Week 30 – Washing tigers

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.

5 thoughts on “Week 30 – Washing tigers

  1. The environmentally friendly washing up liquids are so much nicer than the everyday ones from the regular supermarkets. I wouldn’t go back to non “green” ones. However, I’ve found that the environmentally friendly detergents for clothes don’t touch the grime that comes off my allotment after a busy day (especially after trimming hedges or turning compost heaps with pigeon loft clearings in)so I do the non allotment washing with environmentally friendly detergent and the really grimy stuff with something much more chemical. I have tried various suggested combinations and found that a 32 minute wash at 50 degrees with a propriety brand shifts the gardening filth. As you say you have to start somewhere. I’m looking at the shampoo situation at the moment but it’s cost that is holding up the change over. We do have, here in the UK, a company that does shampoo (Faith in Nature at http://www.faithinnature.co.uk/index.asp) where some of the offerings do not contain palm products from the looks of it.

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  2. I definitely agree with you about being confused by the complexity of every environmental issue. We are trying the waste free route as well, but we often have discussions about whether it better to buy things wrapped individually in paper vs bulk in plastic (ie TP), or buy two small glass jars of peanut butter vs one large plastic one.

    Transportation is also a biggy. (I’m surprised you guys have two cars) I also feel about bit guilty about owning a car, but we seem to justify it with a variety of excuses. . . . and we only use it on the weekends.

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  3. Matthew and Waveney’s ‘mentee'(is that a word?) here. They referred to me in their July (week 25) blog. They are mentoring me and my two boys. We have committed to only putting one rubbish bag in a landfill between mid July 2008 and 31 December 2008. Just thought I would comment on the car issues and have copied in something from Project Lyttelton’s website below. This is what we are currently working on within our organisation.

    “Responsible Transport Solutions for Lyttelton. http://www.lyttelton.net.nz

    Project Lyttelton is exploring what sustainable transport for our community might look like. We encourage people to walk, use buses and reduce car use by sharing rides. Co-operatively owned car sharing is also a possibility. Watch the You Tube videos at World Carshare Video Library. of Vancouver’s Co-operative Auto Network (CAN) with that project’s initiator. If you are interested in exploring this concept for our Lyttelton community contact us

    Currently a CCC community van coordinated by Project Lyttelton is used regularly on Tuesdays.”

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  4. My partner and I have just moved from Christchurch to Brisbane. We are in the process of finding a washing machine, and strangly enough the cheapst ones are the front loaders. This is a difference of a few hundred dollars, and most people here get the front loaders because they are the cheapst. Its good to know that marketing (in its own weird way) is helping people be more economical.

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  5. A point on cars, I noticed that when my sister and hubby owned one car, they were often doing more trips than when they owned two, as there would be the trip to drop the person off, then drive back home if you needed the car, then drive back to pick them up. Once they had two cars, if they both needed a car for the day then less kms would be travelled because there was no driving home and back to pick others up.

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