One Can Challenge: laundry room
If you've got kids, you've got laundry. Loads and loads of it. I even had a terrible moment of horror at a party the other night when my 3-year-old ran up to me, and slapped a big bear hug on me and my shirt -- right after she'd be finger painting. So as much as I try to keep myself clean and not wash every item of clothing after just one wearing, sometimes things are out of my control. The good news was that it was washable kid paint, and the miracle... she had washed her hands first!! So I ended up wet but not painted. That's why you'll see me wearing that same t-shirt today.
But back to the subject at hand: the laundry room. Hopefully, there isn't a ton of waste coming out of most laundry rooms, but like always, there's ways to REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE.
Shall we begin?
Detergents, spot treatments, laundry boosters, fabric softeners. There's a lot of potions involved in washing clothes. Or, there can be. For about a year now, I've been using a BioKleen laundry powder to do our laundry. We used to use a liquid, and I stopped since it seemed like there'd be a larger transportation footprint on a liquid than a powder. The BioKleen powder we use is highly concentrated. It's packaged in a cardboard box, that can be recycled, inside a plastic bag that can be reused. It uses such a tiny bit for each load, I think I may be using this same box of laundry detergent for several years. When I used liquids, they seemed to run out a lot faster. There are some liquid formulas that are also highly concentrated, so while I'm not a user of these, they are probably a better option if you prefer liquids.
While I was never a user of those liquid fabric softeners that you have to put in the machine during the wash cycle, I am not buying those throwaway dryer sheets anymore. I had bought a bunch in bulk at Costco, and am almost done with my last box. A few readers have suggested dryer balls that help prevent static cling (and reduce drying time), but again, I have no experience with them. At least they are not a one-time use then throwaway item like the dryer sheets. If you use some white vinegar in your wash cycle, the fabric should be softened enough to not need any special dryer treatment. We've been using an exterior clothesline to dry our laundry since spring, and no one's complaining about softness issues. I know that once the fall/winter rains begin, we won't be drying outside, so we'll resume using our electric dryer and hopefully be able to manage static cling issues without using disposable dryer sheets.
We have tried a few laundry boosters in our laundry room: white vinegar, washing soda and borax, although frankly, I'm not sure any of them really seem to make a big difference in how clean the clothes are. You may be more passionate about these things than I am. We've never had anyone rave about laundry bluing either. Another thing I never really used because I feared I'd ruin the clothing was chlorine bleach. My mom seemed to swear by it while I was growing up, but I never gained any comfort using it, which is probably for the better since chlorine bleach is such a nasty solution.
I do regularly use spot treatment formulas (called "spot sauce" in our house). Right now we're using BioKleen Bac-Out that does a great job on organic stains (which most of ours are).
It seems like the only thing I ever throw away in our laundry room is the lint from the dryer when we do use it. This lint can be composted provided the majority of your clothing is made from natural fibers. It's such a small amount of lint, that I've not taken this step, but depending on the amount of laundry you do, composting the lint may help whittle down the trash you're creating in your own laundry room
So there you have it. Practically a zero-waste laundry room. Cardboard boxes from detergent, borax and washing soda can be recycled, and plastic bags and jars from detergent, vinegar and spot sauce can be reused or recycled. Lint can be trashed or composted.