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Jago is now 2.5 years old and has developed a boundless supply of energy. The respite of the afternoon naps has been replaced with a constant desire to head off to the dirtiest, dingiest places he can find from where he returns requiring yet another change into clean clothes.
Jago’s newfound sense of adventure means our washing machine is taking a pounding – something that I would normally take for granted as part of the daily routine. But two recent studies by Global Action Plan have made me think differently about the humble washing machine.
When we bought the machine I had a quick look at the energy rating label. The machine we bought was an A which I thought was fine – but I was wrong. Technology has advanced so quickly that the label is now out-dated and the A rating is far from the best. In fact, if all A rated washing machines sold in the UK in 2011 had been A+++, UK households would have saved £16 million in one year and enough energy to power 31,000 homes.
The energy label is not providing consumers with the information they need to make informed decisions. I discussed this with the retailer John Lewis and am delighted that they have decided to test a new label that explains how much energy the machine use will cost over its expected lifespan. The test will take place in 19 stores and it will be intriguing to see if providing better quality information on energy costs will encourage more people to buy the most efficient appliances.
Global Action Plan also carried out research looking at how to encourage people to wash clothes at a lower temperature. Washing clothes at 30°C uses around 30% less energy than washing at 40°C and has a lower carbon footprint yet only half of people make use of the lower temperature option.
We spoke to households to understand what would encourage them to change their washing habits. Of all the reasons we tested – from energy saving to saving money – making their favourite clothes last longer was by far the most important factor. We developed a clothes care pack with the slogan “look after the clothes you love” which persuaded 1 in 2 people to wash at 30°C.
The two studies reminded me that our everyday habits and routines can have an impact on our pockets and the wider environment. Given ever increasing energy costs, buying the most efficient machines and using them more thoughtfully is a relatively easy way to cut household bills.