Let's revisit my Berry Plus review

On Friday, I wrote about my comparison test between two soap nut products, Maggie's Soap Nuts and Berry Plus. Maggie's is just soap nuts, the raw product. You can buy them under a number of brand names at eco-stores and online. I bought my box of Maggie's at Blue Ridge Ec0 Shop. Berry Plus is a new liquid that is 95% soap nut (or berry) and is being marketed to college students. Free samples of that product were given out at the UVa Bookstore on Thursday.

I thought both products cleaned beautifully. The only fault I found was with Berry Plus' packaging and a few readers commented that they didn't like the packaging either.

The packaging would make the difference for me. The Berry stuff seems less eco-friendly with all that plastic.

The plastic packaging turns me off completely. Even if it were the better product and was less expensive, I still wouldn't use it just because of the environmental impact.

On Friday afternoon, I got an email from Jason Goldenberg at Berry Plus, who wanted to talk about the comments on the blog. I emailed with my phone number and waited to hear back. By 5 PM on Friday, I figured I could go back to being a design blogger and let the topic of laundry detergents slide down the page.

Well, here I am blogging about laundry detergent again. Perhaps I'm really blogging about blogging and how companies can respond to bloggers (especially when blog posts like mine will show up in Google searches for quite a while after this).

This morning, I woke up to the longest comment ever left on this blog. It comes from someone who says they are a UVA student. I don't think I have many UVA students who are reading and those who do see my blog probably do so via the local blog aggregator and wouldn't see a post three days after it's been written.

Here's the comment (I'm adding line between paragraphs just for ease of reading):

So glad to see so many comments around berryplus. I am a huge fan because it works and it is smart. Thank goodness this company is willing to try something different.

Just a quick clarification about the packaging. The outer package is compostable and the tube are 80% recycled material and they are fully recyclable. I received a sample on campus as well and did my homework directly with the people at berryplus (who I might add were very friendly and willing to share information). I think the real comparison is between your average jug and berryplus. For anybody like my parents that are buying anything in a jug, the jugs use 60% more packaging of old fashioned plastic. Not to mention that it weighs a lot more to transport so more fuel is used. The packaging was designed for convenience so not only is there no need to lug the jug but no need to overdose again. I know that normally when I do laundry I just pour a bunch of laundry soap in the wash the more the better and hope it comes out clean.

With berryplus I just emptied the capsule as instructed and my clothes came out perfect........ smelling clean and looking totally clean.

As a student I am a big fan of berryplus and I hope you replace all the jugs across the nation.

To those who mentioned other brands they use I am sure they are not 95% berry based and 100% plant based read the ingredients. Not to mention that they all use way more plastic and they weigh way more.

Let's give cool start up companies (not amateur) a break they are doing something great. I am so proud of UVA for realizing this is a great product for their school and the planet.

There are a few problems here.

First of all, the comment is so poorly written that I doubt it was written by a UVA student. These kids are smart. I interact with them daily in person, by email, and online. Even when using social media, they write well. There's also that fixation on the jug, which is the word used in the Berry Plus marketing campaign. Didn't I also comment on how poorly written some of the Berry Plus website was on Friday? Hm.

Second, we have lingo here. There are some special words that are used here that may seem foreign to those outside of our little bubble. The absence of that lingo doesn't bother me, but the use of one word that is never, ever used here jumped out. I'm not going to put the word in black and white, but if you are a member of the UVA community, I'm sure you see it. I even showed the comment to a few others who laughed when they got to the word.

Third, the timing seems impossible. This person claims to have done "research" with the people at the company and has been using the product long enough to be a "huge fan". Berry Plus was given out at the bookstore on Thursday.

Lastly, using the names directory on the website, I found that there are no students named Raina at the school. What's more, there are no faculty, administrators, or staff members at UVA or the hospital named Raina. Hard to believe, but the directory even returns close names in case of spelling errors.

Moving on, what about the part that says the packaging is recyclable? I didn't think unmarked plastic was recyclable. As a lifelong recycler who remembers the time when we only recycled glass and cans, I know the numbers on different plastics and which ones I can recycle here in town, but was about to email Recycla (aka Jen) to get the scoop. She beat me to the punch and commented on the post:

As for whether or not the packing is recyclable, I can tell you that, in general, it is not. That said, Whole Foods does accept all plastics for recycling at this time, but what I cannot tell you is what happens to those plastics after being dropped off at Whole Foods.

A note about so-called compostable plastics: Often, when a company says that their packaging will break down in a compost bin, their testing was done in industrial composters, which reach much higher temps than home composters do. About a year ago, Mother Earth News performed some tests on so-called compostable plastics and discovered that they do not break down in home compost bins. I've been doing some experimenting myself and have had the same results.

Bottom line: It's best to reduce your plastic use to begin with, regardless of whether or not it can be recycled or composted.

A big thanks to Jen for clearing that up and making a great point.

Stick a fork in this topic. As of tomorrow, I'll be back in design blog world. I hate posting entries without pictures, so I sprinkled in a few dreamy laundry rooms from Rate My Space. Enjoy!


