Whilst talking with a friend yesterday, I was again struck by how difficult it is to always ‘do the right thing.’ The problem is that the ‘right thing’ in one area may well be a grievous sin in another. For example, she was telling me that she has always tried to buy eco-friendly dishwashing detergent, but that she recently learnt that the Sumatran Tigers in Indonesia are under threat due to the palm trees that make up their habitat being milled for palm oil – a key ingredient in environmentally friendly detergents. Previously, it was this type of thing that contributed to our ongoing apathy about doing anything at all, adding as it did to an ever-increasing feeling of being overwhelmed by the enormity of trying to step lightly in the world. I don’t think there would be a very quick conclusion to a discussion that tried to decide whether it was better to save the tigers or to protect our waterways and as cheesy as the saying is, it can appear that ignorance is indeed bliss. One of the things I have found this year is that generally people are extremely gracious in providing education when by trying to do the right thing in one particular area our actions are causing a negative consequence in another. Rather than becoming overwhelmed, we try to remind ourselves that it is important to start somewhere, and that along the way we can add to this base in considering other aspects of our lifestyle and consumption. I don’t think it is possible to get it right 100% of the time, but my ignorance is not bliss for the various environments that my lifestyle may negatively impact, and doesn’t change the reality of the situation. So this year there have been some unanticipated changes in addition to be rubbish free including avoiding buying tuna, the purchase of a more expensive front loader washing machine instead of a top loader, and improved efforts to buy organic cotton clothing where possible. Sainthood is still a long way off however and the debate is ongoing as to whether we should own a car (we do, in fact we have two) and the ethics of air travel.
Bringing it back to the practical, at the start of the year we bought a 10 litre recyclable container of dishwashing liquid and a 20 litre recyclable container of clothes washing liquid from B_E_E. We have found both to be really good and have only used about two litres of the clothes washing liquid in the past seven months, and yes we do wash our clothes, but with the front loader it doesn’t want much liquid because it froths up so much. When these are used up we might fill up the containers at the Bin Inn or we may have converted to soap nuts! According to Wikipedia soap nuts grow on trees in warm temperate to tropical areas. They contain a natural detergent and apparently if we place 4 -6 in a small cotton bag they create frothy soapy water and clean the clothes well. Also, apparently we can soak them and then use the resulting liquid to clean the dishes. There have been pro and con comments left on our website about them but we intend to give them a go this week and will let you know how we found them.