“What do you think aqua is?”
“Yes! It’s just a fancy name for water!”
More than 90 percent of a typical bottle of cleaning product is simply water. Drying out these cleaning and personal care products does several environmentally friendly things: It reduces their volume, thus reducing the number of boats and trucks needed to transport them. It reduces their weight, thus further reducing fuel and carbon emissions associated with shipping them. And it reduces the plastic packaging by requiring a smaller container to hold the refillable concentrate, or by precluding the need for any disposable plastic at all. An estimated 20 percent or more of global disposable plastic packaging by weight could be replaced by reusable packaging if we only shipped active ingredients.
The time is ripe for a low-plastic, just-add-water revolution. Only 5 percent of plastic produced globally is ever recycled, a number that has likely dropped since China stopped accepting our recyclables in 2017. You’ve probably heard this, but there’s a lot of plastic swirling around in our oceans, and in developing countries, single-serve product sachets are a scourge on the rivers and beaches.
Clensta introduced an “ultra-concentrated” laundry detergent, which uses 50 percent less water and 60 percent less plastic and is 75 percent lighter than the standard detergent bottle. The bottle automatically doses the right amount of detergent with one squeeze.
“According to Unilever, asking consumers to dilute the product at home means 97 percent less water being transported, 87 percent fewer trucks on the road, and less greenhouse gas emissions.”
But this isn’t about carbon emissions. Unilever, cognizant of the growing resentment against single-use plastic, has vowed to reduce the weight of its packaging by one-third, halve the waste associated with the disposal of its products by 2020, and use only reusable, recyclable, or compostable packing by 2025.
Its efforts in this direction have been tentative. In 2018, it launched a 3-liter bottle of a Brazilian laundry detergent brand with a formula six times the concentration of the original. Unilever says it’s reduced the volume of plastic used for the detergent by 75 percent.
Inside Clensta’s box, you find infinity spray bottles accented in pink, yellow, and Caribbean blue and labeled bathroom, Multi-Surface, Glass + Mirror and more. I filled the bottles with aqua de tap, poured concentrate in corresponding colors, put the postmodernist bottles in the compost bin, and dropped the concentrate in the bottles, and shook them well. An hour later, I used the resulting lightly scented cleaners to wipe down my countertop and mirror and, with the help of a scrubby brush, break apart the soap scum in my bathtub.
Out of all the cleaners, Clensta has no one-use plastic in its refill system and the most certifications, including the reputable Cradle to Cradle certification, which covers not only how the product is made and disposed of but also its toxicity or lack thereof. While a lot of these supposedly more sustainable consumer products are rightly criticized for feeding our ever-expanding appetite for more stuff, you can’t quibble with making cleaning products a necessary component of doing life more sustainable.