Dirty Laundry: Cleaning up Your Carbon Footprint

By Natalie Camrud '17 and Diva Gattani '17
Fashion Columnists

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The other day I saw something pretty appalling in the laundry room. I opened up a washing machine, only to find three items inside! So much water and energy wasted, just to clean three tiny items. Most people don’t realize this, but up to two thirds of a garment’s carbon footprint occurs AFTER you take it home. There are a few ways to reduce this footprint. You should only wash your clothes when you absolutely need to. I know, you finally have a legitimate excuse to be lazy and not wash that pile of clothes in the corner. (Mom, I’m doing it for the environment. OK?) If you drop something on your clothes, consider applying a spot cleaner (like vinegar and club soda) and then rinsing it in the sink. One super cool trick is putting jeans in the freezer. Just bag your jeans and stick them in the freezer for a day; it will kill bacteria and odors and keep them in good condition. Traditionally, jeans are not supposed to be washed unless absolutely necessary, since washing jeans causes them to lose their shape and color.

When you do wash your clothes, wait until you have a full load of dirty clothes and then wash them in cold water. Something as simple as switching from hot to cold water can save 500 pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere every year. It also keeps your clothes from wearing out as quickly. In the dorm laundry rooms, the “bright colors” setting will use cold water. Once your clothes have been washed in cold water, skip the dryer and hang them up to dry! You can save 700 pounds of greenhouse gases every year by doing so, plus it looks vintage and cool. It will also save you some Claremont Cash. What’s not to love?

Now let’s talk about what you’re washing your clothes with. Conventional laundry detergents contain a lot of harmful chemicals, such as SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylate), and phosphates. These can remain on your clothes after washing and soak into your skin over time. These chemicals also get washed into waterways, which harms the environment. The scary part is that most detergents don’t list all their ingredients because, by law, they are not required to. They use vague terms like “fragrance” or “brightener” to cover up more sinister things. Luckily there are better brands that are available; just look for brands that say dye free, fragrance free, phosphate free, biodegradable, not tested on animals, etc. If you love having scented clothes (as I do), then you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the detergent before washing.

For more information on the topic, check out www.thereformation.com/about-us#healthy-dressing