One of the first things I changed when I started to grow my awareness around the negative impact that a modern lifestyle can have on both the environment and our health, was the type of products I used to clean our home. To be honest it was probably to easiest change I made, with the added bonus of saving a bit of coin too. Out went the Ajax, Exit Mould and Mr Sheen, and in came the bicarb soda, white vinegar and castille soap, all swished around with a few microfibre cloths and some elbow grease. Cleaning all of a sudden became less stressful when I wasn't worried about bleaching my clothes or the towels, and the house just smelt clean rather than antiseptic. There was a bit of trial and error to find what actually worked, and what had the staying power (because if I'm being honest, I'm not the most patient cleaner and I'll happily leave it for waaaay too long before tackling it. Life's too short to scrub a shower more than twice a month in my opinion).
One switch that very quickly became a staple in my repertoire was home made washing powder. I used a mix of pure soap, Borax and Washing Soda that worked a treat and was so much cheaper than buying the green alternative from the supermarket...but. The fact that it used 3 separate ingredients, all with their own inherent production cost and packaging meant that for me it still wasn't a perfect choice. So when I found a single, natural alternative that did the job of all three, I was stoked! Enter....Soapberries!
These funny little 'nuts' are actually the fruit of the Sapindus Mukorossi tree, which grows in a number of places worldwide, particularly the Himalayas. The shell of the berry is collected and dried, and is useful for washing because it contains a high level of saponins, which help to loosen the grip that dirt and stains have on fabric. As an added bonus, they smell deliciously sweet and fruity, while being completely grey water friendly means I can use the water from the machine on our lawn. I find they do an excellent job either chucked in the washing machine whole in their little wash bag (where 4 or so will last for several washes), used for hand washing (while camping or travelling) or boiled up into a liquid and used via the liquid soap dispenser method for your machine. I do the latter most often, and even use the liquid to clean our dog - it's that versatile. It's also reduced our water use, as the lack of soapy residue means that the rinse cycle can be significantly shortened or switched off.
The soapberries I purchase are from a wonderful company That Red House, based south of Adelaide in South Australia. They have a fantastic ethos, sourcing only 100% certified organic soapberries wild harvested in Nepal. The support of a wild harvestable product not only financially supports the local community in Nepal, but also encourages the retention of the natural vegetation and reduces the impact of deforestation in these areas.
And, not only does this family business provide an ethical, sustainable, super economical product that actually works, they have an enviable edible garden and eco-friendly house - these people are walking their talk!
From their website:
Several years ago, a difficult health situation lead to a shift in our thinking with regards to lifestyle, food and our exposure to chemicals of all kinds. It was at this time that we decided to change the way we live, and the life we provide for our children. We were living in the Eastern suburbs of Adelaide, and established a successful little vegetable garden, which gave us quite an abundance of crops in a modest amount of space. But the desire to take our sustainable practices further was too much for us to resist, and in 2009 we began planning our new life in Coromandel Valley (South of Adelaide).
The idea was to design an energy efficient house, and a productive garden that would provide us with year-round fresh food. Our philosophy is ‘if it does not have a purpose, it does not grow in our garden.' Every plant gives back to us in some way. We have 44 raised garden beds and an orchard area which house over 50 fruit and nut trees, organic produce and 12 beautiful chooks who cluck around happily all day long....For several years now, we have used soapberries and have loved the results. We are a bit surprised that they have not become more popular in that time, and so we have decided to import and sell them ourselves under the same name as our home and garden 'That Red House'. Our overall aim is to inspire others to live an more sustainable life, and spread the word about these amazing little pieces of mother nature! Thanks for supporting our family and the mutual belief that we need to do our bit for our future generations.
Isn't it gorgeous? Serious garden envy over here. Check out their Facebook page for more gorgeous pics of their veggies and fruit trees. Don't you love it when you find a product that ticks all the boxes for you? If you're in the market for something other than the good ol' OMO, you should definitely head over and buy yourselves a bag to try them out.
*This is not a sponsored post - I purchased the product after finding it myself, and am promoting it because I think it's both useful and sustainable. And I love to support local, small businesses that are actually working to make a difference*
*Photos in collage and soapberry information from That Red House, with thanks*