As the cost-of-living crisis continues, with bills likely to hit up to £2,500 a year, it is important to focus on what is driving up our bills and how we can help it. Laundry not only contributes to your weekly electricity bills but also has a harmful effect on the environment.
5kg of laundry being washed and dried every other day can produce almost 440kg of carbon emissions annually. Not to mention the chemical pollution your favourite detergent and conditioners are creating.
However, this is an easy fix. Here at Jermyn Street Design, we believe in saving the planet and your pocket. From choosing more sustainable uniform suppliers to changing detergents, let us explore some sustainable laundry practices and how to promote eco-friendly laundry solutions in the workplace.
Each machine has different capabilities, functions, and efficiencies. Knowing how your machine operates is the best way to optimise sustainable laundry practices. The most common washing machine drum size is between 7–8 kg. Overfilling your machine might jeopardise its functioning – meaning your clothes will be dirtier and damper than you expect. As a result, further washes and spin cycles will be less efficient, driving up your energy costs and producing further carbon dioxide emissions.
You will also want to consider buying a newer model if yours is outdated. Old machines could cause you to waste unnecessary water and energy through each new wash. As such, upgrading or purchasing a new model could be beneficial as modern machines incorporate more energy-efficient features. Understanding the maintenance of your machine can also make your washes eco-friendlier – routine cleaning and proper water reserve maintenance will help your machine stay as efficient as possible. This will mean your clothes will be cleaner quicker, rather than potentially needing multiple washes to remove one stain.
Most people in the UK are washing their laundry at the wrong temperatures – opting traditionally for 40 degrees Celsius when this is unnecessary. 30 degrees is considered the most cost-effective, as well as efficient, temperature to wash your clothes. Some clothing can even be washed at temperatures as low as 20 degrees.
You could be saving yourself between 38% and 62% of energy when washing at lower temperatures, such as 30 or 20 degrees, respectively, according to Which? Adjusting your temperatures can help reduce your impact on the environment, as well as drive down your energy bills. By reading the manufacturing label to know which temperature is best for your clothing, you can effectively complete your laundry while reducing your environmental impact.
Not only how you use your machine affects the eco-friendliness of it, but what you decide to put in it too. Depending on your chosen detergent and conditioners, you could harm the environment further. Your weekly laundry could be pushing out chemical pollutants regularly. Harsh detergents and bleach can cause both damage to the environment as well as potential skin irritation. Choosing gentle detergents can be just as effective for cleaning your clothes without the negative impact. You can even choose products such as a laundry egg, which can wash clothes for up to three years without needing any detergent.
Most people are running their machines for longer than necessary, wasting unnecessary energy and water on clothes which can be washed in half the time. While the average wash lasts 50 minutes to an hour, you can reduce this time to as little as 15 minutes, depending on your needs. A few uniform items, for example, would not need the same hour-long cycle as a full load, including your bedsheets. Adjusting your wash-cycle temperature, speed, and duration can be the best way of doing your laundry cost-effectively.
How often you decide to wash your laundry is also impacting the environment and your pocket. On average, an individual will do one to three washes a week, with some people loading up their washing machines more frequently. Aiming to do larger washes less frequently will save you energy and water waste.
Reducing your company’s carbon footprint starts with the partnerships you choose to form. Aligning yourself with manufacturers who choose sustainable methods can establish your business as environmentally conscious. Choosing uniform suppliers who manufacture sustainable clothing and use environmentally friendly methods of production and transportation can offset the negative environmental impact of laundry.
This is what our Design Sustainability Officer, Lisa Cunningham-Sherret, has to say: “Finding sustainable ways to provide uniforms can make a bigger difference than you think. For workers, uniforms make up a substantial portion of our week, so they need to be comfortable. For businesses, uniforms should represent our values and personality. Choosing sustainable uniforms and processes can establish you as an environmentally conscious business.”
Your uniform fabric, colour, and even design can impact the effect it has on the environment when it is being washed. Depending on your industry, you may be able to swap synthetic materials for natural fibres, which are kinder to the environment from their creation, as synthetic materials are a by-product of petroleum. Synthetic fibres also release microplastics into the air when laundered, increasing the risk of respiratory harm to your employees. Equally, choosing uniform manufacturers who use natural dyes over chemicals can mean that employee washes produce less polluted water as a product of their weekly laundry cycle.
To fully promote sustainable practices to your employees, educate them on the importance of climate change, the changes you as a company are making to increase sustainability, and the measures they can take to improve their own eco-friendly laundry habits. By encouraging your employees to consider their impact on the environment, you can have an impact in the fight against climate change.
Providing education courses on small lifestyle changes, such as the temperature they wash their clothes at, and the importance of these regarding climate change, can help create lasting habit changes. While there is no guarantee that employees will change their laundry techniques, delivering classes or lunchtime learning sessions opens the discussion for more sustainable practices among your people. You could consider offering monetary incentives to employees who recycle their old uniforms with your company or provide environmentally friendly samples such as laundry detergents to encourage eco-friendlier practices.
Managing your bills and environmental impact is important, both personally and in a corporate sense. As laundry alone contributes to six per cent of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions, figuring out ways to bring our energy bills down can also contribute to a healthier environment.
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