Do you know what part of a garment’s lifecycle has the greatest environmental impact? Cleaning. More than making, shipping, or disposing of a Nau garment, how you wash it leaves behind the biggest footprint. So we were excited when our friends at Method announced a new, plant-based laundry detergent that requires only ¼ the dose of most soaps. Our resident fabric guru Jamie Bainbridge has been testing it out, and, wanting to know more, pestered them for a few more details on the science behind the label. Drummond Lawson, who bears the title “Green Giant” in their “Greenskeeping” department, was kind enough to share the following answers.
[Read through to the end for a special offer for readers of The Thought Kitchen from Method. - Ed]
Jamie: We love that you posted the energy reductions, materials reductions and ingredients for your new detergent online. How far back in this supply chain are you attempting to influence the feedstock for the ingredients used in your product?
Drummond: To design the greenest products and to find the most sustainable ways of manufacturing them, we’ve found that the majority of the total footprint in making the products comes far upstream in production: in making and harvesting the plant oils, in converting them to effective cleaning agents, in manufacturing bottles, in shipping the materials and finished product around, and so on. So to achieve major efficiencies and improvements, we work with suppliers several steps up our supply chain – the company that makes the recycled resin for our bottles, or the people who work to source more sustainable plant-oil feedstocks for surfactants, as examples.
Focusing only on the design decisions that method is responsible for would not allow for the major innovations (like the new laundry detergent) and for the type of systemic step-changes that we think our categories need if the products will ever become fully sustainable.
Jamie: We noticed that you are using a few corn based ingredients. Is Method buying non-GMO offsets for these?
Drummond: No. Step 1 of working with large chemical suppliers is getting them to use renewable feedstocks instead of petroleum, and corn’s abundance and the resulting starch make it a good material for them to bridge with. We prefer to spend money on higher quality ingredients than to pay for offsets as a sort of corn-indulgence.
Jamie: How will this product’s chemical action affect fabric compared to our traditional detergent? And how about Method’s old detergent?
Drummond: Chem geeks, start your engines. Due to method laundry’s extreme concentration, it forms a reverse-phase emulsion. This means that due to its concentration, the cleaning agents form the solution, and the minimal necessary water is dissolved inside it. Normal detergents have the opposite structure. The result is that method laundry cleaners require less time and agitation to begin working on dirt and stains when introduced to laundry.
Jamie: We didn’t see instructions on how to use this for spot/stain removal. What do you recommend?
Drummond: Great question – stain pre-treat is one of the secret powers of this detergent. Since the formulation is so powerful, a tiny bit will do it. Apply a small quantity from the end of the pump, rub it in and let it sit for a while (min. 30 minutes) and then put it in with a load of laundry.
Jamie: Will you be applying the chemistry and reduction principles from this product to other products? If so, which ones should we keep our eye out for?
Drummond: Well, the same green chemistry and design principles have been used for a few products. One great example is smarty dish, a phosphate-free, biodegradable dish detergent that tests out at parity cleaning to the conventional, phosphate-laden detergents.
Method passed along $10 off coupon valid through May 7. Simply go to www.methodhome.com and enter the promo code “AGAINSTDIRTY”. For more ways to reduce the impact of cleaning, visit the Product Care section of nau.com. To receive notifications of other offers like this, be sure to sign up for our newsletter, Off The Grid.