Soap nuts are good for tropical areas but not for Europe!

Why soap nuts detergent is not suitable for people in sub-tropical Europe?

When I started my zero waste journey, it was difficult to replace laundry detergent. However, soon, I found out the soap nuts as an alternative to the commercial detergent. These soap nuts then become THE planet friendly detergent for everyone that starts zero waste lifestyle. But what is soap nuts?

Soap nuts or soapberries is a dried berry shell that came from a Sapindus Mukorossi tree (family of lychee plant). The ‘soap nuts’ itself is referring to its nuts. The plant usually grows in the warm temperature or tropical region (especially in India, Nepal and Indonesia). It took nine years for the tree to gave fruit. But you can yield the fruit every six months in the next 90 years.

Because it grows out of a tree, soap nuts are good for the environment. The tree takes up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the nuts itself biodegradable and compostable. Therefore, it creates no waste even when you throw it on your backyard.

Soap nuts (Source: Pinterest)

The existence and the knowledge of this nuts for washing purposes already known for a very long time ago. Soap nuts can produce foam because the shell of the nuts has saponin properties. This property creates thin foam when you mix it with water (especially with warm water). In their native countries, the poor use soap nuts to clean their hair and their clothes. It is because these nuts cost almost nothing there.

Nowadays, you can purchase the nuts in any sustainable shops around the world. You can use the nuts for handwashing your laundry, machine wash, shampoo, and hand soap. But with this global exposure of the nuts, another problem could occur. Since the nuts became the new trend (especially in Europe and North America), there is an increasing demand of these nuts. The global warming effect of the transportation of these nuts from the native country could create another set of problems.

I mean let’s be real. I mentioned before that these nuts grew in tropical and warm temperature area. Hypothetically, this means that the producers of these nuts have to export the nuts for European and North American customers. Hypothetically, this also means that there could be an increased on the local price of the nuts. It is because the producers profit more from the export. The increasing of demand and price could create a problem for the poor who relies on these nuts for their daily cleaning.

For example, if the nuts are not accessible to the poor anymore, the will try to look for other alternatives. This alternative could be small sachet packaging which economically affordable. The small sachet packaging made of plastic and could introduce another set of plastic pollution problems.

This could mean that our effort to be ‘good’ to the environment cost another environmental catastrophe. Because we could support future plastic waste catastrophe in the area or country that will switch their usage of soapnuts into plastic sachet packaging. (FACT: sachet packaging is non-compostable and cannot be degraded naturally)

All of this scenario is still hypothetical since I could not find strong evidence on how ethical soap nuts are. But this could happen since the low-income group are known to use vast amount of small sachet packaging.

Therefore, I would like to propose a new solution for the eco-warrior in the Europe and North America region. This alternative is cheap and affordable. It is called The Horse Chestnuts. During autumn, you can find chestnuts around your living area. Some of you might know that there are two types of chestnuts. One is edible (the ‘normal’ chestnut) and the other one is toxic (TIPS: Please do not eat it), the horse chestnut. These horse chestnuts are the cheap alternative for the people in the sub-tropical region instead of the soapberries. What to know how to make detergent from these nuts? Check on my next blog post for the recipe!

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