When we think about the environmental impacts of the tourist industry we think about food waste, marine debris, and air pollution, however little attention we pay to the impact soaps and detergents have on water systems.
Originally, soap was made with natural oils and aromatic plants. With the arrival of the fossil fuel industry, the soap manufacturing process changed to large quantities of non-biodegradable soaps and detergents that are detrimental to water quality.
Everyday soaps and detergents are one of the primary sources of chemical pollution found in water systems today and the hotel industry is accountable for water pollution as it produces a lot of wastewater. A wide range of chemicals, including bleach and phosphates, are both directly linked to water pollution and health risk to humans, as those won’t decompose in the environment.
We tell you why conventional soap is harming your health and the environment and why biodegradable soap is so important for water sustainability.
Keep reading as we tell you how travelers can help to stop water pollution.
How are conventional soaps and detergents destroying the planet?
We must take into account a series of effects soaps and detergents have on the environment.
Detergents have surface-active agents or surfactants; they can produce copious amounts of foam on the surfaces of our waterways. These foams are typically formed into a dense and thick layer that stays on the surface of the water for long periods.
This type of foam is a proven source of chemical contaminants and hazards. Foam layers also inhibit the amount of available oxygen and light into the water causing great damage to marine life.
Have you seen those stinky green layers of algae blooms floating on the water? That’s an example of eutrophication!
Eutrophication destroys the intricate ecological balance of the aquatic ecosystems and decreases the biodiversity of the ecosystem. As a result of the mortality of aquatic fauna, fishing resources, and the national economy is affected.
Many conventional detergents use phosphates, phosphonates, or percarboxylates as enhancers. These substances act as algae fertilizers, causing them to reproduce rapidly. A large amount of algae depletes the oxygen and sunlight in the water, killing several aquatic species.
Any drinking water contaminated with chemicals can be a hazard to human health.
Many people affected by chemically polluted water report health issues, such as nausea, stomach cramps, sore throat, skin irritation, and even liver damage. Using chemically polluted water in food crops can also be poisonous.
Soaps and detergents can also contain bleaching agents such as chlorine. One of the main problems of the chlorine industry is that it generates organochlorine substances such as dioxins and furans, hazardous components to human health and biodiversity.
Studies claim dioxins and furans can cause many health problems including hormonal dysfunctions, malformations in the fetus, and cancer, among others.
Although there are detergents that are packaged in cardboard boxes, there is a tendency for plastic containers.
Most of the time, plastic is not separated later and therefore can not be recycled, having a huge impact on water and land ecosystems, we all know plastic doesn’t disintegrate for centuries!
Biodegradable soaps vs conventional soaps
Traditional soaps often contain synthetic substances. Many harmful preservatives such as parabens phthalates petrochemicals and other solvents don’t break down easily. Artificial colors and smells are non-breakable rapidly either.
The negative impact of conventional soaps on local flora and fauna is huge, that’s why traditional suds shouldn’t be used in camping and outdoor activities.
Most biodegradable washes are created with organic ingredients which break down easily when exposed to the bacteria found in the environment.
Biodegradable washes can also be created with organic naturally concentrated compounds that offer more effective cleaning with significantly less waste.
What does biodegradable mean?
If given the right conditions and presence of microorganisms such as fungi, or bacteria, it will eventually break down to their basic components. Ideally, but not always, these substances degrade without leaving any toxins behind.
For example, when a plant-based product might break down into carbon dioxide, water, and other naturally occurring minerals, the substance seamlessly mixes back into the earth, leaving no toxins behind.
Unfortunately, many materials break down in a more harmful manner, leaving chemicals or other damaging substances in the soil, water, and biodiversity.
The best biodegradable material will break down quickly and will leave little to no harmful impact. Unfortunately, not everything that’s advertised as “biodegradable” meets these criteria.
If you are going to start including biodegradable soap, or you already do, in your traveling and everyday life, make sure the ingredients are safely and efficiently biodegradable, as well as accurately labeled.
Why is biodegradable soap good for the environment?
It is very important that we all become aware of the impact soap and detergents have on ecosystems.
It is urgent to promote the use of soaps and biodegradable detergents in the tourist industry and everyday life, in addition to other substances for cleaning in general, which end up in rivers and seas causing serious damage to marine life.
