Will this Detergent turn my Greywater a Lighter Shade of Gray?

While grocery shopping yesterday (which happened to be April 2nd — the second day of Earth Month), I happened to stumble upon a bottle of Seventh Generation’s Free & Clear Natural 4X Laundry Detergent, something I’d never heard of before:

Seventh Generation laundry detergent container in basket

“Free & Clear” simply means the detergent is unscented and contains no dyes. The container holds 50 fluid ounces (1.4L)  and is advertised as good for up to 66 medium sized loads. I was particularly intrigued by the packaging itself, which consists of a compost-able paper product “bottle”…

Eco Logic imprint on Seventh Generation compostable container

…as well as labeling indicating that its cleaning agents and other ingredients are largely (though perhaps not completely) plant-based. I was also particularly drawn to the Iroquois Nation quote on the back about the need to consider how today’s actions will impact the next seven generations, which is where the company draws its name from, and which adequately expresses much of my own worldview:

Back label of Seventh Generation compostable container

Finally, the detergent itself is stored in a plastic bladder, which is the only component of the container that actually requires recycling. Seventh Generation claims the bladder and cap constitute 66% less plastic than a typical 100 ounce 2X laundry bottle, while being good for the same number of loads:

Closeup of back label of Seventh Generation compostable container

I was so impressed, I purchased a second bottle of detergent, this one with a scent called  “Geranium Blossoms and Vanilla”, which they claim is derived from “whole essential oils.” It really does smell quite nice, without being excessively perfumey. And today, I did a single large load of laundry with the Free & Clear detergent. All I can say is, so far, so good. It got all my clothes nicely clean, just as expected.

You can check out Seventh Generation detergents and other cleaning products at www.seventhgeneration.com, “like” their Facebook/SeventhGeneration page, and even follow them on Twitter as @SeventhGen.

Earth Day 2012

While April is Earth Month, April 22nd is Earth Day 2012, and I’d like to encourage all of you to do whatever you can to get involved and help ensure a greener and more sustainable world for those next seven generations. If you’re looking for ideas, one possible place to start that I hope you’ll find useful is the Building Moxie article “Earth Day 2011: Three Simple Acts That Can Make A Difference“, which I’d published last year for Earth Day 2011.

As for me, I’ve made a major commitment for Earth Day 2012, which is to start doing laundry outdoors, all throughout the summer and into the fall. This includes (yes, you guessed it) a wash tub and board, hand washer, wringer, and a 75′ detachable drying line (but no, I won’t be building a fire to heat the water, nor making lye soap). I fully realize most of you find this crazy, but consider that it requires no electricity, allows one to control and minimize how much water is actually heated and used, and also closely manage how the greywater is finally dispatched. I’m hoping the Seventh Generation detergent nicely complements these measures, and results in a much “lighter” greywater than what more conventional detergents would yield.


Since publishing this post, I’ve authored Earth Day 2012: Mobilizing for Water Conservation, an invited article for Building Moxie in honor of Earth Day 2012. That article further elaborated many of the concepts initially suggested here.

About John Poole

My interests include historic homes, architectural preservation and restoration, improving the energy performance of old houses, and traditional timber frames.
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6 Responses to Will this Detergent turn my Greywater a Lighter Shade of Gray?

  1. Interesting post John & I am actually intrigued on your summer experiment. I hope you keep track of all the water used & maybe compare it to a new HE machine. I have a sneaky feeling the results will be close & dare I say lean more towards an HE machine (especially if you heat the water for the handwashing – which isn’t required for either)
    If not, why stop for the winter? Drying the clothes in winter is still done the same, you just add a stick to the mix to beat the ice off – once the ice is off the clothes are dry.

    • John Poole says:

      Thanks, Sean. I hadn’t considered actually measuring and comparing the differences between hand washing and using an HE washing machine. But it’s a great suggestion, so sure, why not?

      Regarding winter, in all seriousness, there really isn’t any reason to stop. One could still hand wash in the basement. One could also line dry in the house or basement, as well (we did that when I was growing up), but then there’s the issue of elevating interior humidity levels on a regular basis. But humidity could also be effectively dispatched via mechanical ventilation, and presumably, this would require much less energy than running a dryer. So, you got me thinking, bud…. :-)

  2. Luba says:

    Check out Ecologic Brands, http://www.ecologicbrands.com
    That’s the company making paper bottles and we need more of their packaging out there. It can really change the world.

  3. John Poole says:

    Fair enough. I might very well need a good soaking in a jacuzzi to overcome the hypothermia… :-D

  4. John Poole says:

    Oh, and BTW: When I arrived at the Seventh Generation Facebook page, I couldn’t help but notice you’d already been there, and “liked” it, well in advance of my doing so…

  5. John Poole says:

    At the Natural Products Expo? Really? Next time, do you think you could ask Stanley Mouse to autograph one of my Seventh Generation bottles? It would then sit on my laundry shelf forever, as a sustainable shrine one of the greatest and most environmentally friendly rock bands that ever existed! (~):}

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