I'm Tired, and I Need to Vent

>> Friday, January 22, 2010

Sometimes the purpose of having a blog is to vent, and today I feel like I need to vent...

I've been using Charlie's Soap laundry detergent for four years - ever since we switched to cloth diapers. I've always loved it: It's made by a small company here in North Carolina, and when I've contacted them, I've gotten quick responses from the president of the company. I've been happy with how well it gets my clothes clean - with no added fragrance to cover up any lingering smells. It's a really affordable product - $.10 per load if you buy it in bulk (which is the same cost as making my own laundry detergent and cheaper than Tide, the last time I checked), and I know they're working on getting stores to provide their product in bulk bins. And I thought I knew what was in it...

Then a couple days ago I read a review of Charlie's Soap on Kitchen Stewardship, and Katie mentioned that the Charlie's Soap all-purpose cleaner contains an ingredient called butylcelosolv. This ingredient is not listed on the Charlie's Soap bottle as far as I know, but Katie emailed the company to find out what was in the product because she noticed that it stinks. They claim that butylcelosolv is a safe, non-toxic ingredient, but when I googled the term, I found some not-too-pleasant results, including this one from The Good Human.

I don't use their all-purpose cleaner because I make my own, but finding out that their "non-toxic and biodegradable" cleaner contains an ingredient that might not be wonderful made me wonder if there's anything in the laundry detergent that I should be worried about. The packaging of the laundry detergent says it contains washing soda, sodium silicate, and coconut-derived detergents and also says that the product is non-toxic and biodegradable. Because I like the company, I accepted that. But have I been a victim of green-washing?

To be honest, I'm not sure I'd stop using Charlie's Soap either way. Even with the butylcelosolv in the all-purpose cleaner - the jury seems to be out on how bad of a chemical that is. I've always been happy with Charlie's Soap, I think they're a great company, and I'm not super strict about possibly toxic chemicals in my life at this point. There's still sodium lauryl sulfate in my Lush shampoo. My make-up is a mess. I color my hair. Let's face it - in this category, I'm falling really short right now (though I'm making progress at doing better).

What's bothering me is that I'm really really really tired of having to try so hard. Why do I have to read the label on every single product I buy? Even for the companies I thought I trusted? And besides that, I'm not a chemist. I don't know very much about chemicals or how they react with each other or what by-products are produced when they're made. And for goodness sake, I shouldn't have to!

I am so tired of not being able to trust any companies and feeling like the only answer is to do it myself. I don't want to have to make my own laundry detergent. I don't want to have to grow all my own food or make all my own clothes. And I don't want to have to be a chemist and a botanist and a farmer and a seamstress and a gourmet chef on top of all my other roles in life.

I just want to be able to go to the store and believe that when a product says non-toxic or recyclable or organic or fair trade, it really is.

I'm reminding myself that my word of the year is PATIENCE, but sometimes patience can make a person really really tired.

10 comments:

fresh365 January 22, 2010 at 3:29 PM  

I agree it is sad to realize all the chemicals in your products and even worse to think you can trust a company and not be sure if they are honest. I am going to switch to Charlie’s Soap when my 7th Gen detergent runs out, but I will have to look into this. One of my goals in the new year, is to bring all my products as close to “natural” as possible. I takes a lot of research, but ever step I get away from the crap I’ve been buying the last few years is a step in the right direction!

Sera January 22, 2010 at 4:41 PM  

Hear hear! I would love to use soap nuts all the time if they weren't so expensive. Other than that I think most clothes detergents are going to be slightly not perfect. Good on you for finding something that meets that many criteria anyway! Good luck with your patient year.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper January 22, 2010 at 7:32 PM  

Thanks, both of you, for putting things into perspective. Charlie's Soap is still a pretty good choice, all things considered. I have emailed the company with my concerns, though, and I'll update if I hear back from them.

Lina January 22, 2010 at 8:16 PM  

I hear you, but on the happy side of things, at least these products are all inching their way into the mainstream. At least companies act ashamed when they're caught green washing - or at least they know enough to react with a press release instead of just ignoring. And I know this sounds a little too pollyanna, but all this reading of ingredients and voting with our dollars and blogging and fighting about it will eventually change things. And then maybe our kids can just waltz into a store and buy anything, confident that it won't ruin their reproductive systems or stunt their growth. And then we can sit back in our rocking chairs and say "in MY day blah, blah, blah" Hang in there!

Eco Yogini January 23, 2010 at 11:07 AM  

Erin I agree wholeheartedly. there is a reason we have chemists etc etc, so that we don't have to be the experts.

i'm also REALLY tired of distrusting every single label i read.

i also hear you on your shampoo issue (blegh i have SUCH issues with "natural" shampoo!).

BUT, Erin I do NOT think you are failing these areas- not at all! you are decreasing chemicals in you and your family's life- lush shampoo has less chemicals (and packaging!) than my all the way chemical goldwell shampoo. And your laundry detergent has less chemicals than tide.

i sometimes get frustrated cuz it seems so many people LOVE doing the handmade stuff... you know- being farmers and sewing and stuff. I hate it... i wish we didn't have to. so i'm starting small, and trying to build these little parts that i will enjoy (like a pot of carrots, or walking to work, or making jam) without the "END OF THE WORLD" pressure to do it 100% correct.

This way, we will reach each new aspect of a non-dependent life readily and with Joy..

or at least, less angst.

did that make sense? (sorry if it was rambly!)

You're awesome Erin, a FANTASTIC Eco-Superheroine!

Lisa Sharp January 24, 2010 at 2:02 AM  

I hear you! I am always so upset when I use what I think is a safe product only to find it's really not that safe. Found out my husband's shampoo may not be that safe not that long ago and don't get me started on Sigg.

But we can't beat ourselves up, just remember we are doing a lot better than many and most likely a lot better than we did at one time. :)

Erin aka Conscious Shopper January 24, 2010 at 4:41 PM  

Again, thanks to everyone for putting things into perspective. Every greener, less toxic product that we buy is a step toward a better future. I hope my children get to have the bright future that Lina described.

I'm feeling better now. Sorry for the mopey post!

Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship January 25, 2010 at 12:14 AM  

Amen to all that! I do think Charlie's Soap is probably just fine - my research on that long word ended up with acceptable results in my opinion. It is soooo hard to know who to trust though!
Katie

happymom73 February 11, 2010 at 11:06 AM  

I know what you mean. Having to read labels, to find either the ingredients aren't there or have to be looked up because of their complicated names. It can be really frustrating and annoying.

If it is any consolation Seventh Generation is trying to help change that. They have a website called Million Baby Crawl at www.millionbabycrawl.com . The purpose is to get our governmant to change the old chemical laws that have been on the books sinse the 1970's. You should really check it out.

I also use Charlie's soap. Botht he detergent and all purpose cleaner. Now I am wondering if I should be worried.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper February 13, 2010 at 9:02 PM  

@happymom73 - I ended up deciding to stick with them, at least for now. Love the Million Baby Crawl!

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