The Sapindus mukorossi tree is grown at the foothills of the Himalayas; in areas where few other plants survive due to harsh conditions and poor soil quality. The berries are hand collected and wild harvested by local farmers. The fruit contains high levels of saponins. Saponins are active ingredients that provide soap like cleansing properties. Half of the fruits weight is comprised of the seed. Normally, the seed is used for jewelry or discarded. In a cooperative effort with our Nepalase partner, we have begun research in the development of value added products manufactured from the seed. In addition to using the seed in reforestation efforts, we are also evaluating the use of the seeds in biodiesel oil production and high protein meal for organic fertilizer. The results of this cooperative effort will provide the following: virtually zero waste of the soap berry, achieve a carbon negative process, and create opportunities that will continue to support Nepalese’s people, businesses, and communities.
In the world today, synthetic surfactants and most “natural” surfactants typically are made with monoculture plants like corn, coconut, and palm. These monoculture plants are often grown using unsustainable farming methods such as, Genetic Modification, toxic pesticides, petroleum based fertilizers, deforestation of tropical lands, and competition within the global food supply.
Due to industrial growth, we as a society are facing severe environmental issues; from dwindling natural resources, climate changes, to pollution of our planet and people. Natural surfactants derived from the soap berry provide a “green alternative” to hazardous chemical surfactants used today. By supporting the use of wild harvested soap berries, we are providing a good annual income to thousands of native families. By switching from chemical to natural surfactants, we are helping to make our environment cleaner and lives better.