Tru Earth CEO Brad Liski: Detergent Insurgent

The next time you’re doing a load of laundry, take a second and think about all that goes into cleaning your clothes. You’ve probably contemplated the water and electricity this activity consumes, but if you’re like most Americans and you use liquid detergent, there’s also a lot plastic and gasoline involved, as well. This week on Sea Change Radio, we talk to Brad Liski, the CEO and co-founder of Tru Earth, a company that has pioneered a better way to clean clothes. The company’s unique paper-thin cleaning strips involve zero plastic packaging, and weigh nearly nothing in comparison to liquid detergents (which, incidentally,  comprise 80% water). This means no plastic waste as well as a lot less fuel required to transport product around the globe. We learn about the Tru Earth product, talk about slow progress toward environmental responsibility in the conventional laundry detergent industry, and discuss the need for a plumbing infrastructure that enables effective water re-use.

Narrator  0:01  This is Sea Change Radio covering the shift to sustainability. I’m Alex Wise.

Brad Liski  0:17  I dream, actually Alex, of a day where all the major CPG firms – all the major consumer packaged good firms – that are the big creators of detergent, turn off their laundry jug assembly lines and switch to this method.

Alex Wise  0:44  Next time you’re doing a load of laundry, take a second and think about all that goes into cleaning your clothes. You’ve probably contemplated the water and electricity this activity consumes. But if you’re like most Americans, and you use liquid detergent, there’s also a lot of plastic and gasoline involved as well. This week on seachange radio, we talked to Brad litski, the CEO and co founder of Tru Earth, a company that’s pioneered a better way to clean clothes. The company’s unique paper thin cleaning strips involve zero plastic packaging, and weigh nearly nothing in comparison to liquid detergents, which incidentally, comprise 80% water. This means no plastic waste, as well as a lot less fuel required to transport around the globe. We learn about the true worth product, talk about slow progress toward environmental responsibility in the conventional laundry detergent industry, and discuss the need for a plumbing infrastructure that enables effective water reuse. I’m joined now on Sea Change Radio by Brad Liski. He’s the CEO and co founder of Tru Earth. Brad, welcome to Sea Change Radio.

Brad Liski  2:04  I’m glad to be here. Thanks for having me.

Alex Wise  2:06  So this is a really cool idea. Why don’t you first explain the basic products that Tru Earth makes for our listeners?

Brad Liski  2:15  Yeah, so the hero product, if you will for the movement that’s kind of gone. viral is a eco strip laundry detergent. So it’s essentially, instead of a liquid or a powder, laundry detergent, it’s in a in a small compact load controlled strip. And you just literally throw that strip into the laundry. And you’re done. No overdosing no mass at made it something extremely easy. That used to be a pain.

Alex Wise  2:44  And how did you hit upon this idea? I mean, it’s almost like the washing version of the dryer sheet, if you will.

Alex Wise   2:51  Yeah. And you know, and that’s the funny thing about it, because it was actually an extended family member. And he invested in the in the patent holder, several years ago when they had a laundry detergent. And he’s the one that reached out, but I didn’t really get it. I didn’t understand what a laundry sheet was. And I did exactly like you is like is it a dryer sheet like I don’t understand what you’re trying to say. And they struggled explaining it, which was probably why they’re having troubles. But I grew up in an eco conscious household. And I still couldn’t understand how an entire jug of laundry detergent could possibly fit in packaging the size of an iPhone. But he convinced me to try it. So I brought some in get my partners. So we decided, let’s give it a roll and see if it actually works. And all three of us, including her spouses concluded that stuff actually works. And that was one of those. Okay, so what we did, Alex was we put it through our we had at the time a very tested and proven system of launching products. And we wanted to get 150 strangers to subscribe in the first 30 days. And we ended up with 1500. And we’re like, Okay, this is exceeded anything we’ve ever done before. This is more than just a cool product.

Alex Wise  4:09  And it is a really cool product, though. So I’ve been using it and have not noticed any difference in terms of our clothes being any less clean by any means. I haven’t put a through a really well soiled load yet, but it feels like it works just as well as liquid. Let’s talk about the environmental problem that liquid and powdered traditional laundry detergents create and what solution to earth and these type of laundry sheets are presenting.

