuits fighting for the Right to dry to the industrialists involved in the manufacturing of detergents.

Where will these actions be taken?

These actions will be taken all over the world, spanning across all big and small countries, in every home to bring about a consequential change.

What are other key benefits?

The key benefits involved here are:

1.    34 million tons: Amount of carbon dioxide emissions that would be saved if every U.S. household used only cold water for washing clothes.

2.    99 pounds: Amount of carbon dioxide emissions saved per household each year by running only full loads of laundry.

3.    700 pounds: Amount of carbon dioxide emissions saved each year by line-drying your family's laundry. 

4.    7,000 gallons: Amount of water saved per year by a typical front-loading washing machine compared to a top-loading washing machine.

What are the proposal’s costs?

1.    The cost of buying a front loading machine is around 700$ in comparison to top loading, which is marginally cheaper, 500$. [5]

2.    Normal detergents and phosphate free detergents are more or less of the same cost.

3.    Line drying instead of traditional machine dryers would save money.

Time line

The solutions needs to be implemented immediately and should be permanent to alter the process of climate change.

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