There are various levels of sustainability when it comes to laundry detergent. I am still on my own quest to find the most environmental and health friendly product, and think that I will likely settle on a product sold in a carton and containing lots of baking soda. It is easy to get lost in the mad world of choice, particularly when it comes to purchasing laundry detergent. There is powder, liquid, single strength, double strength, name brand, generic, pre-measured capsules, skin-sensitive, children-friendly, allergy-free and more. These products also vary tremendously in price, with much of the pricing attributed to marketing and packaging. Somehow consumers have become blinded, either through personal willingness, industrial prowess and savvy marketing, or just plain stupidity (is it good to insult) when purchasing detergent.
Selecting the right detergent, for some, is not about price, quality, or ingredients, but convenience. Focusing on this last attribute first, it must be mentioned that all the chemicals (I have no idea but plan to learn) found in laundry detergent must end up somewhere post-use. Likely, there is some residue in the clothing, which comes in contact with the skin, and this is why some detergents can cause irritation. More seriously, these chemicals make their way through the washing machine, out of the building via a wastewater pipe to a water treatment facility. Here the water is treated and returned to the municipal water supply. My science is a bit shaky but the chemicals must reach a final destination? Is the water treated with more chemicals? Are the chemicals extracted? Is there any residue in the drinking water? I hope not.
What I find most shocking is the level of convenience that can actually be sold in modern society. Take the following example of two similar products, both liquid detergents, but the latter is sold in pre-measured capsules. The ancient product, sold in one bottle, contains 150 ounces of product and is on sale for $9.99, while the fancy new pre-packaged capsules contain a whopping 50.7 ounces and cost $10.99. This translates to $0.07 and $0.22 cents an ounce. The pre-packaged laundry detergent costs roughly three times the ancient product. I also question what those little bags containing the pre-measured detergent are made of? Do they dissolve in the water? Yummy! Economic savings is a no-brainer in this case, unless of course the consumer is searching for the ultimate convenience. But how inconvenient is it to measure a little cup of laundry detergent? It seems that the ancient product even contains a measuring cup. And at what quality of life is someone living that time has become so precious that measuring a bit of laundry detergent has become unfeasible?