Common Cents – Laundering for the Earth!

Dressing for success is more than just a thoughtful wardrobe. Opting for a more green approach to laundry is a way to ensure a polished look. Read on to learn what you can do in the laundry room to go green and save green!

Getting Soaped
Choosing a natural laundry detergent is more important than you may think. Did you know that many detergents, which often end up in the ocean after being flushed from your machine at home, carry chemicals harmful to fish? Detergents destroy the external mucus layers that protect fish from bacteria and parasites; plus they can cause severe damage to the gills.

Moreover, chemical based detergents, can be harmful to people too! It leaves a residue that is absorbed into the pores of your skin and can cause allergies, headaches, nausea, contact dermatitis and other more severe health problems.

At the store look for a plant or vegetable based detergent free from chlorine bleach and fragrances. Laundry detergents have been phosphate free for a couple decades, so don’t let that distract you from examining all of the ingredients carefully. Or, do it yourself at home. Making your own natural detergent costs about 70 percent less than purchasing a detergent off the shelf, 6 cents a load versus 20 cents.

Do it yourself fabric softeners, such as adding and dissolving half a cup of baking soda to your wash before loading, are less costly and significantly better for the environment. According to the Allergy and Environmental Health Association, both liquid and dryer sheet fabric softeners are “the most toxic product produced for daily household use.” Most of the popular brands of fabric softeners contain many neurotoxins, substances that are toxic to the brain and nervous system as well as other types of toxins. PHOTO: Detergent with crossed out symbol.

Drying Off
Nine- that’s the percentage of total electricity consumed nationally from washing machines and six is the percentage of the total that electric dryers devour. Think your doing better for the environment with that gas dryer you have at home? Wrong, gas dryers still consume a considerable amount of electricity.

Think about this, if half the homes in the United States, currently using an electric dryer made one simple change, we’d collectively save 5 million kWz of electricity per year. The change, going old school, solar power and the good old-fashioned clothes line. Drying clothes on a line reduces energy use, plus your clothes last longer –saving the average household $85 per month! Think your yard is not big enough for a clothesline, consider a retractable one. PHOTO: Retractable clothesline.

Wear It Out
Your clothes can often stand multiple uses before needing a wash. Shirts and jeans, for example, can be worn 2-3 times before laundering. Another thing to consider is this, trendy items in your closet may head out of fashion quickly, but don’t throw them out as fashion trends cycle about every 20-30 years– like the current 80’s flashback– box ‘em up and save them for their comeback. More importantly consider purchasing fewer of these items to curb waste and reduce other negative environmental impacts.

Ready to toss? Learn more about what to do with clothes after you’re done with them on page 5 or at

To empower young people to be environmental leaders