Gallery: GREEN YOUR APPLIANCES! Washers and Dryers

 

We’ve enjoyed covering the surging interest in eco-fashion at Inhabitat – particularly new designers experimenting with bio-based materials and organic sources, produced with green and socially conscious methods. But the next time you covet the latest NaturevsFuture corn-based dress or Linda Loudermilk bamboo and silk trousers, consider this: the majority of a garment’s ecological impact occurs during the washing phase. So with that in mind, this week’s installment of our Green Your Appliances series focuses on your washer and dryer.

Cambridge University released a study titled “Well Dressed?” demonstrating that 60% of the greenhouse gases generated over the life of a T-shirt come from washings and machine dryings. All of the energy and carbon emissions used to grow, manufacture, ship, and sell clothing does not even come close to the energy and emissions needed to clean a garment.

So what is an eco conscious fashion consumer to do? Let’s take a look at your washer and dryer, and how you’re using it. It may be time to replace your old and inefficient machine. Washer and dryer manufacturers have made huge efficiency strides in the past 10 years – reducing water consumption, energy required, and even detergent needed to launder a clean load of wash.

Choosing an efficient machine

The choice between front load and top load machines has an impact on water, energy, and detergent used during the wash phase. The top loading design, most popular in the US, works by filling with water, and then an “agitator” is used to circulate the clothes. Front loaders, more popular in Europe, spin back and forth on a horizontal axis and typically use less water, heat, and detergent. These machines do such a good job spinning out excess water, that significantly less time is required in the drying cycle. That said, Energy Star has rated both front loaders and top loaders as energy efficient. When purchasing a new machine, look for the Energy Star label as an indication of energy efficiency.

How can you minimize energy use and water pollution with your current washer?

+ Always wash a full load

+ Use ecologically minded detergent

+ Set washing machine temps on warm or cold with a cold rinse

+ As much as possible, use renewable energy sources.

Eco Dryers – an Oxymoron?

After your refrigerator, your clothes dryer is the second largest electricity-using appliance. Energy Star does not rate clothes dryers because the they use similar amounts of energy, but does offer the following tips to reduce the amount of energy used:

+ Use the moisture sensor option on your dryer, which automatically shuts off the machine when the clothes are dry.

+ If your washer has spin options, choose a high spin speed or extended spin option to reduce the amount of remaining moisture, thus starting the drying process before you put your clothes in the dryer.

+ And of course, line dry your clothes whenever possible.

Washing Machines of the Future

Students, inventors, and manufacturers have been experimenting with technologies old and new to reinvent the washer and dryer. Here are a number of interesting ideas:

COMBO WASHER/DRYER MACHINES Although combo washer/dryers have been around forever and are pretty standard in compact European apartments, for some reason they haven’t really taken off in the U.S. yet. Many front-loader European washing machines are combo Washer/Dryers and we highly recommend the space-saving capabilities of these super efficient little machines. New designs in this arena are trying to conserve and reuse water, and we look forward to testing them out. Shown above is a concept washer/dryer combo machine by Reed Crawford that saves water from one of the later rinse cycles for use in the next wash.

DETERGENTLESS WASHERS Just coming on the market right now are several new high-tech washing-machine designs launched that eliminate the need for detergent. These machinse works on the hydrolysis principle, where the actual water molecules are split, creating oxygen and hydrogen. The stains on the linens are attracted and retained by ions of OH-, while the clothes are sterilized by the H+ ions.

HUMAN POWERED WASHING MACHINES? The Cyclean is a washing machine powered by a bicycle designed by Alex Gadsden. This model is currently in prototype stage, built out of parts Gadsen found in scrap yards and dumps.

If only Gadsden’s machine were commercially available – we could get clean and fit, and look better in those high waisted Aoki organic jeans…

Next week in our Green Your Appliances series: DISHWASHERS!

About BOSCH “Bosch is committed to preserving the environment through innovative approaches to the products we manufacture, as well as the partnerships we form with key leaders in sustainable construction and design. Sustainability, responsibility and continuous improvement are the tenets of our company and are shared by our partners across the United States.

Bosch practices low-impact manufacturing processes while designing the most efficient machines on the market. In fact, we introduced a global integrated management system for environmental issues that makes certain we maintain our high standards for environmental responsibility wherever our operations take us.

Bosch regards innovation as something more than exceptional product quality, functionality and design. Not only our technical developments, but also our commitment to society has an effect on the world of tomorrow.” + Bosch Green Thinking Resource Center

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JENNIFER VAN DER MEER Jennifer is a leader in brand and product innovation, and is a founding principal at research design house Risqué Consulting. A former Wall Street analyst and economist, Jennifer transitioned into the design industry upon graduating with an MBA from HEC in Paris. She has held strategy and executive management positions at Organic, Inc., Frog Design, and Fahrenheit 212. A leader in the green design community in NY, Jennifer serves as chapter chair of o2-NYC, and lectures on the topic of sustainable innovation. + o2-NYC

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5 Comments

  1. wwwSEOWritersNet May 9, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    I just bought one actually. It is essentially just a jug with a screw on top and an on/off drain hole at the bottom. The manufacturer tried to make a bottom piece in which you can set the plastic drum or jug so you can use a crank to turn it back and forth at a rate of about once per second, to rock the water back and forth and through your clothing fibers, cleaning them like a normal washing machine. But I think it is easier to just hold the jug and shake it back and forth for about 2-3 minutes, drain, and repeat. It is enough for 2 days of laundry and I do it while I shower. Then, you can just pancake the clothes on one another and press out the excess water. That is better than wringing them out, which causes wrinkles when done too much.

    How about stationary exercise bike, but the wheels are the jugs, and when you ride, they turn. And you can peddle forward or backwards. :-)

  2. FlatGreg August 22, 2007 at 10:52 am

    While I agree that cleaning clothes is energy intensive, to say that the energy cost in producing a t-shirt doesn’t come close to the energy cost in keeping it clean is a bit misleading. If cleaning a tshirt accounts for 60% of its energy requirements during its lifetime, then that means the remaining 40% was from manufacture, transportation, etc. 60% vs 40%? I’d say that’s fairly close.

  3. turtlebella August 22, 2007 at 10:29 am

    We have an LG condensor – combo washer/dryer. And we love it! Well, I should say, my husband loves it as he’s the one that does all our laundry. He shows it off to everyone who visits us. And it has a bunch of customizable programs, hand wash, wash it 8 hours from now, just wah, don’t dry, just dry, delicates, normal (which weighs or something the amount of laundry in there to determine the amount of water). And because it’s ventless we have it upstairs in our bathroom. I can’t really understand why these haven’t taken off more in this country. Granted houses here are bigger and so we don’t need to save space, generally speaking. But– our washer and dryer used to be in the basement, as I know a lot of people’s are. Who’d rather do laundry NOT in the basement, show of hands, please? And I can’t think why these wouldn’t be placed in apartments in NYC and other large cities with lots of apartments. Beats the heck out of communal laundry rooms and laundromats! Add the energy-efficiency and lower environmental impact and it seems like win-win for everyone.

  4. Design for MySpace August 22, 2007 at 10:15 am

    I really appreciate the concept of human powered washing machines. They’re are quite innovative at the broader level. Jennifer is a real design big daddy

  5. minxlj August 22, 2007 at 6:30 am

    I saw the Cyclean on a UK TV programme last night – what a genius idea! I hope there will be some method of storing the power though, because I often like to have the washing done while I’m busy doing something else, but I love the idea of my gym workout being combined into generating power for something!

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