Brad Liski  4:46  Yeah, that’s it’s a good point. Alex is that you know one of the major problems with laundry detergent, as a whole is literally the plastic drug that it comes in. And the 80% of the water that has been trapped transported around. And the amount of pollution that is created in transporting these heavy jugs is absolutely unnecessary now. And even though these containers are recyclable, as we know, only 9% of plastic is actually recycled. So meaning 91% of that is heading to the landfill or an ocean. And then the next problem is the amount of active ingredients. So as you said, you know, it cleans clothes. So most detergents are filled with a lot more chemicals way more than we need to actually clean our clothes. And no fault is that are us as consumers we demanded perfection. So the CPG CPG firms, they’ve overdosed that detergent,

Alex Wise CPG – That’s consumer packaging, sorry, right?

Brad Liski  5:46  So the consumer packaged goods firms, so the big creators of, of detergents and cleaners in the world, they’ve done what we’ve asked them to and they’ve overdosed the detergent. So we get that once in a blue moon blood stain. You know, I don’t know about you, but I don’t I don’t bleed on my clothes a lot. Or do I go skidding across the grass. But you know, once that wash cycle finishes, those chemicals are going, you know, from the machine and we washed away down your drain through into the waterways, the streams, lakes and oceans. So what we’ve tried to focus on was, let’s get the detergent to be the right amount to clean your clothes, let’s do the job it’s supposed to do. And if you get that heavy load, well then put another half a sheet or another sheet. That’s the winner in this.

Alex Wise 6:34  So I didn’t realize that liquid detergent is 80% water which he just mentioned. That’s that’s a stunning amount. That also probably means an awful lot of waste in terms of transportation I imagine and fuels that accompanies that transportation.

Brad Liski  6:52  Absolutely that you know we take a look at because the products we have right now have that smaller eco footprint than the liquids or the powders, the ingredients they’re also you know chosen with that environment. Mine the phosphate and paraben free data dyes are bleaches vegan, hypoallergenic and rarely biodegradable. But when we talk about zero waste packaging, and the lightweight that reduction of transportation, fuel consumption, the global warming carbon emissions are reduced by 94%. Compared to the liquids and powder that’s that’s just one of those really, why aren’t we just doing this everywhere?

Alex Wise  7:29  You mentioned how the traditional detergents are kind of overkill. Why don’t you explain what true Earth is made out of and what people will be putting against their skin through the transitive property once they wash their clothes in it?

Brad Liski  7:44  Yeah, no, I’m definitely not the chemist in our in our company, which is, which is good. That’s good for everybody on the earth that I’m not the chemist.

Alex Wise 7:52  But you were talking about bloodstains. Like for example, anytime we have stains in our house on anything, we treat it with a little mixture of dish soap, and baking soda and hydrogen peroxide and we mix that together and then we let it set but like I know that there’s these instant spray on stain removers, which are a wildly popular segment of the consumer packaged goods industry. And they always come with tons of scent, and they seem wasteful and they don’t work as well as that little home remedy that we use.

Brad Liski  8:24  That is absolutely true. And even that scent attack, you know, will will recommend or people or change makers or customers they’ve said they’ve told us the hacks where you just take you know a little centimeter by centimeter quarter inch by quarter inch square of this strip, and you just put it on the stain and it just actively breaks that stain down so you don’t need that heavy duty cleaner. But yes, you know, as far as what I love about what we’ve got going is that we put all of our ingredients on the website. So those people that were completely transparent, or even our material safety data sheets are there for our scented and unscented but making sure that we’re our enemy right now is plastic. We’re attacking plastic and attacking carbon emissions. And then we’ll continue to now go inside the formula and attack the formula as well. But what’s good about it is that we’re all focused on making sure that whatever cleaners we have in it are there but they’re not more than are needed. And that we’re always looking for improvement on anything that there is

Alex Wise 9:32  So I interrupted you and you said you weren’t a chemist, but you mentioned that your ingredients for Tru Earth, the laundry detergent is on your website, but maybe you can just walk us through the basic ingredient list.

Brad Liski  9:44  Sure. So there’s vegetable glycerin in there, which is derived from from soy. We have a starch which is the binding agent. Potassium sulfate i think is in there. We’ve got some coconut propylene, which is coconut oil based, so biodegradable Of course, and then sodium glucan, eight. Lauro dimethyl. And then of course the sulphonic acids, the C 14 sixteens. And I think glycerin and some glucoside. And then the fragrance oils in the fragrance free. There’s nothing there’s no no sense whatsoever.

Alex Wise  10:29  And the C 14 and C 16. those the ones that are kind of the secret sauce for cleaning or what are the key ingredients for removing dirt?

