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Indian soap nut makes an eco-friendly alternative to chemical detergents in Germany

GERMANY: Guests are free to do what they like at Anne Sykes’ home, which she rents to visiting students and professionals at Wedding in northwest Berlin. The only “rule” that the septuagenarian would insist in her warm, affable manner is, “Do not use detergent soap, powder or liquid to wash clothes in the machine.”

An Indian guest almost freaked out when she heard this, but more because of the “Indische Waschnuss” (Indian washing nuts) that Anne gave her. The brownish-black balls, or soap nuts, were nothing but reetha from the amla-reetha-shikakai trio used for haircare in India!

“The washing nuts are safe, eco-friendly and do not give out any kind of smell,” says Anne, explaining why she chose the nuts about six years ago. “They are good for the fabric and you are safe from skin allergies caused by harmful chemicals. The nuts are also easily available and affordable.”

Anne is not alone in the quest for a greener earth. In Germany, where the go-green drive is a mass phenomenon, there are hundreds increasingly taking to reetha as an eco-friendly alternative to chemical detergents.

Cord Radke, a 39-year-old media professional from Munich, was delighted to chance upon the nuts at a supermarket a few months ago. “They are bio-degradable and good for the environment and skin,” he said.

Martina Johns, a former journalist from Hamburg, had her first brush with the nuts from a magazine nearly eight years ago. “I immediately bought them because they were environment-friendly,” she says adding, “even though the product was expensive at 1 euro per nut at that time.”

However, with its soaring popularity, prices of reetha have dropped and it is more readily available. Anne says her laundry costs fell by half since she gave up chemical detergents. “Instead of two beakers of washing powder, only about five washing nuts are needed. The nuts can be used a second time as well,” she says.

Reetha, or Sapindus mukorossi, is a popular ingredient of hair-packs and shampoos in India. Although some grandmother’s tales are woven around its washing properties, it is yet to be commercially exploited. In Ayurveda, reetha is said to find use in the treatment of eczema, psoriasis and removing freckles. It is also said to have insecticidal properties.

In Germany, reetha has created a name for itself, in line with yoga, as an “Indian thing” that is good for living in harmony with nature.

One kilogram of reetha sells at e5-12, depending on quality and whether they are shelled. Some companies offer lower prices for higher purchases—like Amansi’s e9.9 for a kg and e19.90 for 3 kgs. Reetha nuts are available not only off-the-shelves in some supermarkets but also online, where you can get the product home-delivered.

“The people of Germany like to use products that cause minimum damage to the surroundings,” says Heidi Ritter, a spokesperson for Waschbr-Der Umweltversand, a mail order company specialising on eco-friendly products. Describing waschnuss as a “highly-profitable business”, but unwilling to pulge sales figures, Ritter says: “Our washing nuts products sell more than other detergents.”

The 23-year-old company launched Waschnuss in 2005. “Although there was a lot of talk about the waschenuss, there was still a general lack of awareness and many people were sceptical. We did a lot of campaign activities. We also made small pouches of nuts and gave away as presents. The market picked up rapidly and has somewhat stabilised now,” says Ritter.

“Since six months, we have been buying soap nuts that come from organic cultivation (certified by Ecocert, an agency for organic, fair trade and good agricultural practices) only,” she adds.

Earlier, the Waschenuss could be found only in shops selling organic goods. “Nowadays, retail chains have begun to stock them and the market is flooded with many products made from the soap nuts, such as shampoos and body soaps, and more convenient forms for washing clothes, like pads with milled soap nuts and washing powder with soap nut extract,” Ritter says.

Indeed, Waschnuss-Flssigwaschmittel, liquid reetha, features in the Waschbr’s bestseller list. There is also liquid reetha with essences, like Waschbr’s lavender Waschnuss-Flssigwaschmittel. Besides, companies have also come up with specialised containers to store the reetha nuts and cloth pouches (batua) in which the reetha is packed for machine washing.

But like many others, Anne is still a sucker for the nuts. “Liquids and powders will have chemicals to preserve them. No point using them!” she says.

Germany unveils logo for soccer’s Euro 2024 tournament

Germany has unveiled the logo for soccer’s 2024 European Championship during a ceremony with a light show in the stadium that will hold the final.

Some guests and media were invited to Berlin’s Olympiastadion for the UEFA launch, though no fans were present on a damp evening in the German capita on Tuesdayl.

The logo features an outline of the Henri Delaunay Cup — the bulbous tournament trophy — set on a colored oval outline that resembles the Olympiastadion’s roof. It features colors from the flags of UEFA’s 55 member nations, set in 24 slices around the trophy to represent the 24 teams that will ultimately qualify for the tournament in Germany.

Organisers said the brand will promote a tournament where persity is celebrated, and everyone should feel welcome. The tournament’s slogan “United by Football. Vereint im Herzen Europas” — or “United at the Heart of Europe” — is meant to convey a message of togetherness and inclusion.

Logos for each of the 10 host cities — Berlin, Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Gelsenkirchen, Hamburg, Leipzig, Munich and Stuttgart — were also presented with each featuring a famous local landmark. Berlin’s, for example, features the Brandenburg Gate.

“From now on, the tournament has a brand identity which reflects the ambition we have together with the host association and host cities,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said.

The tournament is due to be played in June and July 2024 with the match schedule to be confirmed next year.

Germany hosted the World Cup in 2006, with the final held in the refurbished Olympiasstadion. The stadium was originally built for the 1936 Olympic Games hosted by Nazi Germany.

West Germany also hosted the World Cup in 1974 and the European Championship in 1988.