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In case you haven't noticed, there's an eco-friendly laundry detergent revolution happening.
While the mere concept of environmentally friendly laundry detergent isn't new, the diversity, effectiveness, and affordability of greener cleaning options has improved in recent years. The traditional market leader and one of the most well-respected environmentally friendly brands, Seventh Generation, has been joined by a growing crop of upstarts that are bringing bold new approaches to the task of making laundry less environmentally damaging (which is no small challenge).
Names like Tru Earth, Earth Breeze, Earth Hero, Net Zero, Dropps, and BioKleen are just some of the companies vying for the attention of consumers. And the offerings and value propositions of these more recent entrants are exciting for those wanting to do their part to save the planet without busting their budget.
Not only are these companies majorly reducing the enormous amount of plastic pollution associated with your laundry routine, they are also reducing the carbon footprint associated with the industry as a whole, and they're baking charitable environmental initiatives into their business models. Let's all say it together, shall we? Yay!
And of course, equally important to those of us sorting through the family laundry pile each week and balancing the household budget, these upstarts present a direct challenge to the widely held misconception that such products are less effective and more costly (which experts say has traditionally been a barrier to mass adoption of environmentally friendly laundry products). Neither of these issues are necessarily true anymore, depending on the product you purchase. For instance, independent reviews of products like Tru Earth's Eco-Strips found that they do a very respectable job of cleaning stains from you laundry. And a pack of 32 strips (enough to do more than one month's worth of laundry if you do a load every single day) can be purchased for just $12.95.
The bottom line: These eco-friendly products have come a long, long way. Innovations have come so far that consumers no longer have to sacrifice anything in order to make the right decision for the planet.
"There are so many options out there that don't involve a habit change. It's literally choosing between option A or option B. And oh, by the way, option B is better for the planet," says Shannon Kenny, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based sustainability consultant. "This is good news. There are a ton of companies tackling the different environmental issues associated with laundry products, and they're tackling them from all different angles. They're also disrupting the laundry market with trendy branding to pull in not only the tree huggers but also millennials."
Here's a closer look at some of the noteworthy and budget-friendly options for greening your laundry routine without spending a fortune.
Consider this startling fact the next time you reach for a bottle of laundry detergent at the supermarket: 700,000,000 plastic laundry jugs are dumped into landfills across North America every year.
Tru Earth is one of the many companies hoping to fix this problem, and as already mentioned, its laundry strips have received very favorable reviews. (And just in case you’re not totally satisfied, the company offers a 100 percent money-back guarantee.)
Laundry strips work in all washing machines, and they're easy to use; they simply dissolve once you put them in hot or cold water.
But here are a few more reasons why these laundry strips are an improvement over your giant jug of liquid detergent. To begin with, the strips have a much smaller eco-footprint than liquid and even powder detergent. The most obvious win is that they’re not delivered in a big plastic jug, and use zero plastic. In addition, because the strips and their packaging are so lightweight, there’s a dramatic reduction in the fuel consumption associated with transportation of these products, and thus a reduction in global warming carbon emissions. Tru Earth claims its product reduces emissions by a whopping 94 percent compared to liquid and powder detergent.
As an added bonus, these strips are far healthier than many standard detergents. They're paraben-free, phosphate-free, and have no bleach or added dyes.
Tru Earth is hardly the only option available when it comes to laundry detergent strips.
Earth Breeze is another notable and wallet-friendly choice. When you sign up for subscribe and save, the cost of 60 laundry sheets (60 loads) is $12. Let’s go over that again, because it’s shockingly affordable: $12 for two months of laundry. For at least some of us, that’s a big savings.
In addition to coming with all the same eco- and health perks as Tru Earth (no plastic packaging, reduced carbon footprint, paraben- and phosphate-free) here’s another thing to love about Earth Breeze: for every sale, it donates 10 loads of laundry strips to nonprofits and charitable organizations. The company also donates 1 percent of its revenue to non-profits.
