This Laundry Liquid is Filled With Chemicals
Although this headline is factually accurate, it's not something we see often. You see, most big brands tend to shy away from using the 'C' word in their marketing. But why? The reality is that it's possible to have a headline talking about the chemicals in our products and still be a sustainable, plant-based, better for the planet laundry liquid.
Let us explain how...
What is a chemical?
A chemical is simply any substances of matter that is created when two or more tiny particles called atoms bond together. From everything our bodies are made of, to the air we breathe, chemicals occur in nature every day. Take water for example, water is formed when two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom bond together to form a water molecule (H2O). Nothing scary about that right!?
Are chemicals dangerous?
I'm sure you've heard the buzz around all these new "chemical- free" products. Otherwise, why would you be here? So, if something claims to be "chemical- free", then chemicals must be bad right?
There is a very common misconception that all chemicals are BAD. If we wanted to get technical, everything has the potential to be bad for us, depending on the dosage. A common saying in the science world is 'the dose makes the poison.' And for some chemicals, it can only take a small dose to be harmful whereas others, we would need to be exposed to a HUGE (unimaginable) amount before it becomes dangerous.
For example, a lot of fruit like pears, bananas and apples naturally contain a chemical called formaldehyde. Sounds ominous. But the average adult would need to eat over 1,200 apples in one day to see the impacts of formaldehyde poisoning.
Please don't go and eat that many apples in one day to try and prove our point. You get what we are trying to say....
So, chemicals can be safe. But what about the impact on our environment?
Bingo. This is where the world of chemicals starts to get interesting.
You see, not all chemicals are created equally.
Let's take the production of glycol ether for example- a common ingredient used in laundry detergents.
Same processing. Same output. Different inputs.
The end output is the same (a liquid that provides laundry liquids with their stain removing suds). But the environmental impact of plants vs petrochemicals is VERY different...
But what impact do petrochemicals actually have?
The process of producing petrochemicals not only uses finite resources and doesn't follow sustainable practices, but it also is a key contributor to climate change. The burning of possible fuels makes up 89% of global CO2 emissions and if we don't halve fossil fuel emissions in the next 11 years, we are expecting to see global temperatures continue to rise (that's straight from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).
Why is processing from plants better?
It's called green chemistry, and it's the development of chemicals for products designed in the most sustainable and safe way. Think about it as the modern approach to product development that actually considers its environmental footprint and not just how it performs or how it smells (even though we care about this as well).
Our head of R&D, Andrew Gowty explains what he looks for when creating a new product using green chemistry principles:
"When we are sourcing the raw ingredients for our products, we have certain criteria that they have to meet. Whenever there is a plant-based option, we will opt for this because we know it has less of an environmental impact when it is produced as well as being biodegradable when it enters our waterways after use."
But how do I know the difference?
This is the challenge! Unfortunately in Australia, the cleaning industry isn't regulated to the point where companies need to state the details of their ingredients list, making it really hard for consumers to be able to spot the brands that are made using petrochemicals and which aren't. Not very helpful right?
We all know that we need to make some drastic shifts in society to put the planet first. And the more we talk about more sustainable alternatives and educate ourselves on the REAL situation, the more pressure there is on the big corporations to make a change. It's these businesses that ultimately control the size and impact of the petrochemical industry and without us forcing them to change- there isn't a great incentive for them (other than saving mankind :/).
The main takeaways from our TED talk?
Hopefully by now we have been able to shake the myth that all chemicals are bad and you will never be fooled by the 'chemical- free' claims again!
Another myth that has been busted? Plant-based products don't work as well as their petrochemical competitors. Now you know that's not true. The raw ingredients are simply sourced more sustainably (which to us, is a totally good thing).
Also, please don't eat 1,200 apples. It won't end well...