Since starting this blog I have had so much encouragement for the effort and so many suggestions of topics to discuss that I was overwhelmed and excited all at the same time! It was wonderful to see that so many people were committed to living more eco-friendly lives and I was thrilled to share information with them.
One of the topics raised with my sister in law was that of household cleaning products. She was already doing some research on various products so I asked if she would be interested in completing a write up on her findings so I could share it with everyone. She was definitely excited to dig into the topic even deeper and she emailed me her final piece just the other day.
When I got to the end of the editorial I noticed she was unsure how many leaves to give to each company so the ratings posted below are my interpretation of each strictly based on her findings; I intend to do some research into this topic myself as I am currently using one of the products she mentions. I love the way it works and was pleased at its lack of environmental impact but now I also feel it requires more investigating as Melissa has indicated.
So without further ado, here is her first GLR piece!
The Jury Is Still Out
A big ol' can of worms
OK, for me, the whole issue of what constitutes a "green" laundry detergent just got murkier.
I have been using Seventh Generation laundry detergent almost exclusively for about six months, and feeling pretty good about that, though I knew in my head I didn't really deserve to feel pretty good about it, since I simply picked it up because it was in the "green" section of my grocery store. It's the same kind of shortcut as voting the party line because you were too lazy to read up on the candidates (not that I've ever been guilty of that! not me!).
Cut to last weekend, when I ventured to a different grocery store. I was walking up the detergent aisle and two labels leapt off the shelf at me: One was for Purex Natural Elements, and the other was for Arm & Hammer Essentials. I'd never seen either of these products before, so I picked up both bottles and noticed that they shared "coconut-based surfactant" as a key ingredient.
OK, so a little less call for petroleum...a good thing, right? And my mind started turning over what it means (if anything) for some of the more traditional suppliers of detergents to begin offering greener alternatives.
A case of consumer demand making inroads into the manufacturers' consciousness? One would hope. Or a sop to shush up those consumers while these mega-manufacturers continue to rely on the same old (none-too-eco-friendly) brands as their flagship products? ("Hey, we're trying...yawn.") I am not a person who inherently distrusts all corporations as evil empires, but my healthy skepticism was activated.
Foggier and foggier
Well, lo and behold, turning my Seventh Generation bottle around at home revealed that its key ingredient, likewise, was derived from coconut. Now I was more confused...did this validate the new, big-brand offerings, or lessen the shine on my Seventh Gen stuff? Hmmm.
So off I went to Treehugger to see what they had to say. My search didn't reveal anything much about Purex's offering, but they definitely weren't thrilled about Arm & Hammer's product. Here is an excerpt from Arm and Hammer Essentials (not so fast!):
"Since they think 'Treehuggers' are their target market I think we should let them know that the product has some merits, but using palm kernel oil and coconut oil isn't one of them.
Reduced packaging is great. Reduced energy for transportation is great. Saving money is great. Using an ingredient that promotes the severe deforestation of Southeast and Pacific Asia, not so much... "
Uh, yikes! I knew there had to be a catch!
Coconut: Savior of the planet or...?
While trying to learn more about the coconut connection, I found another Treehugger reference to a "green" cleaner in another category -- Clorox's Green Works cleaners -- not being all it's cracked up to be, due to the coconut issue. Here are two excerpts from Introducing Clorox’s Green Works Cleaners:
"They say their alkyl polyglucoside comes from coconut oil and their ethanol and glycerine from corn oil; while that's better than using petroleum-derived alternatives, there are still major issues with rainforest habitat destruction relating to harvesting coconut oil ..."
"Treehugger's final take on that: "Green Works is better than a conventional alternative, but not perfect."
Anyway, I started to wonder why the coconut-based surfactant is bad for Arm & Hammer but OK for Seventh Generation -- at least from Treehugger’s perspective. Maybe there's some subtle difference that would only be known to chemists. I didn't find an answer so far, but I'm still looking.
So for those keeping score at home:
Purex, Arm & Hammer, Clorox and even (sniff) Seventh Generation will all receive an honorable Three Green Leaves due to their commitment to attempt to be more Earth friendly and the strides they are taking to get there ahead of the pack.
The jury is out, it would seem. Anyone have anything illuminating to say on this topic? I hope so! The takeaway here seems to be that we all need to do the legwork before assuming anything is really as good as it sounds. Sigh. I won't be pouring my Seventh Generation detergent down the drain (other than in the usual clothes-washing sense), but my feel-good vibe is not quite what it was, at least until proven otherwise.
Note: For a fairly detailed explanation of what to consider, in looking for laundry detergents, you can check out The Green Guide report and jump to its product comparison...however, there are not a lot of reviews in to date.