Saturday, September 25, 2010

Organic and Sustainable Ingredients

Shiner Bock Soap
Originally uploaded by Surrender Dorothy
When you first start making soap, you're not really "in the know" on your ingredients. You start with vegetable oils from the grocery, and perhaps castor oil and shea butter from the health food store or pharmacy. Lye from the hardware store. And your soap is awesome. But it's an addictive hobby, and you find yourself cruising the internet, cruising to score a sweet bucket of babassu oil for less than $10.00 a pound. And like any other addiction, you eventually have to start dealing just to support your habit. This is the point at which most soapers start to examine the moral and ecological effect of their business. The quality of your ingredients also starts to be a much larger concern. A plain olive and coconut oil soap beats the heck out of anything on the shelf at a big box store, for personal use. But when you're competing against Stan's Super Sustainable Organic Soaps, does your soap measure up? And are you killing off the last orangutan with your palm oil?
I'm a vegetarian, recently having reintroduced eggs to my diet - my chickens you see, they keep making them. Delicious. Way better than factory eggs. The eggs hold the answer to part of the quality question. Of course fresh eggs from my free range chickens are better. I prefer not to use animal fats in my soap, but local, organic lard is inexpensive and plentiful in my community. A way better alternative than palm oil. Palm oil may be sourced from a member of the RSPO, but even members may not have a great score on the RSPO scale. Do I want an organic soybean oil that has to be shipped here from Canada, or a local tallow?
After really analyzing these questions, keeping in mind that my ingredients are for very temporary application to the skin, and not for consumption, these are my conclusions. Local first. Buy local, and sell local. Use fresh ingredients - no 50# pails of oils that I can't use in a couple of months. Organic and environmentally friendly next. The biggest impact that I can have on the environment is to encourage my customers to use my products as quickly and as infrequently as possible. Don't waste water. Don't use soap with every shower (really, it's not as necessary as we think). And when shipping, I use only recycled shipping materials. Offices and warehouses will save them for you, and hand them over for free, if you ask. And now my soaps, let me show you them.

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