The main environmental issues caused by washing machines are the amount of water and power used, along with any chemicals in the cleaning products. The good news is manufacturers are providing more and more options to help you save the planet. Today's machines are much more efficient than older ones, and a few careful adjustments to the way you wash can really save energy costs and reduce your carbon footprint.
Reduce the temperature of your wash: The higher your machine has to heat the water, the more power it uses. Today's equipment can often provide excellent cleaning results without needing to get all hot and sweaty. For everyday washes, try reducing the temperature slightly each time until you find the best balance between cleaning results and a cool wash.
Shorten your wash: The longer your clothes spin around in the machine, the more power and water it's going to be using. Many machines feature a Timesaver or Quickwash mode which can reduce the length of the cycle enormously and still produce great results. Shorter spins also bring the benefit of less wear-and-tear to the machine, making it last longer.
Bigger washes: Putting a few clothes in the machine still uses as much power and water as a full load. Saving up a few day's washing so you're not using all that water just for a couple of pairs of socks is much better for the environment.
Greener cleaning products: There are a myriad of washing powders, liquids and other treatments we can buy, and some are much better for the environment than others. You may be able to find a greener brand that still provides the same cleaning power as your regular product.
Laundry Balls: Although debatable as to how effective they are, you could also invest in a set of laundry balls. Placed directly into the machine with the washing, these claim to provide a variety of environmental benefits. Some suggest they create extra scrubbing action as your clothes tumble through their wash cycle, meaning you can reduce the amount of detergent you would normally need to use. Others claim their cleaning powers are such that you can dispense with detergents and softeners altogether, saving you money and the environment. Different brands say they work in different ways, but some people find them more effective than others.
With a little effort and a little trial and error, your whites will come out white while still being green.