Are soaps biodegradable? Why does it matter?

Wait, so soaps are NOT biodegradable?

That is the question I often get asked at our farmers markets, when I share that Circular Bodies products are fully biodegradable. And that always leads me to some fruitful conversations that unfold the truth about our day-to-day and how it impacts the health of the earth. 

The answer is no, not all soaps are biodegradable. If fact, a lot of the detergents that are branded as soap and shampoos (think nearly everything at a conventional supermarket from dish soap to shampoo to body soap) aren't.  But why does that matter?

The term "biodegradable" means a product will be used by you, and then when rinsed down the drain (or down a river) - a.k.a. a "bio" environment - it will slowly break down - a.k.a. degrade - without affecting the environment it reached after your home. Using non biodegradable products means that the water with which you washed your clothes, dishes or body, will carry an ingredients (SLS is a common one) that will take years to biodegrade, or never will biodegrade, impacting the ecosystems that it passes, long after you are not around.

It would only be reasonable to make sure the fish in our rivers, the insects in our soils, and the humans living “down the stream” from us will have a clean environment to live on. Beyond that, materials that come from nature (cold pressed oils from fruits and nuts, wood, linen) are safe to our health and return to the natural environment without creating trace. Man-made synthetic compounds (plastic, fragrance, detergents) are foreign to the natural environment, creating a shock in the systems of the earth. Because we are a part of the earth (humans, animals, plants, we all are), if something damages the health of the earth, it is directly or indirectly damaging our health. 

There are several studies that go into how widely used substances in man's history were later discovered toxic for human and environmental health (radioactive substances, mercury, lead, just to name a few). The more we develop synthetic compounds in labs, the further away we become from nature. The earth provides us with materials for nourishment, shelter and healing, that can be used with minimal processing and are time-proven safe for our health. Why then would we use so much of our time and energy developing, testing and consuming ingredients that are man-made, and could be proven unsafe to us in a near future? 

It is often hard to quantify our impact when most of us live in cities. We might envision a water treatment taking care of our water waste, rather than a neighbor down a river getting polluted water from our river bathing. Our current ways of living make it easy to forget that everything is interconnected, and even if your shower water will not immediately pollute the river that crosses through your land, it will somehow, impact other humans and living beings down its long lifecycle. The disconnection and hyper individualism we experience today take us further from connecting with the cycles of the earth, which nourish, heal and allow us to live in this planet. This is a long conversation, and brings me back to the question that made me start Circular Bodies: What if we went back to ancestral ways and made day-to-day choices that are healthy for us and keep the earth clean? What if these choices were easier to make and made our day-to-day simpler?

Circular Bodies has been here for over a year making this happen and I ask myself this question often. It keeps me motivated to keep researching, uncovering healthier ways of living and creating products that reconnect us to the earth. Next time you look at a product label, maybe you will remember this reflection, and feel inspired to be a part of an earth that regenerates itself and creates a healthy future for all life that is yet to come.  

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published