Biodegradable soaps and detergents guarantee that they become virtually undetectable through time. Biodegradable soap poses little risk to local ecosystems and aquatic fauna compared to other corrosive chemicals or plastics.
They also come in biodegradable packaging or are sold in bulk. Bar soap produces the lowest overall impact on the environment due to its natural and compostable packaging.
Chemically-based soaps and detergents can contain carcinogens and skin irritating. Biodegradable soaps use natural ingredients like olive oil coconut oil or jojoba oil, to mention a few, both known for their anti-aging and skin health properties.
All-natural biological and organic washings continue at present to adversely affect the environment, particularly aquatic ones.
No animal testing
Conventional soap brands (which sadly make up 95% of drugstores), test in animals.
Avoid supporting brands that conduct animal testing, there are plenty of vegan and biodegradable soap brands to choose from, no matter your skin type or budget.
How do hotels contribute to water pollution?
Think about all the water intake from hotels: pool water, laundry, baths, and jacuzzis, just to mention a few. Hotels certainly produce a lot of wastewater and sadly, the wastewater is often disposed of in water bodies such as rivers, seas, lakes, or landfills.
For example, in the United States, hotel rooms, pools, landscaping, laundries, and other facilities account for 15% of all water use in institutional and commercial facilities. That’s a lot of water!
Hotels need to incorporate sustainable water management practices to ensure guests that sewage and wastewater are treated properly.
We should take into account the hotel industry have several detrimental impacts on water systems and the ecology.
- Rampant discharge of wastewater and effluents into water bodies has played havoc on local ecosystems.
- Wastewater disposal without proper treatment has severely affected marine life and the living of downstream people using the water bodies for economic as well as day-to-day use of water.
- Discharge of hot water also produces pollution in changing the aquatic environment of water bodies.
- A hotel’s water intake can create a water stress effect in local ecosystems and therefore affect local communities.
- Hotels produce a lot of wastewater and many of them have now installed their own sewage treatment plant, which contributes greatly to reducing pollution as well as having economic benefits by reusing water.
- This pollution can be minimized at the source by restricting chemicals that mix with water such as the ones contained in conventional soaps and detergents.
How can travelers help stop water pollution?
When traveling, most hotels provide toiletries and mini amenities in their bathrooms including shampoo, conditioner, soap, body lotion.
Luxury accommodations even offer mouthwash, sewing kits, shower caps, vanity kits, and shoe shine.
All these products are barely used and have a lot of packaging which most of the time ends up in landfills.
Globally, many international hotel chains have come to understand sustainability as a bottom-line issue and have even started marketing their water conservation efforts to a public increasingly sensitive to environmental issues.
Travelers can help reduce water pollution by incorporating these tips into their holiday planning.
Stay at certified eco-accommodation only
Vila Libellule in France provides guests with eco-friendly toiletries including organic biodegradable hand soap and shampoo.
Look for hotels that are certified by eco-label audits, those hotels comply with a series of sustainability practices including providing organic and biodegradable toiletries, soap, and shampoo in refillable dispenser bottles, and recyclable packaging.
Some hotels encourage eco-friendly actions by reducing soap and laundry detergent usage by supplying guests with towels on request.
Certified hotels also reduce water intake by installing the most innovative and efficient treatment systems, cultivating their own water supplies through water reuse and desalination, and installing in-house treatment and reuse systems.
Support 100% biodegradable soap brands
You can make eco-friendly and sustainable decisions when it comes to personal care products when traveling.
iLoveEcoEssentials is a committed Danish company passionate about creating natural and organic products that don’t harm the environment.
iLoveEcoEssentials products are free of banned parabens, free of banned phthalates, free of petroleum-derived ingredients, free of paraffin, free of diethanolamine, free of mineral oil, free of silicon, 100% biodegradable formulations, and not tested on animals.
Stay safe during Covid-19 while protecting the environment
A recent study shows demand for handwashing products after a year into the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic has led to environmental concerns.
Since soaps are complex mixtures of toxic and persistent active ingredients, the prudent option is to promote eco-friendly replacements for the current products.
On the other hand, with the increase in soap packaging waste production, soap packaging waste management and recycling become essential to reduce environmental impact.
Washing hands with soap and hand disinfectants is unavoidable as a primary way to control the infection spread while traveling, so stay safe while protecting the environment by using organic biodegradable soap and packaging.