The big zero waste three are reduce, reuse, recycle, and the key to re-use is often in the laundry room.
You can wash all your cloth items (including the shower curtain, unpaper towels, even cloth kitchen sponges) with organic, compostable soap nuts to keep them fresh and ready for reuse. Soap nuts are completely natural, toxin-free, and come in a cardboard box. And, miraculously, they clean even smelly gym clothes! If you’re not ready to make the switch or prefer a more traditional soap, Ecover has a great detergent – mild, hypoallergenic, and comes in a plant-based recyclable plastic bottle.
Speaking of washing clothes, who’s heard of microplastics?
Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic, less than 5 mm in diameter, that are the result of plastic degradation. There are many different sources of microplastics, including personal care products and washing clothes made of synthetic materials. Currently, there are insufficient water filtration systems in place for removing these microplastics in municipal waste water treatment facilities.
Once microplastics reach the ocean, they become more harmful by absorbing toxins and degrading into even smaller pieces. Then, as they are ingested by marine life (including organisms that spend part of their lifecycle in water, like mosquitos) and get passed up the food chain. Microplastics have even been found in over 90% of table salt, especially sea salt.
But what can you do?
While we wait for washing machines to get smarter and have built-in lint filtration systems, there are a few ways to reduce the amount of microplastics your laundry produces. Perhaps the easiest, if you’re handy, is to invest in a washing machine lint filter. Additionally, when buying new clothes, consider alternatives to synthetic materials. Acrylic, lycra, and polyester are some common synthetic fibers that our clothes are made from. Consider looking for cotton (organic if possible, cotton requires a lot of pesticides!), wool, tencel (which is made from wood pulp), and bamboo.
If you don’t own your own washing machine, you can wash your synthetic clothing (including fleece and spandex) in a Guppy Friend bag, which is designed to catch up to 99% of microplastics released from your clothing during washing.
Another option is the Cora Ball, which is made of 100% recycled and recyclable plastic. Make sure to separate out your delicates when using the Cora Ball, however, because it can damage those more sensitive items. Both the Guppy Friend bag and Cora Ball are available for $30 on their respective websites.
The good news is that dryers already have built-in lint capture systems, making their big environmental impact energy usage– another great reason to consider switching to renewable energy at home. Make sure to dry full loads of laundry at once for efficiency.
When drying a load of laundry, throw in a few of these organic wool dryer balls instead of fabric softener and some organic lavender dryer bags. The dryer bags come in a plastic bag but each individual dryer bag is compostable when it wears thin, usually after about ten or so uses. The laundry comes out so fluffy and wonderful-smelling!
The ultimate zero waste laundry hack is hang drying. As much as our shared living spaces allow, we hang our clothes to dry on wood drying racks with wood clothespins. For the lucky few with backyards, it’s a great idea to get a clothesline for drying clothes since dryers use so much energy.
Good luck with zero-wastifying your laundry routine! Check out our Laundry board on Pinterest to get more more eco-friendly inspiration!
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