  1. I did some research a while ago on plastics recycling. Many of the plastics in the higher numbers are shipped to foreign countries and then burned. It's disgusting. The pictures I saw of towns in China where the entire industry was this "recycling" were horrifying. The rivers have turned to brown sludge, and the grounds are covered in piles of rubbish, and the people who sort and process the recycling are exposed to harmful vapors and other stuff. So yeah - just because something is "recyclable" doesn't make it ok.

    And those comments do seem suspicious, btw.

  2. whew. you've really got me thinking about our detergent. we recycle our huge empty "jugs" but it still makes me uncomfortable how big and plastic-y they are, even if they are recyclable.
    i think i will try some of these soap nuts. i'm afraid for them that their marketing seems a little too hippie-like, which may be a turn off to your average consumer. the berry plus looks like a pack of birth control!

    luckily, i haven't had to carry around detergent in a long time but i could see, if marketed the right way, college students and apartments dwellers alike would be happy to have this stuff in their lives.

    thank you for adding pictures of the dreamy laundry rooms. one day i will have my own. currently our washer is in our kitchen and the dryer is in my bathroom. the only perk of this arrangement, which totally goes against what i believe environmentally, is that in the winter i can pop a towel and/or my clothes in the dryer while i'm in the shower. (totally off point, sorry!)

  3. OMG, they are such fakers! I went to their website and read the section called "YOU'RE THE HERO" and it insults ones intelligence. They literally say that doing laundry with their product will HEAL THE PLANET.


  4. Hm, very interesting goings-on with the whole commenting thing ... I know a lot of UVA-ers who would be appalled to see writing like represent their school. I hate the idea of fakers, so I just hope "Raina" was just in a hurry.

    Interesting info on greener laundry detergents. I could definitely be greener with my laundry so this is great.

  5. I have laundry room envy now...

    Thanks for revisiting this topic and consolidating the facts. Very helpful.

    I would like to reiterate my earlier comment that the best thing that one can do is cut back on plastic use in the first place.

  6. As a wahoo myself, no one says "campus" :)

  7. There is absolutely NO WAY that comment was written by a UVA student...I'm still cringing over the grammatical errors, and hope they did went to school somewhere else!

  8. Hi Jeannine. I am the other owner of Berryplus. Thanks for your interest in, and review of our product. We’re glad that you too think it works.

    So we don’t clog up your blog, I’ve responded to yours and comments received from others on our website at www.berryplus.com. That said, I want to make a few quick points here too.

    We fashion ourselves an inclusive and innovative start-up with the goal of making available effective and eco-friendlier alternatives to traditional consumer products. We understand that we are involved in an iterative process, and value others’ feedback to help us continually improve how we do what we do. But we are also in the business of running a business, because innovation does not grow on trees. It takes hard work, investment, a willingness to embrace risk and an openness to listen to what our customers and non-customers alike tell us. Since our soft launch over the past month, we have heard from many students, parents of students and others with no connection to students. And we have listened to all of them, even those who could use a teacher’s help with their grammar and writing style, because we don’t qualify our audience, nor exclude or discount what they have to say, because of their age, status or writing ability.

    Soapberries have been used by people in Asia and elsewhere for thousands of years, and been available in the United States for decades from Maggie’s and elsewhere. But raw soapberries haven’t caught on with the mainstream public, and remain largely a fringe product despite their wonderful cleaning power. Raw soapberries have not caught on with Main Street in part because they are odd and inconvenient to use, and they have a too-crunchy-granola image. This is not to disrespect soapberries or Maggie’s product in the slightest. To the contrary, we at Berryplus applaud and are grateful for Maggie’s and others’ pioneering work with soapberries and wish them continued success. But we are hitting for the fences, and hoping to bring the wonders of soapberries to everyone, not just those who prefer their consumer products unprocessed and unpackaged. If we don’t also deliver convenience and make things easier for people, we simply won’t make the type of difference that chance now affords us, no matter how eco-friendlier our product is. The micro-dose provides a complete answer that delivers 95% berry-based and 100% plant-based cleaning power, in the right amount every time, using 30% less packaging and requiring 75% less truck space and fuel to transport than leading brands. And it fits nicely into your pocket. For students, many of whom care about the environment and still have to lug jugs up and down stairs, the micro-dose is a perfect solution.

    And we thought long and hard about what material to use for our outer-packaging. We chose a compostable bio-resin because we want to encourage and support emerging technologies that offer up new models of waste diversion rather than avoid them. Industrial composting is the future of waste processing, we think, because it converts waste into earth-healing and productive soil, rather than more plastic and ultimately landfill. Yes, it may not yet be a perfect solution available to everyone everywhere, but if you’re lucky it’s coming to a neighborhood near you soon. More for those interested at www.berryplus.com in days to come.

    Lastly, Jason apologizes for not calling you from the west coast over the weekend or yesterday. But he and I are available to speak with you, and any one else with a thought or idea about Berryplus. I can be reached at jamie@cleanerinnovations.com or give us a call during east coast business hours at 800- 381-2576.

    Jamie Gold


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