Image: Seventh Generation
Just over a month ago, Seventh Generation launched new packaging with 96 percent post-consumer recycled content. Anyone familiar with the numerous difficulties of plastics recycling knows that's huge. The company's also getting attention right now for its focus on the stuff inside the bottles, too. Specifically, laundry detergents. The New York Times shed light recently on optical brighteners, the trick that most brands use to get whiter whites and brighter colors, but which are bad for the environment (they escape wastewater treatment processes, are non-biodegradable, and accumulate in fish, according to Seventh Generation) and are said to rub off on people wearing those bright and shiny clothes.
That's because these brighteners do not necessarily get dirt out to make clothes look cleaner, but because they leave stuff in. The Times reports, "the chemicals permeate fabrics, causing them to selectively absorb and fluoresce light to appear more white or vibrant."
Seventh Generation does not use such chemicals, and its latest advertising campaign hinges on letting customers know just that.
An ad claiming, "She should glow, not her clothes," is the opening highlight of the Times story, which goes on to mention a fascinating source of Seventh Generation loyalists: the military. Some uniforms "are made of fabrics that are undetectable by infrared or night-vision equipment, but laundering them with products containing optical brighteners can render them detectable."
Seventh Generation detergent is a popular choice for people in the military with these uniforms; it's also one brand listed by military branches that have researched detergents free of optical brighteners (since, like with so many household and personal care products, ingredients do not need to be listed on the label).
Back to the packaging, because that also deserves some attention. From American Recycler:
The new packaging is constructed of resin derived from recycled milk jugs and other plastic bottles and represents a quantum leap over the 25 percent recycled content typically found in plastic packaging.
The new packaging, featured in the brand's dish liquid and fabric softener, joins other impressive high-PCR content bottles in Seventh Generation's roster of products, including its 80 percent PCR 150 oz. concentrated laundry liquid container...
If every household replaced just one virgin plastic 25 oz. bottle of dish liquid with Seventh Generation's 96 percent PCR bottle, America would save over 8,600,000 lbs of plastic and prevent the release of more than 23,500,000 lbs. of greenhouse gases.
Of course, realizing that potential depends on people actually making that switch. Which is not easy—ending on a quote borrowed again from The Times:
"For the most part people will relate to the fact that they have brighter colors and whiter whites as opposed to the fact that they have these optical brighteners," Dr. Chameides [dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University] said. "I don't know what the decision process is for most people when they buy detergent, but I don't think it's a highly intellectual process."
More on Seventh Generation
Reasons To Support Seventh Generation
Seventh Generation Forecasts the Future of Business: The Responsibility Revolution (Book Review)
Seventh Generation Makes Reading Product Labels Easier
Seventh Generation CEO Jeffrey Hollender on "Big Green Lies" and Earth Day