This piece is part of our ISS360 reflections series highlighting the 2022 International Space Station Research and Development Conference.
Environmental challenges like water scarcity, plastic waste, and climate change are a growing concern for our planet. To help mitigate these issues, scientists are turning to the International Space Station (ISS) for new solutions. During a panel session at the 2022 ISS Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC), representatives from two consumer goods companies—Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Estée Lauder—discussed ways in which the companies are leveraging the ISS National Laboratory to tackle sustainability issues on Earth.
“Our main goal as a company is to determine how we can help the people of the world as well as the planet,” said Carl Haney, executive VP of Estée Lauder, during the session. “We believe in green chemistry principles, which help us on our quest to design greener products.”
In 2022, Estée Lauder partnered with the ISS National Lab on a Sustainability Challenge in which researchers proposed projects that utilize the space station to address the problem of plastic waste in the environment. During the ISSRDC panel session, two winning concepts from the challenge were announced, with the winning concepts receiving funding for their investigations to be carried out onboard the ISS.
P&G is also working with the ISS National Lab on sustainability-related projects. The company has conducted multiple investigations leveraging microgravity conditions on the ISS to improve P&G’s consumer products—including Febreze and Tide products—and make them more eco-friendly.
“We want to think about the whole life cycles of our products, including what happens with our packaging and when the products go down the drain,” said Todd Cline, senior director and head of sustainability at P&G, during the session.
“In North America alone, consumers do more than 30 billion loads of laundry each year,” he said. “We could avoid adding millions of tons of carbon to the atmosphere each year just by switching from hot water to cold.” According to Cline, the biggest challenge in achieving that goal is convincing consumers that detergents can clean their clothes equally well in cold water and in hot.
In December 2021, P&G launched an investigation to the space station evaluating Tide Infinity, a fully degradable laundry detergent. Results helped P&G advance environmentally friendly cleaning solutions for resource-constrained environments both in space and on Earth. In P&G’s latest ISS National Lab-sponsored research, the company sent its Tide to Go Pens and Tide to Go Wipes to the ISS, and insight gained could lead to better, more sustainable products.
A recording of the full panel session is now available. ISSRDC is an annual conference hosted by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. (CASIS), manager of the ISS National Laboratory; NASA; and the American Astronautical Society (AAS). For more information on research sponsored by the ISS National Lab, visit our website.