Brad Liski  10:40  That is right, yeah, yeah, you see 1416 alkine, hydroxide hydroxy sorry, sodium salts, biodegradable surfactants those are active cleaning agents. And then a little bit of the the biodegradable non ionic surfactant in there as well. Plant derived, of course.

(Music Break)

Alex Wise  11:39  This is Alex Wise on Sea Change Radio, and I’m speaking to the CEO and co-founder of Tru Earth Brad Liski. So, Brad, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about your company. You’re Canadian based? You’re a small company still, relatively. What’s your vision for the arc of this company? And maybe kind of give us a behind the scenes look at how Tru Earth operates?

Brad Liski  12:01  Yeah, absolutely. Our mission is actually our critical cause, which is to make true lasting change that helps save the planet. And our current battle, as you said, is to eradicate that plastic from from landfills and oceans. But what we’ve realized in we launched only in April of 2019. So we got two and a half years under our belt. But we’re now in 65 countries are a midsize firm and continue to grow to little over 230 employees. And from there, the vision is to continue to bring products that help our changemakers our customers make the changes they want to make and in the household. So we’re focused on the laundry room, the kitchen and the bathroom, and trying to offer this solution. Because of that transportation reduction that we have to get out. We all have to get that carbon emission, this product can span the globe, way more environmentally than others.

Alex Wise  13:03   Now explain how we haven’t gotten to costs and how much it costs a consumer to use your product. Why don’t you kind of do an apples to apples comparison, on the true Earth, laundry detergent strips versus let’s say, tide?

Brad Liski  13:22 Yeah, so when the pandemic hit, we moved to a annual supply of detergent, which is a 384 load. It’s about the size, it’s a box about the size of a wine bottle for the entire year. And the cost of that is less than your Tide Pod. If you’re buying, you know any other options, you go on a subscription. And basically for $13 a month…

Alex Wise  13:45  …before you say Tide Pod, all I know about Tide Pod is that people eat them. I’ve never bought them. So if you can kind of just compare it to like a jug of liquid.

Brad Liski  13:56  So the jug of liquid you’re looking at it is a premium over your jug in the describe load over load basis. But because I don’t know about you, but I’ve been fired from laundry like eight times in my life, because I pour too much in that machine. So when the net result of what you’re yielding out of that container, were right in line. So because the RS are dose controlled, I can’t get fired anymore, because I know that I turned the strip off and that’s one load. So I can’t mess up and send too many suds into the, into the machine.

Alex Wise  14:27  So you have free shipping included. I interrupted the cost breakdown for a consumer when you continue.

Brad Liski  14:34  Yeah, so especially in that subscription, where it’s $13 a month for the average family of four. So that’s the 32 loads. We don’t really realize but we do about eight loads a week as a family of four. And so we’ve predetermined that or tried to match with it, but you can do once every two months or once every three months or or more loads if you’ve got a bigger family. But once you take in the fact that it’s being delivered in your mailbox, the same savings is real compared to going to the store buying that jug carrying that jug home, bring it or getting it delivered.

Alex Wise 15:08  So I have to confess that even though I’m using a similar product, my wife found a competitor, initially, and that was the one that she signed up for. I think it’s like Earth Breeze or something. But as I did research into this, I found that you guys were the first to create this. And so I wanted to have you on the show. Why don’t you explain the competitive landscape and what’s keeping like a Procter and Gamble from getting into this, it might be a bad thing for Tru Earth, but it could be a good thing for the planet if more and more of these companies shift away from the very inefficient liquids and powders.

Brad Liski  15:47  Yeah, 100%. You know, yes, we’re seeing many knockoffs and they’re all coming from overseas and grabbing the bandwagon because we got to the cool little product now so many small drop-shippers are, you know, trying to profit from it. And I dream actually Alex have a day where all the major CPG firms all the major consumer packaged good firms that are the big creators of detergent, turn off their laundry jug assembly lines and switch to this method. That won’t be bad news for us that we didn’t get in this to make a billion dollar corporation. We got in this to disrupt. And for us to have real sustainability in this segment, we need the big firms to join in. That is what we would be proud to call Legacy In my mind, the consumer smart now. And finally, they can make a choice that is easy, economical and eco friendly. Bring it I want it not from I bring it from a competitive bring it because the planet needs it right now. We need to switch Time to wake up.

Alex Wise  16:51  So you mentioned that the laundry detergent was just one piece of the Tru Earth product line. What else do you guys make?

