Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Is your wardrobe bad for the planet?

You can have someone come round to the house and tell you.

We begin by analysing everything I've purchased over the past year. With laptop in hand, the screen presents an exhaustive list of clothing types to chose from, from cotton socks to jeans to silk shirts to wool suits. Having been in maternity clothes for 12 months, it's easy enough to remember what I've bought, although I need to think hard when it comes to household linen. I can count on one hand the number of clothes my husband's bought this year, even though he's a style-conscious Italian.

Admittedly, this is what differentiates us from the "average" household where a woman buys 34 new items of clothes a year, a figure that has nearly doubled in the past decade. What makes this possible is that, in that same time, the average cost of clothes has dropped by 36 per cent, with £1 in every £4 now spent on bargain fashion. Retailers exacerbate our obsession with "newness" by producing up to 20 different clothing collections a year. In this constantly revolving carousel, getting on the clothing treadmill has become too easy.

The next part is where I get into trouble. Over the following screens, I answer a rapid-fire set of questions. How many clothing washes do I do a week? About one wash a day. At what temperature? 40 degrees (I don't have a 30 degree setting). How many times do I tumble dry a week? None, we don't even have a tumble dryer. What about ironing? About seven hours a week. Phil gasps...

A couple clicks of the mouse, then a figure appears at the bottom of the screen. Our household EDUs is 1,282. A breakdown shows that our actual clothing EDUs is quite low at 558. But then there's the laundry, which at 724 EDUs is slightly alarming. It includes 324 from washing and a whopping 400 from ironing.

The ironing is what did us in, more environmentally damaging than our washing. "It's like having the kettle switched on for seven hours straight," says Phil. But more shocking, if we add seven tumble-dryer loads a week. The figure more than doubles.

10 comments:

Lady Julia said...

A new book, a new baby and a blog...Christ, Linda, I don't know how you find time not to have a dryer!

Linda Grant said...

That's not me, it's a quote from an Independent article.

Lady Julia said...

Yes, silly me. As I posted the comment, I went off to read the whole article and realised I had jumped the gun. Blame it on the Olympics.

Deja Pseu said...

Having a baby or young child in the house automaticcally means more laundry. There's just no way around it; not only the baby's clothing needs to be washed after one or two wearings, but parents' too lest one walk around with dried spit-up (or worse) on both shoulders.

Kuri said...

I find one of the benefits of line-drying (I use a drying rack in the basement so that it doesn't matter what the weather is doing) is that there are far fewer wrinkles to iron out in the first place. If I need to iron a line-dried garment at all, it's a much quicker job than ironing a tumble-dried one.

I guessing (hoping) that the author of that article is only washing every day because she's a new mom and therefore has cloth diapers and soiled baby clothes deal with. I can't imagine washing adult clothing (or even that belonging to older children) that often.

Bobbi said...

Heh, He would have a downright heart attack about my houehold, where with a very large family we do between three and four loads of laundry a day. (Yes upwards of thirty loads per week) I line dry about half of that, but haven't the physical space to hang more. As for ironing, minimum one shirt per day for my spouse, plus drycleaning for his suits. My kids are still accepting hand me downs (we'll see how long that lasts into the teen years). I purposefully spent a minor fortune in Canada, buying a top line low water machine from Europe and watched my power bill plummet, but I am not sure this would be good enough for those mentioned in this article.

Anonymous said...

seven hours of ironing a week. i do less than seven hours a year!

Geraldine said...

There are currently 4 in my household - including 2 teenagers. I iron shirts, shorts, chinos and T's for my husband; jeans, T's and hoodies for my son; T's, dresses, tops and trousers for me and my daughter. We all look nicely pressed. This takes me max one and a half hours per week over two separate occasions.

Seriously, taking 7 hours of one's week to iron is weird in a household of 3! Is it a misprint? Or is she just a very slow ironer? I would suggest she is ironing in order to avoid doing other things. Just can't get over it!

Geri

Rollergirl said...

My experience is the opposite to Kuri. I find if I fold things straight from the tumble drier then they don't need ironing. Line drying creates a horrid cardboard-like horizontal line across my clothes. But I offset the non eco-friendliness of the tumble drier against my anti-fast fashion stance (ie, I buy expensive classics that I wear forever).

Elaine said...

I don't have a basement so I can't line dry inside. If I hang the laundry outside to dry, I'm likely to get complaints from my neighbors; it's considered an eyesore. It's also a no-no if you have allergies since you newly dried clothing will be covered in pollen. I average about 2 loads of wash a day and it all goes in the dryer. There's no way I'm giving up ironing. It makes your clothes look newer and fit better. I choose my own clothes carefully and wear them for years but I've got two boys who can grow a few inches overnight and are incredibly hard on their clothes. All in all, I fail this test miserably. At least I've got a good, energy-efficient front loading washer and dryer.