RESPONSIBLE RETAIL: How To Care For Your Clothes Consciously

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Alright Elk babes, so last week we gave you all the deets on how to shop environmentally friendly. This week we’re giving you tips on how to care for all those rad signature pieces you snagged while consciously being kind to the planet.

We all hate laundry day, but no one hates it more than Momma Earth. Turns out that pesky chore has quite an impact on the planet.

Did you know that 39% of a garment’s environmental impact comes from consumer care? And that the average household does roughly 400 loads of laundry per year? That comes out to about 13k gallons of water. If you calculate the average washing machine life-span (12 years or so), it’s enough H20 to provide a lifetime of drinking water for six people.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reducing the carbon footprint associated with our wardrobes. Worry not though, ladies! You have more power than you think. There’s huge potential to switch things up and make your weekly laundry chore more eco-friendly by simply greening up your laundry habits. Not to mention the added perks of it doing wonders for your bank account and garments, too!

Here we go…

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1. Wash with cold water

This is probably the easiest, cheapest, and laziest way to up your sustainability cred. Just select “cold” on your washer and BAM! When you switch from using hot or warm water to using cold water, you reduce the energy needed for heating the water. Almost 90% of the energy used when washing clothes goes to heating water. So unnecessary. Save that warm water for your shower! You can also save more than $60 a year on your energy bill by choosing cold water. It literally just takes a setting switch.

2. Use eco-friendly detergents

Ugh, we hate talking chemicals and the reality of them. But if we didn’t we talk about ‘em our pretty marine life would suffer tremendously. Not cute.

When shopping for detergents that are environmentally friendly, keep an eye out for labels that indicate the product is readily biodegradable, phosphate-free, and made from plant or vegetable-based ingredients (instead of petroleum-based, ick), which means they're healthier for the planet. Bonus! They are often gentler on skin, too.

PSA: Plant-based does not mean something that has a lavender/rose scent to it. Chances are if it has an overpowering fragrance, it’s toxic.

And when it comes to fabric softeners, replace ‘em with an added cup of white vinegar to the washer during the rinse cycle. Vinegar naturally balances the pH of soap, leaving your clothes soft and free of chemical residue.

3. Ditch the dryer + hang ‘em up

We all know what a dryer does to our precious garments. We’ve all shrunk sweaters we love. We’ve all watched a cute white top go from white to yellow. We’ve all tried to fit into a pair of jeans after they’ve been tossed in the dryer. Tossing and tumbling in a dryer can cause wear and strain on clothing fabric due to stress on seams and snags from buttons and zippers. Excessively high heat in the dryer can actually ruin some fabrics and cause irreversible damage. IRREVERSIBLE!

When you hang dry, the ultra-violet rays in sunlight helps to bleach and disinfect laundry. All natural, baby! A pro-tip for those white sheets and towels. However, for dark colored clothes, excessive sunlight can cause some harm so keep them in the shade if possible to prevent fading.

4. Wear it more than once

This rule doesn’t go for everything (gym clothes and underwear come to mind), but the simplest way to cut down on laundry is to create less of it. DUH! Jeans do NOT need to be washed after one wear. Period. Even Levi's is on this bandwagon. They recommend washing jeans every two weeks rather than every day or on a weekly basis.

5. Wash in big loads

The best way to do this is turn your washing machine into your hamper. Instead of doing a load of laundry when your tiny hamper basket is full, you can do it once you’re entire washing machine is full. A much bigger load! Just toss your clothes into your washer once they’re (actually) dirty and when the entire machine is full, you’ll know it’s time to do wash. Don’t forget to hang dry!

If you’re more of a laundry mat kind of girl, we suggest heading there with a roomie or friend to wash your clothes together. Split the cost and it’s cheaper for ya, too! Plus you get to spend a few hours with a friend. Win/win.

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GREEN LAUNDRY : BY THE NUMBERS

  • 90 percent: Amount of total of energy used by a typical washing machine to heat the water; only 10 percent is used to power the motor.

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

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

  • 700 pounds: Amount of carbon dioxide emissions saved each year by line-drying your laundry. You'd save some big bucks, too.

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

  • 88 percent: Average increase in energy efficiency for a washing machine between 1981 and 2003.

  • 49: Percentage of laundry loads run with warm water in the U.S. 37 percent are run with cold water and 14 percent with hot.

We plan on switching up our laundry game! We hope you do too, Elk babes.

Emma CunninghamComment