Friday, September 28, 2012
Bluegrass Pride: Take going ‘green’ to next level by keeping detergents out of the water
By Joanna Isaacs
When I first started working at Bluegrass PRIDE over two years ago, one of the first experiences I remember was touring the wastewater treatment plant. Although most people would remember this tour for its smellier qualities, I was forever impacted by the things that I saw left in the water.
(Photo from Creative Commons)
The tour starts with the “used water” from the city and then continues through the cleansing process until it is up to standards and discharged into a local stream, Town Branch. As the tour guide was walking us through the process, I noticed a persistent film on the top of the water. I was shocked to find out that it was detergents.
DETERGENTS….wait … like the detergents we WASH our clothes in?
Those are the ones. After that experience I was bound and determined to do everything in my power to prevent my detergents from getting into the water. Here are some ways to do that:
Purchase “green” laundry detergent
The term “green” is becoming more and more popular, especially in marketing and advertisements. One tip when looking for a truly green laundry detergent is to look for labels that say “biodegradable,” meaning that the detergent will break down in the water system and will not cause that persistent film at the wastewater treatment facility.
Phosphate-free is the way to be
You should also look for labels that say “phosphate-free.” Phosphates in detergents are commonly used as a builder, meaning the detergent is tougher on dirt and easily removes soap scum. Although phosphates are not the only things that work this way, they are most commonly used, especially in laundry detergents. When the phosphates get into our water system, they cause harmful effects to the ecosystem. Phosphates are naturally found in aquatic habitats, however, the level at which they are being dumped into the system can cause algal blooms that pose a threat to marine life.
The wonders of vinegar
Also, if you have read some of our previous posts, you have learned all about the wonders of vinegar from Pattie Stivender. Fabric softener can be easily replaced by vinegar, and it will leave your laundry fresh and soft!
The list of ways to green your laundry goes on and on. I have been very pleased with how “green” I have become in cleaning my clothes. Not only have I been phosphate-free and biodegradable for the past three years, but I have recently gone without a dryer as well. My electric bill has become my friend again and my clothes should last longer. For those of you who are looking to take the next step, try making your own laundry detergent. It is much cheaper than store brands and it will ensure that your detergent is as green as possible.
Joanna Isaacs joined Bluegrass PRIDE as a Program Manager for the Live Green Lexington Partner program in 2010. A native of Orlando, Fla., she holds a degree in biology and environmental science from Campbellsville University. Before working for Bluegrass PRIDE, Joanna worked as a tour guide for Mammoth Cave National Park.