Laundry is a tough habit to change. Everyone likes clean clothes, especially college students eager to look clean and presentable for their classmates. When I do laundry, I typically like to put some time and effort into the process. I will use 2 (sometimes even 3) machines and sort my clothing. Colors into one, whites and dress shirts in another, and towels in potentially a third machine. This ensures that khaki pants don’t become stained and towels don’t rub off onto high-quality clothing. I am spreading out my laundry loads for convenience reasons, so that I can get the best possible result (personally) at the end of the laundry process.
I also tend to use warm or even hot water when washing towels, while I always use a cold-water wash for colored clothing. I am not too sure why I do this. I think I have a belief that warm water cleans deeper and more thoroughly with the towels. This may or may not be true; I have never truly done the research on whether this would make a significant difference on the cleanliness of my laundry. I also wash my towels fairly often. Perhaps allowing them dry more often, without washing them, would make it so they don’t become as firm/stiff as they tend to be.
In order to make changes in the direction of sustainability, I will have to make sure laundry happens only once a week at the most. I will designate Friday to being my laundry day, because Sundays are way too busy in the laundry room! When I do laundry, I will compact all of my clothing into one load. Even though there will probably be no social pressure to do this (multiple machines will likely be open on a Friday afternoon), it is environmentally wise to prevent dozens of wasted gallons (plus plenty of wasted electricity) and instead consolidate into one laundry load. Changing the water temperature will require less energy to be used in the heating of the water. This will require self-discipline, as there is no direct incentive to cool the water temperature. It seems like I do laundry the way my mom taught me, and the way everyone else does it. Change will require me to differ from the behavior of most other people.
A recent article from the Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences found that newer laundry machines not only last longer but also consumer 60-70% less water. The washing machines utilized by the school certainly aren’t new, and I highly doubt are efficient with water. Over the course of a laundry machine’s yearly use, upgrading to newer machines can save 142,000 GWh of energy. In combination with my personal conservation efforts, I should urge the school to begin installing new machines as they continue to renovate the dormitories.