Dropps offers a slightly different look and feel to the market of eco-friendly laundry options. Its detergent is contained in small pods, similar to what you might use in a dishwasher. The detergent inside each pod is made from plant-based ingredients that have been third-party lab-tested to prove they work.
It’s also worth noting that Dropps, which says it harnesses the power of nature to make products that really clean, is a recipient of the EPA Safer Choice Partner of the Year award. The company is also an exclusive home cleaning partner of Oceana, the world's largest ocean conservancy organization. And one more factoid sure to please the eco-conscious crowd: the shipping of Dropps products is 100 percent carbon neutral. The company partners with 3Degrees to offset the carbon generated by every shipment. The company offset more than 650 metric tons this year alone.
As for the price, these too are very budget friendly at $18 (via subscribe and save) for 56 pods, or nearly enough for two months, depending how much laundry you do.
One last point about Dropps, they make far more than just standard laundry detergent. The company's product line also includes sensitive skin and baby detergent, and dishwasher pods.
Yet another eco-friendly approach, Ohio-based Brighton Wool & Honey Co. sells laundry detergent in reusable quart-size canning jars. Every jar of the company’s natural laundry soap is hand mixed, hand-bottled, and hand-assembled.
The All Natural Lavender Laundry Soap (which comes with a handy wooden scoop) sells for $14, and each jar contains enough detergent to do anywhere from 75 to 100 loads. You don’t have to be a math genius to figure out how downright affordable that is.
Local customers can even return jars for reuse and earn a $1 credit toward their next purchase.
“We sanitize and reuse them, thus significantly cutting down on environmental impact,” says founder Maggie Osborn. “Plus, our soap is made from just five simple ingredients with no water run-off pollution.”
In case you weren’t aware, all fabrics release fibers, such as lint and fuzz, each time they’re washed. And clothing that’s made from synthetic materials, like polyester and nylon, are no different. But here’s the problem with this reality: “Those synthetic fibers are essentially made of plastic, which means there's a slew of microplastics entering our waterways via our washing machines on a daily basis,” says Kenny.
Until the day that washing machines are constructed with a built-in microplastic filter (in the same manner that most dryers have a lint filter), the burden lies with the consumer to do their part, and Cora Ball and Guppy Friend can help.
Billing itself as the world’s first microfiber catching laundry ball, (which you just drop into your washing machine with your dirty clothes) Cora Ball was designed by a team of ocean scientists and educators as a solution to the very real problem of plastics flooding into public waterways.
Cora Ball is available from a variety of brick-and-mortar and online retailersand the one-time purchase is $38, which admittedly makes it one of the pricier items on this eco-friendly laundry list. However, that's a one-time cost, as Cora Balls can be used for years and years.
Guppy Friend tackles the microplastics issue by providing a washing bag to put your clothing inside before putting the dirty items into the washing machine. The bag (which costs $34.95 and can be used for at least 50 washes) promises to reduce fiber shedding.
The proliferation of eco-friendly laundry products is having a variety of positive impacts, not the least of which is that it's causing people to think more carefully about the products they buy, says Marc Lewis, general manager of EcoWatch.
Consumers, he says, have become increasingly more aware of the toxicity of traditional laundry detergents and how those detergents can affect their skin. They’re also becoming more knowledgeable about the side effects of fast-fashion and the resulting micro-plastics polluting the environment from disposable, or short-term clothing purchases. And hopefully consumers will also soon begin to realize that being eco-conscious doesn’t mean sacrificing cleaning quality or spending more money. In fact, in many cases, going green can save you cash.
If the final few hurdles to mass adoption are cleared, Lewis predicts that collectively the impact could be quite significant and truly positive for the planet. Still, there’s an even more challenging mindset change that needs to take place first, says Lewis: “In the developed world, we’ve been led to believe that we need to wash our clothes after every use, regardless of how clean or dirty it is after we wear it. As a result, we probably use too much laundry detergent, which is bad in three ways: it degrades the quality of our clothes, it’s bad for the environment, and, most importantly, it means we need to buy more detergent more frequently.”
This mindset shift should really be a no-brainer, however, if you want to trim your household budget and help save the planet.