With one surprisingly simple innovation, a student and researcher from Nottingham Trent University has figured out how to make washing machine companies clean up their carbon emissions. Simply designing a lighter washing machine can save the United Kingdom almost 45,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year in transportation alone.
Undergraduate Dylan Knight, who studies BSc (Hons) Product Design, worked together with intelligent engineering systems professor Amin Al-Habaibeh to tweak the existing washing machine design. Manufacturers today use concrete blocks weighing over 55 pounds to prevent washers from vibrating heavily during spin cycles. As one would expect, this greatly increases the weight of the appliance and creates carbon emissions through the production and transportation of concrete.
To cut down on weight, Knight substituted for the concrete counterweight a hollow piece of plastic that weighs less than 7 pounds. Once in place, owners fill the plastic counterweight with water, making it just as effective as the concrete block.
With this one simple adjustment, the new design reduces the weight of a washing machine by 30 percent. In turn, this lowers the cost of fuel for transportation and the risk of physical injury while lifting and installing the product.
According to Statista, sales of washing machines in the United States are expected to hit 10 million this year. If each machine weighed approximately 50 pounds less, that quickly adds up to some transportation energy savings. In the United Kingdom alone, about 3.5 million washers are sold each year. By replacing the counterweight and creating a lighter washing machine, the carbon savings would equal roughly 44,625 tons of C02 and the fuel consumption would decrease by over 48,500 gallons. This takes into account an average travel distance of only about 30 miles.
If this design choice goes into effect, it will be important for users to remember to fill their plastic counterweight with water. Recent Samsung washing machines were recalled because their violent vibrations are actually causing the machines to damage themselves.
For those who are looking for other ways to reduce their carbon footprint, another student has developed Sous La Vide bags to cook foods like fish, steak, and vegetables in a washing machine. Laundry and dinner can be done in one load.