I had been getting uneasy about the amount of laundry powder that we are letting into the ecosystem, especially as we do eight or nine loads of washing a week keeping the nappies clean,and recycle much of the water onto the garden. This month we made a commitment to purchasing more eco-friendly washing powder. We have a couple of brands as Tyson's parents gave us some, and I also bought a wool wash for occasional use. While we were at it we added eco-friendly dishwasher powder to the equation for good measure.
Initial Cost: 1.5kg of Aware laundry powder costs about $8.40 if its not on special (and so far it hasn't been on special often). This compares with $1.99 for 500g of regular brands (the shelf price is more but I always stock up when its on special). EarthChoice dishwasher tablets cost about $15.80 for a box of 28, compared with about $13 for 1kg of powder from regular brands. I also investigated the products available at our local organic store, but although they were potentially better quality they were outside my price range.
Initial Time: zero
Ongoing time or cost commitment: I estimate we use about 13.5kg of laundry powder a year. Using the prices above, this works out at $75.60 for earth-friendly powder or $54 for regular brands - an extra $21.60 per year. If we average three dishwasher loads a week, the EarthChoice dishwasher tablets will cost us about $95 a year. My rough estimate of how much I spend on regular dishwasher powder in a year came out at about $100, as we get less washes from the powder than from the tablets.
Impact: Its hard to tell precisely what chemicals we have been putting into the water. EarthChoice dishwasher tablets assure me they are biodegradable and phosphate free, but make no promises about their use of petrochemicals. The ingredient list is: sodium carbonate, citric acid, sodium bicarbonate, sodium sulphate, sodium silicate, sodium percarbonate, tetra acetyl ethylene diamine, sodium diethylenetriamine pentamethylene phosponate, glass protection additive, polyacrylic acid, polyethylene glycos, colloidal silica, enzyme, dye. I don't know what that means - but the regular brand I still have a packet of tells me nothing about its contents at all.
Aware laundry powder is also biodegradable and phosphate free, but so is the regular Duo that I still have a packet of. Aware contains no petrochemicals or palm oil (a major cause of deforestation) but uses coconut oils, sugar, citrate salt from corn, and cellulose colloids from cotton and wood pulp.
Mostly I think the impact of our change is to put 13.5kg less of petrochemical-based powder into the environment each year from the washing machine. I'm not sure the difference with the dishwasher.