Soap nuts are the answer to “How can I be greener this year?”
Many of us have been trying to make our lives greener in the past months. But for many it poses a challenge, because terms like natural and green are so commonly thrown about by companies who are first and foremost manufacturers of chemicals.
While is it not impossible for a company that produces chemical cleaning products to be greener than their competition. The truth is that most if not all so-called natural detergents, natural cleaning products, and natural personal care products simply are NOT natural, and they are rarely green.
So what is green cleaning exactly? Well, again opinions vary about that, hours spent on the internet searching may not provide an answer that makes that clear.
I’ll share my own version of green cleaning here:
- Derived from a naturally occuring substance with little or no alteration
- Limited use of fossil fuels to get product to market
- Environmentally friendly packaging (at least recyclable or reusable packaging)
- Limited negative environmental and human impact when used
- Reduced packaging
- Multiple uses from a single product
Soap nuts are all of those things and here are the finer points on each aspect from the list above.
Derived from a naturally occuring substance with little or no alteration - Soap nuts are ready for use exactly as nature produced them and require NO alteration (except drying) to be useable.
Sustainable – Soap nuts trees grow naturally in areas of the world where few things will grow because they are drought resistant trees. Each soap nut tree will produce soap berries for up to 90 years. At one time the trees were cut down for lumber, but as the demand for the soap berries has increased the trees are now a source of a product for many decades instead of for lumber. In fact in some areas soap nuts are being plantation grown, again in soil that would grow almost nothing else.
Limited use of fossil fuels to get product to market- Soap nuts are hand harvested by the indigenous peoples in the impoverished areas of the world. The deseeding is also done by hand and they are then left to dry naturally. So basically zero fossil fuel consumption to get them ready to market. Now of course fossil fuels are used in getting them from source to end-consumer, but a major segment of the production chain is zero fossil fuel consumptive.
Environmentally friendly packaging (at least recyclable or reusable packaging) – While this is not true of ALL companies that sell soap nuts, NaturOli hand packs the plain muslin soap nuts bags. Additionally there is no ink or printing on NaturOli’s packaging because in truth they see it as a waste of materials and resources. The tags with the use instructions are printed on recycled paper using soy inks. Only true of NaturOli’s soap nuts. Oh and the bags can be reused for all kinds of things which makes the packaging reusable.
Limited negative environmental and human impact when used - Soap nuts are sold as nature grew them, they are not treated in any way, and because the soap berries are naturally antimicrobial they are even being used to remediate toxic soil in some parts of the world. The trees themselves are resistant to pests and fungus which means that there is no need to treat the trees to protect them from parasitic invaders. Soap nuts actually are used in various forms in Aryuvedic medicine which would lead us to believe they have positive impact on humans.
Reduced packaging- I actually cover this earlier in this post, but soap nuts (as sold by NaturOli) have the most minimal packaging possible. The muslin bag and the tag. NaturOli doesn’t even take the extra resources to attach the tag to the bag, because most of us will just pull it off to read it anyway so why waste the materials to attach it in the first place. Some soap nuts suppliers put a plastic liner inside their muslin bags. They tell us it’s to keep the soap nuts fresh. On the contrary it holds moisture inside and can often cause the soap nuts to begin to pre-release saponins making them VERY sticky. This is not what you want, but it’s off topic and I’ll cover that in another post soon.
Biodegradable – Soap nuts can be tossed on the compost heap once you’ve used them and will biodegrade. If used properly there’s virtually nothing left of them because they’ve almostly completely dissolved before you dispose of them.
Multiple uses from a single product – Many people seek multiple purpose cleaners these days. Hey it’s easier to buy one product and do many clenaing jobs with it. That’s also a green approach becausse the fewer products you buy the less production (in theory) and the less packaging to dispose of or reycle. But in the case of soap nuts the uses are pretty limitless.
Take some time to visit previous entries to see all homemade chemical free cleaning products this one single completely natural product can be used for to clean everything from your toilets to your toenails, your carpets to your cars, your laundry to your linoleum, your pots to your pets, and everything in between.
So, are soap nuts green? I’ll leave the final decision to you, but in my house soap nuts have made green cleaning easy.