How to Green Your Laundry Room

This room of the house often gets overlooked when it comes to going green and saving.

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When many people start focusing their efforts on living a greener life, the laundry room (much like the attic or basement) often plays second fiddle to other, more visible rooms in the house. But according to Energy Star, the average American family does around 400 loads of laundry per year.  So, it's easy to see how your laundry room can have a significant impact on how energy efficient your home is, especially if you have a larger family. What can you do to green your laundry routine? Below are five tips you can start using right away.

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1. Go with an Energy Star Washing Machine The average Energy Star washing machine uses 37 percent less energy and 50 percent less water than non-rated models. If you're in the market for an upgrade, you can shave your energy costs by one-third simply by buying an Energy Star model. Also keep in mind the best times of the year to buy large appliances so you can get the best deal possible.

2. Air-Dry Your Clothes Spring is just around the corner and line drying your clothes outside is a wonderful way to reduce your energy consumption because clothes dryers are one of the biggest energy hogs in your house. Eliminating this expenditure can not only save you money, but it will also keep tons of carbon emissions out of the atmosphere.

How much exactly? Clothes dryers emit, on average, around 5 to 7 pounds of carbon emissions for every hour they're in use. Multiply that by roughly 400 loads per year, and you can see how line drying can make a big difference for the environment. You can even line dry your clothes in the winter. I have a drying rack and three clothes lines strung up in my basement. Because the furnace is down there, they dry fairly quickly.

3. Use Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergents Most commercial laundry detergents or even homemade laundry detergent recipes contain chemicals that can wreak havoc on your local watershed. Plus, traces of these chemicals are left on your clothing once they go through the wash cycle. This means that all the chemicals and fragrances used in your detergent are in contact with your skin all day. Switching to a natural laundry detergent, which uses plant-based ingredients, will not only be healthier for you and your family, but it will also leave less of a harmful impact on the environment.

One option you might want to consider is using soap nuts. Soap nuts are actually not nuts at all, they're berries that grow on trees in India and Nepal. They're 100 percent natural and non-allergenic, and because soap nuts are antimicrobial they actually help break down your home's gray water. Each small bag of soap nuts will do five to six loads of laundry; when the soap nuts are used up, you can simply throw them in your compost bin. For more options, check out some of the best places to buy natural green organic cleaning products and supplies.

4. Do Full Loads with Cold Water The more you pack your clothes into your washing machine, the less times you have to run it. Whenever you can, try to do the fullest load possible to cut down on your energy consumption. And you can save a ton of energy simply by washing with cold water. The reason is because 90 percent of the energy your washing machine uses is spent heating the water. Switching to cold makes a very big difference, and your clothes will still get just as clean.

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5. Time Your Loads If you decide to use your clothes dryer, you can maximize the energy it's using simply by timing your laundry loads. For instance, try to do laundry on days when you can immediately put in a new, wet load as soon as the first load is dry. The dryer is already heated up, and you won't waste this energy if you can move fast. You can also cut down your dryer's energy use by cleaning the lint filter every time you do a load. This helps your dryer operate more efficiently.

By using these tips, you can make those 400 loads of laundry each year have less of an impact on the environment, and you can feel good about keeping your family healthier and safer. What other tips do you have to "green your laundry room"?

Heather Levin contributes to the Money Crashers personal finance blog, and writes about green living and saving money on The Greenest Dollar.