As luck would have it, all of our household appliances are going out at the same time. We replaced our refrigerator three months ago, the washer/gas dryer unit is leaking transmission fluid and has been deemed “unfixable” by our appliance tech, and our hot water heater is on its way out. The question is, should we replace those appliances, come up with alternatives, or learn to live without them?
I have long petitioned to get rid of our household appliances in the name of saving energy, saving resources, and saving money. I have argued with my husband that we possess the ingenuity to reduce our impact on the planet while still maintaining our standard of living. I lost the argument about living without a refrigerator (at least for now), and am now arguing that we live without a washing machine or dryer. Gulp.
The reality of the situation is that if we have our old washer/gas dryer hauled away, and “replace” that appliance with hand washing laundry tools, I, personally will see an impact to my standard of living. I do the bulk of the laundry around the house and I am the one arguing to get rid of the appliances. (I assure that if I “win” this argument it will be me, and me alone outside in February plunging our clothes clean). Right now “washing and drying” a load of laundry takes no more than 5 – 10 minutes of my time. I sort the clothes, add them to the washing machine, add some soap, turn the machine on and walk away. Drying clothes is much the same – clothes in the dryer, add dryer sheet, clean lint trap, set machine and I am done.
Compare the above scenario to hand washing laundry. Plunging clothes in basin (minimum of 100 plunges for each round), rinsing and plunging clothes again, rinsing and plunging clothes one more time, running clothes through a wringer, and finally hanging clothes to dry. What currently takes me no more than ten minutes could in the foreseeable future take me 12 times as long. Considering that we run 2 – 3 loads of laundry each week, in the future I could be doing laundry not for 30 minutes each week, but instead for six hours each week (in both cases this excludes time for folding laundry and putting clothes away). Not only is the time commitment considerably higher, but the work is hard and back-breaking. It is true that we would save energy, resources, and money, but am I really up for this? I turn 40 this year and am not getting any younger, and I wonder if this is a lifestyle choice I can endure into the future. I want to save the planet, or do I?
So here are the questions for you: Should my husband and I buy the shiny new appliance (or new-to-us appliance) and make the environment pay by our continued dependence on natural gas/fracking, coal, mineral extraction, oil dependence, and water pumped into a desert? Or should the “payment” for the clean laundry be made less by the environment and more by us (me) in the form of sweat equity? What should we do? What would you do? Would you give up your washer/dryer and commit to hours of additional work for the sake of resource protection? These are really tough questions, and I don’t pretend to have the answers. We are making our decision in the next week and could really use your help. We’d love to hear from you on this so definitely leave a comment below and let us know what you think we should do.