MyPlanet Eco-friendly Detergents

I’ve been using the MyPlanet series of environmentally friendly fabric and household care products for more than a year, but it hadn’t occurred to me to write about them here, because I just assumed that they were imports. Laundry detergents, window cleaners and dishwasher tablets, especially their green alternatives, were the kind of things I (naively) thought were manufactured only by multi-nationals. What Greek company, or for that matter any SME, would be crazy enough to try to gain a foothold in a market dominated by the Goliaths of a few deep-pocketed conglomerates?

MyPlanet series of eco-friendly fabric and household care products
MyPlanet series of eco-friendly fabric and household care products

It turns out that the David that produces the MyPlanet series is Rolco,a Greek company that  has been making fabric and household detergents for more than half a century. The company also has a track record of environmental friendly manufacture. In the 1970s it became the first Greek company to introduce fully biodegradable surfactants (a component that breaks up stains) in its detergents and in 2003 it began to use natural gas to heat the boilers in its factories. Incidentally, it’s been included in the “Strongest Greek Companies” list of the most credit-worthy firms published each year by the business consulting firm ICAP.

Introduced in 2008, the MyPlanet line features laundry powder, fabric softener, hand dishwashing liquid, all-purpose household cleaners and window cleaners. Its products today are all boron- and phosphate-free, and use, where possible, pant-based active ingredients and alternatives to petrochemical components. Naturally, the products come in fully recyclable packaging (as do many conventional detergents). The Planet line is not entirely chemical free, however. Some chemical substances, such as perfumes and antimicrobial agents, are used but within the limitations set by the EU Eco-Label guidelines in terms of toxicity and biodegradability. (That said, the hand dishwashing liquid does contain methylisothiazolinone, a commonly used biocide that some studies have shown to be allergenic, although after reviewing relevant studies in 2004, the European Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-Food Products Intended for Consumers concluded that its use as a preservative in cosmetics and other products at concentrations of less than 0.01% (100 ppm) in the finished product does not pose a consumer health risk.)

Data on market share are not available, but MyPlanet seems to have gained a toehold, judging by the amount of shelf space given Planet products in the supermarkets I shop at (admittedly not a representative sample). It seems fitting that Rolco won the 2009 Effie Hellas 2010 David vs. Goliath award, a distinction in the field of marketing communications given to “smaller, new or emerging bands making inroads against big, established leaders.”

There’s certainly room for the firm to increase its market share, not only in Greece but also in the export markets it’s begun to be distributed in. The percentage of the population who believe that the state of the environment influences their quality of life is higher in Greece (92%) than anywhere else in the EU. And although three-quarters of Greek respondents in a recent Eurobarometer survey stated they intent to buy environmentally friendly products in the future (a figure close to the EU average), only 16% actually had bought at least one such product in the last month (again, on par with the EU average).

Some of the difference between intent and action is due to the price differential between green and conventional products. But in a recent comparative survey of Athens supermarket prices of laundry detergents, I could find Ariel at a best price of €18 for a 68-wash bag and MyPlanet at a cost of €20.76 for a 67-wash bag, which works out to be only a four-cent difference per wash. The supermarket price obviously does not factor in such environmental costs as eutrophication, energy waste and the disposal of non-biodegradable ingredients that are part of the “invisible costs” of conventional products.

And effectiveness? In a comparative test of five green laundry detergents conducted by the daily newspaper Kathimerini, MyPlanet, outperformed the other products in cleaning difficult stains.

Klimis’ Olive-Pip BBQ Briquettes

Yes, eco-friendly BBQ briquettes made from olive pips! This is one of those brilliant why-haven’t-more-people-thought-of-this-before ideas. After all, cultivators in Greece press countless tons of olives every year; what exactly do they do with all the solid residue?

BBQ Briquettes from olive pips, by Klimis, under the Artisan Olive Oil label
BBQ Briquettes from olive pips under the Artisan Olive label

Upon closer inspection it turns out—as one should have expected—to have been something people have been doing in different ways for many, many years. Poverty being the handmaiden of both ingenuity and frugality—despite current crisis discourse to the contrary, our Northern neighbors have no patent on Sparsamkeit and thrift—Greek farmers and cultivators made good use of the waste products of primary cultivation. The residue left over after olives were pressed for oil, the so-called pomace-wood, was used as fuel to fire kilns and provide energy for mills. And the dust-like residue from that was used as fuel for the braziers that were used for cooking.

The company that Klimis Klimentidis founded in 1968 in Asprohoma in Kalamata to produce lime fertilizer (V & A Kottaridis S.A.) is the only one in Greece that produces olive pip briquettes (note: the ones for barbecue are called “vegetable coal” on the company’s Greek-based website). When he started his business, he used locally produce pomace-wood to fire his kilns to produce the lime. There must have been some flash of inspiration at some point many years later which made him think of pressing the byproduct of this firing process—recycled waste product of a recycled waste product—into cylinders of briquettes that could be used for heating home stoves but also as barbeque fuel (in Greek pirinokarvouno).

For its patented briquette product, this family-run Greek company, which continues to produce non-toxic lime for organic farming, earned the 2009 European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) award in the small-organization category. Compared to traditional wood charcoal, Klimis’ BBQ briquettes (i.e. “vegetable coal”) reportedly release 30% less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, ignite more easily and don’t spark. Naturally, the briquettes have no chemical additives. Apparently they don’t emit the smoke charcoal briquettes do, which is perhaps one reason why they’re used in open-kitchen/open-grill restaurants in Japan and Scandinavia where the company exports to, but which perhaps may be a downside for the BBQ chefs who consider a good smoke the sina qua non of a successful grill.

The briquettes are available in Corinth, Crete, Argolida, Santorini and Attiki through selected distributors and is exported to the Netherlands, Sweden and Japan. The company’s products are slated to be presented at the Garden Retail Show this September in Birmingham under the “Artisan Olive” label and with the attractive new packaging illustrated in the image above. One can only wish them good luck!