Again, as with most things green, this is all about careful consideration of resources and reuse.
Let me say that I don't remember the last time that either of us bought a new item of clothing... it's been years. We've become avid Goodwill and consignment store shoppers, as well as the welcome recipients of hand-me-downs. We've found that the Goodwill in Raleigh, off of Glenwood and behind Target, has exceptional values, as it's in a rather affluent area, so it means that things are generally more gently used and are of better quality to begin with. With Benny working at the paint store, it hardly makes sense to buy new clothes, so all of his work pants come from Goodwill or another thrift shop. My clothes are either gifts, hand-me-downs, or from thrift/consignment stores. The only things we buy new are socks and underwear, which we try to buy using a gift card, coupon (sometimes around Christmas you'll see Hanes coupons), and/or at the outlet stores (Benny found his favorite socks at Costco). By purchasing the majority of our clothing from thrift stores, we're supporting their mission while keeping these gently used clothes out of the landfill. Certainly, our next steps here would be if we need to purchase new, to purchase from a reputable company that does organic or natural clothing. (Did you know that 25% of the pesticides used on crops goes toward cotton?! Outrageous... and then we bury our heads in a cotton pillowcase at night... Pottery Barn has some incredible organic bedding at relatively affordable prices if you're appalled by this statistic as much as I was.)
In terms of shoes, we generally try to purchase items on sale and/or with a coupon or promo code online. Many of my shoes I've had for years, finally having to part with some I've had since 8th grade because the sole literally came off (yes, I know I could have had them repaired--but wasn't it about time I had a new pair of brown shoes!). I have a thing about purchasing used shoes, since you can't always wash them, so we generally buy those new. We either go to the outlets, or Mast General Store. Although Mast is expensive, they do carry lots of brands that are being made with earth friendly materials. Once I found those brands, I went to 6pm and found them there for a fraction of the cost. Other brands that Benny likes are Land's End shoes and Crocs, although the ecofriendly part of these is more questionable, the health of his feet and back is important since he's on his feet all day.
When we do laundry, we use Charlie's Soap, an all natural, biodegradable soap. We purchase it here at EarthFare, but you can find it online or at most any natural foods market. We also add our own laundry booster, using the lavender we currently purchase from Sunshine Lavender Farm, a family run, organic lavender farm in Hillsborough, NC. When we get our lavender plants in the ground, we'll begin using our own lavender. I may try using mint in the booster this summer for an alternate fragrance. (You will soon be able to purchase our lavender and handmade gifts at Moonlight Lavender, our online store and website. It is our hope that through this store and careful saving, in a few years, Benny will be able to be a stay at home dad.) The great thing about using all natural, biodegradable soaps is that the water is not contaminated. One day, we'd like to be able to run a greywater system from our washing machine to water the gardens with. (If you don't know about greywater systems, check them out on Google or another search engine. They're amazing, if your area allows for them in the building codes.)
None of our clothing is washed in hot water, or even warm. Even though we have tankless water heaters, we feel that it's a waste of energy to wash our clothing in hot water. The detergent gets them clean, and washing in cooler water maintains the integrity of the fabric longer. I've also found that by turning clothing inside out before washing, if the fabric is going to fade, it does this on the inside, rather than the outside. The only time I use hot or warm water is on bedding and towels (and handkerchiefs, which Benny carries daily), so that we get rid of dust mites (which live in bedding... gross!) and germs. This is especially key when one of us is sick.
To save energy on drying, we've employed a few methods. First, we hang all clothing, either on drying racks (mostly socks and underwear) in the half bath that is adjacent to the laundry closet, or on hangers. Currently, we have one rod installed in the laundry closet to hang clothes on, but it's a bit too low for Benny's shirts and my pants/skirts, so for now, we rest the hangers on the moulding around the closet. We're hoping that with our next trip to the Restore (the local Habitat for Humanity reseller--fantastic for building supplies), we can score another closet rod to install a little higher to hang those longer items on. We'll install clothesline outside under the deck in the spring. Last summer, all the towels, blankets, sheets, etc. were hung on the deck railings, but there were times we had to chase them through the yard, because they weren't weighed down. The clothesline will fix this. The only thing we dry in the dryer is towels, sheets, etc. in the winter. When I do use the dryer, I save the dryer lint to do a few things with: 1) Use it as stuffing in draft dodgers I make for the doors. 2) Compost it along with our other compost-ables. 3) Toss it outside in spring for the birds to use as nesting material. (Yes, we find another use for almost everything in this house, meaning that we only have to take away one trash bag about every two weeks--much less than the average American family. And it saves us on trashbags, but that's another post.)
So, here's to a new lease on laundry for you and your family! May you find many deals at Goodwill and fall in love with biodegradable soaps as much as we have. :)
I'm linking this post up to: Join us at Heavenly Homemakers for the little Green Project!