Friday, 16 October 2009

Dumb questions about being Eco-friendly & Green (10)

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Q19: Will washing my clothes at 30 degree C really get them clean?

A: If the reaction of consumers is anything to go by, washing powders formulated for use at lower temperatures do work. In a 2006 study by the UK's Energy Saving Trust, 89% of families who had been asked to test Ariel at 30 degree C said they would continue using it that way. Likewise, while only 2% of UK households were washing at 30 degree C in 2002, five years later that figure was 17%. Meanwhile in Germany, where people have traditionally used lower washing settings than in the UK, they are turning down to 20 degree C, and in North America growing numbers are doing their laundry in cold water. Unfortunately, there are some nasties that low temperatures may not remove. Researchers from the University of Seoul, South Korea, found that washing with biological detergent at 30 degree C only killed 6% of dust mites, compared with 100% at 60 degree C, and leaves traces of other allergens, including pollen grains and dog skin cells. The global detergent manufacturer Unilever, which has been keen to promote the eco-message, still advises customers to run one wash per week at 40 degree C to ensure bacteria don't have a chance to grow in the machine and cause unpleasant smells.

Q20: What is the single most effective thing I can do for the environment?

A: Over a 75-year lifespan, the average European will be responsible for about 900 tonnes of CO2 emissions. For Americans and Australians, the figure is more, like 1500 tonnes. Add to that all of humanity's other environmentally damaging activities, and draconian as it may sound, the answer must surely be to avoid reproducing!

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