One of the great things about living in the Northeast is that we are close to a lot of the action. Stuff gets made here. Factory tours give you a chance to see some of that stuff being made. I love seeing this type of thing, I suppose because it is the “other end” of what I do so often as a professional organizer, which is help people get rid of excess, unwanted, and toxic stuff. This is where stuff is born.
I didn’t realize until recently that one of my favorite products, the Sun & Earth line of cleaning products, is made right here in King of Prussia, PA. I heard they have a factory tour suitable for kids ages 4 and up, so I told my three and a half year old daughter to act four and signed us up.
If you aren’t familiar with the product, it is a natural product line of household cleaners that is environmentally friendly because it is mostly derived from orange oils. This caused a little problem for my tot because she thought the display oranges were snacks. But the entire office and plant smelled like oranges. Not the artificial orange smell that you get from, well, artificial fragrances made to smell like oranges, but an honest to goodness orange smell. Knowing that many things, including gnats and mosquitoes, don’t like citrus, I’ve used their all purpose cleaner on my counter tops for a while now.
But I was really impressed with the plant. Their office is small but tidy. In fact, it was hard to imagine such a small operation responsible for a product that goes all over the country.
I was also impressed with the lack of what we in the firefighting world call PPE: personal protective equipment. We were walking on the actual floor where the product is produced, and neither us nor the workers had to wear masks or suits. I knew that we were relatively safe as long as we stayed out of the big vats. If you have to work in a factory environment, I’m guessing this is the one you want to be in. I’ve worked on certain organizing jobs where I needed more protective equipment.
And of course, you know I was impressed with the organization of the assembly lines. You can see a part of the assembly line above, with our host Jay. The only part that made me a little itchy, so to speak, was the bin where the empty bottles were stored to be filled, but they are practicing the principle that I espouse, which is: organize where it matters, and don’t where it doesn’t.
This company uses eco-friendly products when possible, like packing peanuts made from corn and potato starch. They are modeling responsible purchasing and conscious consuming.
Since their various products are safe and all share common chemical properties, their shipping containers don’t have to be decontaminated or even rinsed in between uses. That cuts down on storage and cleaning of empty containers. They just don’t have a lot of clutter sitting around.
They donate their empty barrels to community groups for them to re-purpose in to rain barrels. I didn’t want to point out that rain barrels sell for $$$$$ online. Unlike some of my clients, they know that the best use of their discards is to send them to someone else who can use them more.
Probably the thing that our tour attendees got the most excited about was…ready for this…new packaging. Sun and Earth are now offering “fill stations” at some Whole Foods and other retailers. When you bring back your empty containers and refill them yourself, you save over 40% of the price of a new bottle. And their newest bottle of laundry detergent isn’t a bottle at all. It’s a box. Made just like a wine box, the entire thing is lighter to ship, perfectly storable and attractive on your laundry shelf, and completely recyclable, even the interior bladder. C’mon, I know how many of you wish you could stack your big Cosco purchases on your laundry room shelf. There’s innovation for you!
As an aside, I’ve been on a bit of a journey lately for the perfect laundry detergent since we switched to cloth diapers. I think I found it with Sun & Earth 2X concentrated, and it gets great ratings at http://www.diaperjungle.com/detergent-chart.html. Here’s another tip: if you see lots of bubbles in your front loading washing machine, you are using too much detergent. Cut back until suds are nearly gone. The machine will perform better, since the bubbles mean the agitation can’t work correctly, you’ll save money, and you’ll send less product in to the water supply.