Laundry: Innovation and Environmental Concerns

While reading about hand washing clothes, I came across a lot of devices meant to simplify the process of hand washing laundry. Some seemed excessive and prohibitively expensive; I came across a few that were so complex that they were essentially a mini-washing machine (still requiring electricity), and others that just looked like a fancy salad spinner (with a big price mark-up), but I came across a few that I thought were noteworthy. I was particularly interested in products and prototypes that were targeted for use in third-world countries. I was hoping to find more products that incorporated greywater recycling, but often, that was little more than an after thought in the design. However, many of the designs would reduce the amount of water required to wash clothes, so that is a step in the right direction. Here are some that I thought were noteworthy:

Wash-E, designed by Hortense Desodt.

Wash-E, designed by Hortense Desodt.

WASH-E designed by Hortense Desodt.

A pedal powered washer designed by Alex Cabunoc and Ji A You.

Before this week, I had never heard of soap nuts (which are actually berries) before, but they seem intriguing. It seems as though they can be used as a natural substitute for just about any kind of soap.

I also did some reading on greywater reuse initiatives, research, and projects. It seems to be picking up momentum in the United States and some other developed countries as people are trying to ‘go green’, but there have not been many wide-scale community based projects implemented (from what I could find). I found one such project conducted in India, under the auspice of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). For this project they implemented and evaluated greywater reuse systems in rural schools. The resulting guidance manual can be found online at the NEERI website.

The Pacific Institute, released an interesting article “Overview of Greywater Reuse: The Potential of Greywater Systems to Aid Sustainable Water Management“, evaluating current systems for greywater reuse, and policies and perceptions related to greywater reuse. I thought it was a very thorough and interesting read that provided environmental, social and economic analysis of current options and prospects (so it wasn’t just science jargon).


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