Brad Liski  17:00  Right now we have a multi surface cleaner, disinfecting multi surface cleaner. That’s in Canada, and getting approvals into the us soon. We have everything from dryer balls to produce bags to metal straws to makeup wipe removers, we’re going to continue to focus on you know, not only the suite of products we have now. But the plan launch is coming this year, we made a pledge to provide our customers those true changemakers. With those the products, they need to make a substantial impact on the health of the world. They’re relying on us, there’s over half a million of them that are buying direct and many more that are buying through retail locations. And we’re making that change, we’re filling that pipeline and relying on us to do that. And from our perspective, it’s very exciting times ahead, because we just love to disrupt and we’re disrupting the multi surface cleaner.

Alex Wise  17:55 And  maybe you can kind of outline how that might be different than what you might buy at a big supermarket.

Brad Liski  18:03  It’s the exact same technology that created the laundry detergent sheet, in that it comes in a four by four sheet and you roll it up and put it in your water bottle, mix it with water and you’ve got a disinfected multi surface cleaner. So and inside the envelope that you know 32 loads of laundry detergent would come with the same size, you get 16 doses for lockers is not really loads 16 doses of the detergent or probably the cleaner, which is the equivalent of three spray bottles. So in an envelope in your mailbox, three spray bottles, so you’re saving all three of those plastics. And that is that plastic bottle that we talked about. There’s over 645 billion plastic household containers being disposed of in landfills each year.

Alex Wise  18:50  Wow. So with that laundry subscription, you have the same technology, but in a slightly different form. That’s kind of set aside for a spray bottle. And then you can just use that on surfaces.

Brad Liski  19:06  Yeah, so it’s completely different formula. It’s a different type of cleaner. And it’s designed for exactly that surfaces.

Alex Wise  19:12  So it’s a different formula. It’s not the same?

Brad Liski  19:15  Yeah, it’s the same manufacturing process, not the same chemical composition.

Alex Wise  19:21  Got it, but it comes in paper type form. That’s right. That’s really cool. And so when for example, I would buy a jug of simple green and concentrate and that might last me a year like because I would water it down and put it into the existing plastic bottles. And that’s a fairly environmentally friendly way to do it versus buying the each each plastic bottle already. Yes. Already diluted. So buying it in concentrate feels like oh, I’m being environmentally friendly, but compared to what the true Earth solution is. It’s it’s night and day.

Brad Liski  19:57  Yeah, I know it’s not quite night and day because you do In a great job, because that’s a big step, right you’re taking, you know, three, three to 10 of those little plastic containers now you’re only making one plastic container. So that’s that’s a win put that into one category. The bigger win is to now let’s get it in a paper envelope. And let’s have zero plastic. So you know, it’s evening and night.

Alex Wise  20:19  I love it. Well, one thing that we do in my house and I want to be more of an evangelist for this, and I have a soapbox, no pun intended to stand on for this is greywater systems. And we have a system that pumps up from our basement where our laundry is up to our garden, and we have a little reusable wine barrel that 60 gallons that that keeps all of our, our gray water in there and then we can water our garden with it. Now obviously the true Earth laundry detergent is eco friendly enough to use in grey water systems but maybe you can kind of address the insanity of our current plumbing systems where we’re using lots and lots of fresh water and not reusing that water just to clean clothes.

Brad Liski  21:06  Right and without question so yes to the to the first part is that all the truth products or septic safe and greywater systems safe. So it’s, it’s a great solution on that. And you’re saving on that overdosing of those chemicals into that gray water and you’re trying to combat against. But yeah, the tremendous amount of water that we’re  wasting as a as a planet is, is ridiculous. And I was I was guilty 100% when I when I’d overdosed by and just if I stick in that laundry room, let alone every other room. And I put too much soap in that that washing machine, and the washing machine would get too many bubbles and then we’d have to rinse it three times to get it right. And then we had to clean it. Because had too much soap in it. All that stuff starts to take a chip away at that big problem that we’re up against.

Alex Wise  22:01  But we’re all guilty in some ways, but so much of it is not personal decisions that you make at the grocery store. But a lot of it is infrastructure. I mean, how did we create a system where potable water is being used for our waste in the bathroom? I mean showers and bathtubs when we don’t reuse this water? Well, you know, you see, the fifth largest economy in the world in California is going through a pretty stark era of desertification where every summer there’s wildfires and we’re in what many call the pirate scene and yet we’re using water very carelessly.

