Eco Nuts

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While there are a number of green household cleaners on the market, it’s difficult to find an effective laundry detergent.

The third product I will be talking about is Eco Nuts, an organic, all-natural laundry detergent that consists of dried berry shells from Sapindus mukorossi, the soapberry tree, usually found in the Himalayas, India, and Nepal. The part of the tree that is valuable can be harvested from September to February which is an extremely long and sustainable supply. The dried berry shells contain a natural soap called saponin which has been used for centuries in Asia for laundering clothes.

What it's made of:


Saponin itself is 100% biodegradable and a natural foaming and cleaning agent and possesses soap-like qualities such as producing a lather when mixed with water. It works as a natural detergent and surfactant, breaking the surface tension of the water to penetrate the fibers of your clothing, lifting stains, dirt, oils, and grime from the fabric, and leaving dirt suspended in the water that is rinsed away. Aside from Saponin, Eco Nuts also includes other ingredients such as corn-derived glycerin and citrus lemon oil, all of which are plant-based with simple ingredients and no hidden toxins, highly biodegradable and are very sustainable.

For people with sensitive skin, eczema, or allergies, not only does Eco Nuts minimize the environmental impact, but they’re also a safe, hypoallergenic, chemical-free substitute that works to reduce the chemical build-up when washing clothes. They are perfect for laundering baby clothes and cloth diapers, leaving no harsh chemicals on your baby’s behind. Even though they are called nuts, they have actually dried berries, making them a safe option for people with nut allergies.

Unlike normal laundry pods, Eco Nuts have no chemicals and can be reused up to ten times. According to their website, one small bag of Eco Nuts is priced about the same as laundry detergent and covers up to 100 loads. With the average American running anywhere from four to five loads of wash per week, making your laundry routine as eco-friendly as possible has never been so important.

An added benefit is that even though one box of Eco Nuts does as many loads of laundry as any bottle of standard laundry detergent, the entire box weighs less than one pound. As a college student, this is affordable, convenient, and efficient.

Finally, while generic detergents release harmful chemicals when disposed of, soap nuts, on the other hand, do not produce any waste and are used up completely after a series of cycles.

In terms of usage, there are some downsides. For one, the nuts work best in warm water which takes more energy than washing in cold water. If you wash on hot and rinse on warm, you're going to use an average of 4.5 kWh per load. On the other hand, if you wash on cold and rinse on cold, you're going to use an average of 0.3 kWh per load. The amount of energy that it takes to heat up a load of washing seems pretty wasteful and pointless, but without hot water, soap nuts aren't as effective at washing clothes for consumers.

How it's made:


The crops are wild harvested or are grown in their indigenous habitat without any human intervention or cultivation and are harvested with minimal environmental impact. According to the website, what typically happens with soap nuts is that farmers will collect them once they fall off the tree and sell them in the market. Sometimes those without employment will collect and sell them as well.
Saponin tastes bad to insects, meaning pesticides are generally not needed to grow the nuts, which makes them an even safer choice for the environment. The shell is separated from the seed (which can be reused to grow new plants) and left to dry in the sun without any chemical or synthetic agents, so soap nuts are not treated in any way and what is then put on the market is a 100% natural, un-modified product.

With regards to packaging, Eco Nuts acknowledges the plastic problem on the planet and opts to be plastic-free by packaging the products in sustainable, highly-recyclable alternatives. Eco Nuts uses little to no plastic and instead uses FSC Certified, biodegradable, paperboard for any solid products and highly recyclable aluminum for liquid products. While paperboard has little environmental impact and aluminum can be used several times, I must point out that the process of extracting/harvesting these materials requires a lot of chemical processes that themselves damage the environment. The only plastics I can see Eco Nuts using are the spray tops and pump tops for the package covering.

Regardless of what the material the product is, one factor to consider is the possibility of industrial agriculture. The nuts used for this product are grown only in the India-Himalayan region. If demand stays steady, it could lead to issues with deforestation to harvest the nuts and to CO2 emissions to transport it. Nevertheless, I still couldn’t find any mention of commercial production/ industrial agriculture of the tree, which is where most of the sustainability issues arise. 

Who makes it:


The company that makes these alternative laundry detergents is called Eco Nuts, a company that was established in 2009 with the goal of manufacturing organic home cleaning products in earth-friendly packaging for planet-conscious consumers. I originally noticed this product when they were featured on Shark Tank and loved the passion and energy they had for their company. Aside from laundry detergent, the company also provides floor cleaners, glass cleaners, and veggie washes all in organic formulas. 

The company website shows that it is also a USDA certified organic product meaning it is grown without the use of pesticides, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation.

Eco Nuts is also a part of the NOP (National Organic Program) which means that a government-approved certifier must inspect the land and facilities where the food is grown and processed to make sure the farmer is following all necessary rules to meet the same USDA Organic standards as mentioned earlier. Despite being sold internationally, the fact it is part of the USDA National Organic Program means that their facilities are inspected annually and are subject to all the same rules and regulations that are required of US producers and handlers. 

With regards to production, Eco Nuts boasts about being a job creator, employing many women in Nepal, all of whom work in a safe, equitable environment and paid fair trade wages. There were some issues finding some certification for this online, so I am personally unsure as to how this is true to an extent. Essentially, every Eco Nuts purchase reduces plastic production and creates jobs for the people of Nepal and in the US.