There are several sites online these days such as Earth Easy and About.com that provide recipes for producing your own cleaning products with ingredients such as baking soda and vinegar. For some reason I have not managed to ever get around to producing my own, but I did find The Soap Exchange, a store that offers a great alternative to your standard store bought cleaners, detergents, etc. Not only are their products 100% biodegradable, but they also reuse your containers so you are not throwing away, or recycling, any packaging. I do not know all of the figures and science behind the energy and water requirements for making plastic containers and then subsequently recycling them into new products, but I think it is safe to assume that reusing is the best option in that regard.
The Soap Exchange has three full-line locations in Nanaimo, Saskatoon, and Victoria. In addition, you may find a few sub-stores in their vicinity that also carry a smaller selection of Soap Exchange products. In Victoria The Soap Exchange is located at the intersection of Hillside Avenue and Cedar Hill Road. There are also approximately 15 sub-stores in the surrounding area including a couple on the Gulf Islands and one in Powell River. The Saskatoon location was the first to open in 1992 and the Victoria and Nanaimo locations followed. Rather than a franchise format the full-line stores act as licensed distributors of The Soap Exchange products.
Once inside a full-line Soap Exchange you will find an impressive array of cleaning products all of which are biodegradable, made in Canada, and not tested on animals. As I have phased out my other cleaning products my collection has grown to include their laundry soap, dishwasher detergent, dish soap, and an all purpose cleaner. For those that like to sample before committing to a larger purchase there are mini sizes of almost every product available for purchase. There are many products I have yet to try including a product for washing your car that I noticed on their website when I was preparing this post - I guess that will be my next sample. For those that might question the fact that I even wash my car at all - yes I do, very rarely, and I try to remember to wash it on the front lawn.
The laundry soap, dishwasher detergent, and all purpose cleaner, like most of the products, are concentrated. Therefore, you use smaller amounts and subsequently spend less money buying cleaning products. I think that buying biodegradable cleaning products is an easy to way to help reduce your impact on this earth. Saving a little money in the process is an added bonus. If you need another reason to try out The Soap Exchange check out their Clean-Up Club. If you sign up your non-profit group can earn back 10% of each purchase made by your members. All they have to do is mention the name of your group when they make their purchase. If you do not live in Victoria, Nanaimo or Saskatoon then look for other biodegradable products available at your grocery store. Or, if you are feeling ambitious, maybe you could become a licensed distributor yourself.