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Final Lexus Challenge. Westminster Environmental Campus Organization The Westminster Schools, Atlanta, GA Mary Boyd Crosier, Caroline Daugherty, Ben Clark, Caroline Long, Paige Williams, Piper Ruhmkorff , Caroline James, Mary Brass, Alex Huhman , Diana Turbayne. What Did We Do?.

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final lexus challenge

Final Lexus Challenge

Westminster Environmental Campus Organization

The Westminster Schools, Atlanta, GA

Mary Boyd Crosier, Caroline Daugherty, Ben Clark, Caroline Long, Paige Williams, Piper Ruhmkorff, Caroline James, Mary Brass, Alex Huhman, Diana Turbayne


What Did We Do?

  • Our team made laundry detergent from Borax, Washing Soda, and Ivory Bar Soap in order to create a more environmentally friendly way to wash clothing.
    • To minimize impact, we used old cereal boxes as the packaging.
  • After testing out which detergent recipes worked best, we made several boxes of the mix which we then delivered to a homeless shelter, Central Presbyterian, for use in washing their towels.
what is the topic
What is the topic?
  • We chose to address how everyday products affect water pollution as well as how we can minimize daily impact on our water supply.
  • A high-volume product that every household uses, like laundry detergent, has a high concentration of chemicals and can have harmful effects on the environment.
  • By creating an eco-friendly, wallet-friendly laundry detergent, we can displace a large amount of harmful material from entering our water supply, and avoid hurting fish and other animals, including humans, as well as the land.
  • We wanted to find an environmentally-friendly solution to a daily problem that would not only educate and involve our community, but would help some people in need around us in a high-volume way.
the science behind our project
The Science Behind Our Project
  • The harmful impact of laundry detergent on the environment
    • Waste water contaminated with detergent pollutes lakes, rivers and oceans
    • Detergent contains toxic chemicals that can harm aquatic organisms and chemicals such as phosphates, which can cause eutrophication (algae blooms, etc. that reduce oxygen content of water).
    • Our recipe:
      • Consists of relatively low-impact ingredients
      • Needs only one tablespoon to do an entire load, which lessens the number of chemicals in waste water
what s our action plan
What’s Our Action Plan?
  • Step 1: All team members worked together to choose a recipe and make the laundry detergent . We purchased ingredients with our winnings from the Lexus Land/Water Challenge.
  • Step 2: Team members went to the Elementary School to help 4th graders decorate the packaging (reused cereal boxes)
  • Step 3: We packaged detergent in the cereal boxes
  • Step 4: Team members delivered detergent to Central Presbyterian Night Shelter
  • Step 5: Team members will lead school-wide (appx. 800 students) service project to make more laundry detergent for other shelters around Atlanta on March 16th as part of Westminster’s Public Purpose Fair
  • Step 6: Team members will provide detergent recipe for students to use in their own homes
raising awareness the involvement and education of our school and community
Raising Awareness: The Involvement and Education of our School and Community
  • We enlisted a class of fourth graders to decorate the packaging, used cereal boxes, which helped teach them the importance of recycling and reusing waste, as well as gave us an opportunity to share our project with them and educate about our detergent.
  • The Westminster ECO wiki,, especially the page
    • Meeting recaps and future dates are available for all students, even those not involved in ECO, so that the entire community has the opportunity to see our progress and give feedback and ideas
  • Wanting to expand a project about water and everyday products farther than just the Westminster community, we found a way to help others by donating large amounts of detergent to a local shelter
implementing our ideas
Implementing Our Ideas
  • After we chose an easy and environmentally friendly recipe, we bought ingredients and made detergent together.
  • Trying to keep the resources used as low-impact as possible, we brought in old cereal boxes. We worked with a science class of 4th grade Westminster students, who decorated reused paper to put on the boxes, and we told them about our project and the recipe. The 4th graders have been studying homelessness this year.
implementing our ideas1
Implementing Our Ideas
  • After seeing the success of our project, our school is adding it as a school-wide project which will take place on March 16th. There, 3rd through 12th grade Westminster students will see how to make the detergent and will donate large amounts to several homeless shelters around Atlanta.
  • We then packaged the detergent in the cereal boxes and delivered it to Central Presbyterian Night Shelter in downtown Atlanta.
what we learned
What We Learned
  • We learned how to make our own eco-friendly detergent, which team members can now make in their homes!
  • Making homemade laundry detergent provides an eco-friendly solution, but also a cheap and effective one.
  • Only a tablespoon is needed to get clean clothes, meaning a little goes a long way. Homemade laundry detergent costs very little, only about five cents per load, making it an economical choice as well.
  • When we tested our detergent, it performed just as well as store-bought laundry detergent without the toxic and harmful chemicals. Being environmentally friendly was easier than we expected, and we saw that store-bought brands are not necessarily better.
quantifiable results
Quantifiable Results
  • In total, we made roughly 20 cups of laundry detergent
  • The eco-friendly detergent will last the shelter about 40-53 days, up until the end of their season in late March
    • The Central Presbyterian Shelter washes on average 6-8 loads of towels each night and will now use only 1-2 tablespoons of detergent each time
  • With the eight batches of detergent we made, we provided enough sustainable product to last them through the end of the winter
success helping people and the environment
Success: Helping People and the Environment
  • By providing eco-friendly laundry detergent to replace the shelter’s chemical-heavy detergent, we decrease the number of chemicals put into our natural water sources. These chemicals cause cultural eutrophication and thereby loss of life for aquatic plants and fish.
  • This also saves the shelter the money that would have been spent on laundry detergent.
  • Our project will expand into a school-wide function on March 16. This will spread awareness of the harmful effects of regular store-bought detergents in our own community and will increase the volume of our eco-friendly detergent to spread to shelters around Atlanta.
  • One challenge we faced was deciding how much detergent to make; we wanted to optimize the number of loads without overstocking the shelter’s stores.
  • Another challenge was expanding the project to the rest of our community. We decided to include the Elementary School students because both the sustainable and philanthropic motives behind this project are important issues for children to be aware of as they grow and mature.
  • Some students were skeptical of the effectiveness of our homemade detergent, but after testing, it was proven to work just as well as store-bought detergent.

The Recipe:

1 cup Borax

1 cup Washing Soda

1 bar Ivory soap

Grate the bar of soap, and mix with the other ingredients! Use one tablespoon per load of laundry.

ECO members make the detergent together.


Caroline Long, Caroline Daugherty, Mary Boyd Crosier, and Piper Ruhmkorff with Ms. DuPriest’s 4th grade science class and their drawings.


Left: The Westminster website features a story about the upcoming Public Purpose Fair, during which we’ll expand our project to be school-wide.

Right: the boxes containing the detergent feature drawings from Westminster 4th graders, as well as a description of the detergent “recipe” and its benefits.