Mercy Tips to Care for Earth

More on Sustainable Laundry

By Jason Giovannettone, Climate and Sustainability Director

There are many ways that your laundry can have negative impacts on our environment: your laundry detergent’s plastic container, the emissions created during washing and drying, and the chemicals released into the water during the process. 

According to a recent study, the U.S. residential sector contributes about 20% of total national carbon emissions (Goldstein et al. 2020), a large percentage of which comes from activities related to doing laundry. Water heating, for example, was found to consume about 16% of the total energy used during a laundry cycle (Golden et al. 2010).  

In addition to energy use, another area of concern relates to the chemicals present in the detergent. These chemicals can come into direct contact with our skin, eventually making their way into our bodies. They are also released into the environment through the water used for washing. Therefore, a laundry detergent that minimizes the number and amount of harmful chemicals is preferred.  

A great option for comparing the safety and environmental friendliness of various cleaning and household products is the non-profit organization Environmental Working Group (EWG). The EWG provides a rating system that is based on a number of factors including asthma, skin allergies, reproductive toxicity, cancer, and the environment. Ratings range from the highest rating of “verified” down to an “F”.    

Green Tip 

Go to the EWG website to determine the environmental and health grade given to the laundry detergent, sheets, pods or tablets that you use. In addition to using cold water to wash your clothes, please consider changing to a non-plastic product that has been given a “Verified” or “A” grade.