So, you’ve gone off into the great outdoors, you’re getting down with nature, enjoying the birdsong, the sand between your toes and that beautiful clean water. Maybe you’re out on a roadie with a rooftop tent. Perhaps you’re camped up near a lake or stream with friends and some tunes.
Either way, if you are off in the big outside for any length of time, chances are you are going to have some dishes to wash, some hair to clean, or even some laundry to soak. So what’s the deal with jumping in that idyllic pool and sudsing away at those gorgeous locks? What do you do with that bowl of dirty dishwater, when you find yourself crouched outside the tent in the wilderness?
Let’s pause for a little chemistry, shall we?
For soaps, in all their forms, to do their job, they have to break down fats and other dirt. This allows all that grime to dissolve in water and wash away, and there really isn’t too much wriggle room there. The chemicals most commonly used to break down these fats and dirt are called surfactants and solvents.
The world at large has woken up to the impacts of some of the synthetic chemicals used in your home variety soaps and shampoos. The effects of parabens, sodium laurel sulphate (one way of making cleaners foam up) and synthetic perfumes have been noted in people, and they aren’t all that great for the environment either. These chemicals affect fish, insects, dolphins and whales in much the same way as they affect us. Surfactants, for example, can stop oxygen dissolving into water, which means those unsuspecting fish can suffocate.
Now we have entered the age of the natural and plant-based cleaners. These have seen a boom in recent years, and for the most part do not contain the chemical ‘nasties’ mentioned above. For example, EcoStore’s dishwashing liquid does not contain sodium laurel sulfate, parabens, or any non-naturally occurring ingredients. This means that they are gentler on you, and on the environment. The EcoStore shampoo is a similar story: a no-nasties, plant-based formula.
Great, so you can pick up your EcoStore cleaning arsenal and hit that tranquil river, clean your dishes, and wash your hair in the cool, clear water. Right?
Hold those environmental horses.
While yes, EcoStore products and those like them are far more naturally based and gentler on us and the earth, they are still cleaning agents. By order of what they are required to do, they still contain surfactants and solvents. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be much use for washing up after your adventures. These products still have to contain preservatives as well, so that they will keep long enough for you to use them up. These components are all naturally based, but they can still be hard work for our streams and lakes to deal with.
A better option than sudsing up that awesome waterfall is to tip that soapy water onto the ground, or better yet, into some dense grass away from streams and lakes. The soil ecosystem is a marvellous thing, full of happy little microbes and fungi all primed to break things down before they get into our waterways. Plant roots play a big role to, filtering out the nutrients and minerals present in the soil. Of course, they are a delicate bunch, and won’t appreciate having synthetic chemicals dumped on them, so best to stick to those natural based options like the EcoStore range. Hang up a solar shower to wash your hair over the grass, or make use of the shower cubicles if your camping spot has one. Tip dish water down the sinks in the kitchen block or find a grassy patch away from the waterways.
Long story short, always go for naturally based products if you are going to introduce them straight into the environment. Dilute them with water and let them filter through soil and plant roots first, before they reach our lakes and rivers. Aotearoa will thank you for it.
- Kristi Holland