Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Up on my soapbox

“The earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. 
We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations.” 

Yesterday I was down in the dumps but today I'm up on my soapbox. Remember I told you how concerned I was about the amount of plastic that comes and goes out of our house? Well, I'm taking steps to reduce it, starting with our laundry detergent. Hear me out.

When we moved out to Farm Dover, we bought a high-efficiency, front-loading washing machine. I started buying liquid Tide detergent in those ubiquitous orange plastic containers. Whenever I saw it on sale, I'd load up my cart with three or four bottles. Once they were empty, we would recycle them, even though I knew that most plastics are not recyclable in the same way that glass and metal are. (They are typically turned into only one other product, which must be landfilled at the end of its life.)

After only one day of clean up in our farm dump, I was disgusted by all the plastic bottles that would take a least half millennium to decompose. Think about it: if a crewman on the Nina, Pinta or Santa Maria had pitched a Tide detergent bottle overboard, it would just now be reaching decomposition.

I did some research and figured out I could make my own laundry detergent by combining borax (that comes in a cardboard box) and washing soda (also in a cardboard box) and one bar of Dr. Bonner's pure-castille soap.

I recycled Maggie's 5-gallon beer-making pail for the job. I filled it with 4.5 gallons of warm water and dissolved 1 cup each of the borax and washing soda. Then I grated the bar of soap and "cooked" it in 1/2 gallon of simmering water until all the soap gratings had dissolved. I added that to the pail, gave it a good stir and now I'm all set with enough detergent to run 80 loads of wash. An added bonus: the total cost is just a fraction of what I would have spent on Tide.

I tested it out on a load of dirty kitchen towels and my big fuzzy robe. I am pleased with the result. The suds were low (a good thing), the laundry came out clean (a good thing) and, because the bar of soap was lavender scented, it smelled mild and pleasant (another good thing).

I'm so inspired, I'm thinking of tackling cleaning products and shampoo/conditioner next. But, for the time being, I'll climb off my soapbox. I'll got some laundry to do.

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