You remember the movie The Day After Tomorrow, right? The one with Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal and the polar vortex and the man-eating wolves ravaging the ice-covered streets of New York City?
Well, do you know what they didn’t tell you about that movie? All of it could’ve been avoided if ol’ Denny Q and Jakey G had just changed their darn laundry detergents. Yep, that’s right. Today, the polar ice caps are melting, the oceans rising, the locusts arriving, the rainforests shrinking, the fish populations dying. And it’s all because you and your clothes smell bad.
Kidding, of course. There’s a whole host of socioeconomic, geopolitical, and environmental factors that are making our planet’s health increasingly reminiscent of a certain 2004 disaster movie. But one ray of silver-lined light is that there are plenty of small things each of us can do to protect the environment. No, not as extras in a disaster flick; but as conscientious and contributing patrons of our planet.
One thing you can do starts in that unassuming little cupboard of clothing, the humble house of funk, the lowly chamber of lost socks: you guessed it, we’re talking about The Laundry Room.
Here’s how you can SAVE THE WORLD by switching your detergent.
Your Clothes Still Stink
Hate to be the bearer of odorous news here, but if you’re still using traditional laundry detergents, it’s likely that people don’t enjoy sitting next to you on airplanes. And they definitely don’t want to be your mountain bike buddy or spotter at the gym. Why? Because traditional laundry detergents don’t prevent odor effectively. They fail to infiltrate the fibers of synthetic apparel and thus fail to eliminate foul-smelling bacteria. Instead, they merely mask the odor. And sure, they mask it effectively for a little while. But eventually, to quote Jurassic Park, “stink...uhh, finds a way.” Or something like that.
Especially for active folks and people who put their clothing through the sweat-soaked ringer. We’re looking at you yogis, gym rats, intramural sports stars, and weekend warriors. These types of activities require more than a scented “mask” to combat odors. They need hard-working chemicals that are specially engineered to actually remove odors at the microscopic level.
Unfortunately, too often, people opt for the traditional maskers, which inevitably leads to athletic apparel that holds onto funk over the long haul. After 10 washes with the traditional stuff, the clothes develop a faint musk. After 20 washes, the musk is fully noticeable. After 30 washes, your dog is wondering if it’s time to give you a bath.
So, what do most self-aware people do when they realize their allegedly “clean” athletic apparel smells more like garbage than a “tropical burst”? They throw it in the garbage. Then, they buy new clothing. Which is a terrible solution for everybody. Especially Mother Earth.
The Compounding Wastefulness of the Fashion Industry
These days, fast fashion moves faster than the time it takes to say “H&M.” By fast fashion, we mean the steamrolling rapidity with which the latest clothing trends go from catwalk to department store to overflowing closet to overfilled landfill
While there are some varying reports about just how terrible the fashion industry really is, there’s no question it’s bad. Some studies rank it as the second most polluting industry in the world; others have it in the top 10. Calvin Klein and Donatella Versace would presumably try to claim—incorrectly— that it’s more like the top 50.
But the bottom line is that fast fashion is bad for this “pale blue dot” of ours, from start to finish. At the start, textile production releases tons of harmful gases into the atmosphere as well as harmful dyes and pesticides into the aquatic environments.
And at the finish, once yesterday’s styles have been forgotten and dumped into landfills, most synthetic clothing materials don’t degrade organically, and then contribute to roughly 5% of total landfill space worldwide.
Traditional laundry detergents only exacerbate the issues. Because, again, they don’t work over the long haul. They’re just an extension of the fast-fashion movement. “Lightning Laundry,” you could call it. They’re detergent solutions that solve short-term needs with their ability to mask odors temporarily. But they’re unsustainable and only contribute to the rather, um, unfashionable wastefulness of the fashion industry. After just 30 washings, clothes that smell like rotten milk are getting thrown into a landfill.
Bacteria-Killing Detergents Can Be Toxic
While it’s wise to avoid detergents that only mask odors, you should also be aware of other culprits in the laundry room that can harm the environment. These include traditional detergents that do, in fact, combat odors but use harmful and toxic chemicals to do so.
You see, these toxic detergents are designed to kill bacteria. In other words, they’re literally designed to wreak havoc on living organisms. And, like it or not, these detergents inevitably come into contact with more living organisms than just their bacteria foes. There’s collateral contact with your skin and your children’s skin and your dog’s over-curious nose and even your neighborhood’s waterways.
Yep, at the risk of sounding like an Erin Brockovich wannabe, the simple fact of the matter is: toxic detergents travel from washing machines to sewers and surface waters and eventually contaminate freshwater ecosystems.
From there, the harmful chemicals almost create their own little ecosystem of caustic and toxic repercussions, like an inverted, deranged “circle of life.” Phosphates from detergents create algae blooms which soak up all the oxygen in the water. As a result, fish can’t breathe, so they die, and the birds that feed on the fish run out food, and then they die, which means...you get the point. Everybody dies. All because you and your clothes smell bad, and because you didn’t know there was a better way.
P.S. To all the guys out there: fish aren’t the only swimmers affected by traditional detergents. That’s right: the harmful chemicals that leach into freshwater ecosystems are the same ones that also act as endocrine disruptors and do all sorts of damage to human hormones and male reproductive health.
A Better Way
Thankfully, dear reader, it doesn’t have to be this way. The fate of the planet is in good hands. Because, for now at least, before the harmful toxins of traditional detergents can have their say, your hands still have opposable thumbs. Which means you’re capable of reaching for an alternative detergent on the shelves.
Defunkify detergent is better. It works better and it’s better for the planet’s health and your personal health.
It works better, because the chemistry isn’t designed to be a masker or a bacteria murderer. Instead, Defunkify detergents use active enzymes that penetrate the fibers of synthetic athletic apparel deep down and unlock the buildup of bacteria at the microscopic level. In other words, the odors and stains are removed, not covered up or completely decimated with chemical warfare. And despite how stinky you might be after a workout, well: it’s better for your smelly bacteria to go down the drain than, say, sodium lauryl sulfate or nonylphenol ethoxylate or 1,4-dioxane or…you get it.
And that’s why Defunkify products also work better for the environment—both your home’s and the planet’s. Because they don’t use any of those harmful chemicals. Instead, Defunkify uses plant-based ingredients, minerals, enzymes, and sustainable synthetics listed on the EPA’s Safer Choice Ingredients List. And these ingredients are created with the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry in mind, which “prevents pollution and promotes performance”.
So, if you want to change the world, then change your detergent. The fate of the planet depends on it!!!!
Written by Ry Glover for Matcha in partnership with Defunkify.