Action 310: Green your laundry routine

laundry-bottleDate: 06 November
Action: 310
Cost of taking action: LOW


Written by our guest writer Lynsey Clayton from Monsoon of Random in the UK

Laundry products combined with “fast fashion” are causing environmental damage

Lynsey follows her article a few days ago about fast fashion with this action about laundry microplastics and chemicals.

As discussed in action 307, from how our clothing was made, to how we care for it on a daily basis, and what happens when we’re finished with it, clothes are becoming some of the most environmentally damaging products.

Included in this are problems around micro-plastics being released into the oceans from our washing clothes, and detergents and chemicals entering the ecosystem.

Once again, it’s something we really need to be more aware of and do our best to make changes.

Microplastics in the wash

Clothes made from man made materials (plastics!) release half a million tonnes of micro-fibres (tiny plastic fibres which shed when we wear and wash them) into the ocean every year, accoding to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Fabrics like nylon, polyester, acrylic and polyamide and all made from plastic. Fast fashion is heavily dependent on synthetic fibres, as polyester is much cheaper to produce than cotton, and items are not made to last.

We could well be ingesting our clothes – they are certainly passing into our waterways and eventually the oceans every time we run a load of washing. In fact, one of the recent trends for recycling plastic bottles into clothing – which initially seems like a great way to keep plastic out of landfill – could be adding to this problem, as the clothes shed even more plastic micro-fibres when washed.

The first thing we can do is to buy more natural fabrics, like organic cotton, hemp or bamboo, which don’t contain micro-plastics and are an easy win.

For existing clothing and items that are pre-loved purchases, you can help reduce the amount of these fibres that get into the environment by using a filter bag for your machine (like a GuppyFriend Washing Bag) and wash the clothes less – you don’t always need to wash after every wear.

Try to avoid clothing that is made from recycled plastics. The marketing of these as eco-friendly is a form of greenwashing because they release the broken down plastic even more profusely in the laundry!

WasherChemicals and detergents

So, your wardrobe is full of natural fabrics, you’re washing your jeans once a year, and washing at 30 degrees with a filter bag, but are you using chemicals to get your gear clean?

Many ingredients in standard laundry detergents kill fish and plant life when they get into the ecosystem. They can also cause skin irritation and allergies, and result in the use of crazy amounts of water at water treatment and sewage plants.

There are so many wonderful, natural brands out there now, whose aim is to help you keep your clothes clean, whilst reducing the impacts on the environment. My favourite is Bio-D, an independent and ethical (scores high on Ethical Consumer) UK based company who believe that we can clean our homes and our laundry without the need of harsh chemicals, and at no cost to the planet.

Bio-D leave out all of those nasty allergy inducing, fish poisoning, environment polluting ingredients to make an effective, cruelty free and vegan range which will make you feel good about cleaning the clothes and reduce your impact right down. Their packaging is refillable, recyclable and made in the most environmentally friendly ways. They’ll also save you money!

Great power also lies with us as consumers – contact your favourite brands and ask them what they are doing to reduce their chemical, plastic and carbon footprints.

Take action

For action 310, make your laundry routine greener by:

  • reduce or eliminate your purchases of “fast fashion” man-made fibre clothing
  • go for natural materials instead
  • avoid any clothing made from recycled plastic
  • use a filter bag if you are washing man made materials
  • switch to an ethical, chemical and plastic free laundry product
  • avoid unnecessary products such as fabric conditioners and whiteners

This article has been contributed by our guest writer Lynsey Clayton of Monsoon of Random