It is no secret that by and large, the majority of Canadians are addicted to the convenience of disposable items, so it is heartening to see ordinary citizens like Latelin Leblond and Tara Smith-Arnsdorf doing something about it.
Most of us grew up aware of the three “R”s; reduce, reuse and recycle, but darn it, it seems that for every good idea that comes along there is another more insidious convenience that makes any of the three “R’s unsavoury; disposable diapers, throw away excessive packaging, disposable single-serving coffee makers are among the most ubiquitous examples of our disposable values. There are countless ways to reduce and reuse and recycle, and to these we should add another few “R”s: rethink, retrain and replace. Rethink the way we consume and the way we waste, retrain ourselves to get used to a new (often “old”) way of doing things, and replace certain environmental practices and products with (let’s call them “unvironmental”) sustainable choices and actions. It’s really simple, but as we know, simple and easy are two different words.
There are products out there that make adopting new practices for mundane, everyday activities both easy and simple. Take doing the laundry as an example. A 2.3 liter jug of a leading laundry soap professes to clean 39 loads of laundry. The detergent promises to be “safe” for the environment, but what about the energy and cost that goes into its making, or the energy needed to recycle the millions of plastic jugs?
Soapberries are a 100% natural and chemical -free product that are as effective as commercial detergents, but are organic, sustainably harvested and completely biodegradable. Harvested form the Sapindus Mukorossi (or soapberry) tree in Nepal, soapberries, often called soap nuts, are the fruit of the tree that, when dried, act as a detergent.
“Soap nuts contain large amounts of saponins in their shells, which are a natural surfactant. Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension of a liquid, and so can be used as detergents or foaming agents.”- Davidsuzuki.org
To use them, you just place 5 nuts in a little cloth bag that comes with the berries, and plop this in your laundry instead of detergent. The bag can be used for up to 7 loads of laundry, and afterwards can be tossed into your compost or green bin. They are also cost-effective, as a 250g bag that retails for under 20$ can handle over 110 loads of laundry. They are fragrance free and there is no large jug that has to go into the recycling bin every few weeks.
While we’re on the subject, there is no need to buy fabric softener, either the liquid variety or the chemical laden, non-recyclable sheets. We have been conditioned to think we need fabric softener but we can attain static free, totally soft clothes and sheets just by putting a couple of dryer balls in the load – they really work. You can even use a couple of clean tennis balls for this, like the gentleman who runs the Laundromat in my neighbourhood uses.
See how easy it is to rethink and replace? Talk about thinking outside of the box…of detergent.