Brad Liski  22:41  Absolutely and i don’t i don’t know you know that the human nature behind why we have to do it but it stems from that same reason of our need for perfection in our in our in our desire not to be inconvenienced. You know, when we had a water This was just an example we had a water shortage out here a couple of years ago and my in laws, and we couldn’t water any of the grasses or couldn’t do anything. And they were having their, their I think it was their 50th wedding anniversary in their backyard and they wanted to have green grass. So what they did was they captured all their own gray water at their sink, as they wouldn’t go they just keep it in pails. And they take it outside and put it on their on their lawn because there’s no other way to capture it. So and they were the only they had the green lawn in order to have their pictures taken on a green lawn. We’re just not willing to do that for most of us. So you know, I applaud anyone for to go that extra step to put that system in, if you can, and the push on the municipalities to make a change. We laughed out here because they painted fishes on all of our storm drains. Because people didn’t understand that the storm drain went right into the river system, there was no filtration system. So they had the pain of fish on the storm drain. So that we as consumers would stop pouring, washing our peat brushes, or pouring oil, Balinese star brands. I think one of my attacks that we want to we want to focus on and I get the privilege of mentoring at University of British Columbia and climate solutions and, and so people are trying to invent some things to attack micro plastics. That’s where we want to reinvest some of our profits. And we need to attack these micro plastics. We need to capture those in one way or another we have to stop this.

Alex Wise  24:30  This is Alex Wise on Sea Change Radio and I’m speaking to the CEO and co-founder of Tru Earth, Brad Liski. So there was this trend in the laundry detergent industry with these microbeads that dissolved quote unquote dissolving microbeads that looked like a real kind of neat-o toy almost but it was like it’s a toy and it cleans your clothes. But it also is not very kind to aquatic life. But there’s been a real shift in the industry to Get away from these microplastics these microbeads correct

Brad Liski  25:03  Yeah there is i think i think it was one of those things that people thought and then they didn’t think a little bit farther into and you know, there’s better ways of dealing with the microplastics I don’t you know, I can’t divulge some of the stuff that’s coming out of the out of the labs here. But there are things coming there are solutions coming what I’m working on is how do I get in the house it’s one thing to deal with it at a at a municipal level. But that takes so much time there’s so much political movement that has to be to make those changes where if I can get it to the to the change maker, the person who’s actually making a difference right now, then then the government will should you know come election time come with, but right now, unfortunately, the pressures put on us.

Alex Wise  25:50  Talking about the micro beads that came out as a product as somebody who follows the consumer packaged goods industry closely I imagine Are there any new products on the horizon we should look out for that are going to be like the wine coolers of the laundry detergent industry.

Brad Liski  26:07  It is not an industry that changed much like it really didn’t the pod was the latest invention. And in this sector, it was it was a sleeper, it was ripe for disruption. And but there’s innovations coming that way you’re seeing the innovation going the other way. Cold water attacks, right so we’re trying to the bigger firms are trying to to attack the cold water, which is great.

Alex Wise  26:34  Yeah, I’ve noticed that I’ve heard ads for the bigger companies saying you know, you should use it in cold water and save X amount on your in your hot water bill and be good for the planet. So this is I remember all temperature cheer When I was a kid was like, this was like, some innovation. So this is not a new innovation. It’s just a new way for the social impact division of a multinational to say, Hey, you know, we’re, we should on Earth, this new segment of eco conscious consumers.

Brad Liski  27:05  Yeah, it’s a framing that, you know, I don’t I don’t cast a stone at it. I do, but I don’t, you know, they’re trying to frame it to way that people understand that they don’t need to use the hot water. And I get that, because that that’s hard to do. Because it has been around for a long time. But it’s not innovation. It’s just a different framework of it, and doing what they have to do to combat. You know, I think the only solution is to just shut the plastic lines down. We don’t need it anymore. It’s like, the wagons don’t need to be made anymore. We’ve made a car. So let’s go. Let’s make that change.

Alex Wise  27:39  Well, I’ve never had such an in depth discussion about laundry detergent and I and I found it fascinating. The company is Tru Earth – T-R-U Earth, folks can go to to find it. Brad Liski is the CEO and co-founder. Brad, thanks so much for being my guest on Sea Change Radio.

Brad Liski  Alex, it was a pleasure. It was a lot of fun. Anytime.

Narrator You’ve been listening to Sea Change Radio, our intro music is by Sanford Lewis and our outro music is by Alex Wise. Additional music by Freddie Hubbard and Alvin Youngblood Hart, check out our website at Sea Change to stream or download the show or subscribe to our podcast. Visit our archives there to hear for Bill McKibben, Van Jones, Paul Hawken, and many others. and tune in to Sea Change Radio next week, as we continue making connections for sustainability. For Sea Change Radio, I’m Alex Wise.