Friday, April 23, 2010

EVERY DAY IS EARTH DAY

Here is a little bit about Urban Eden's contributions to the environment!!

It's hard to run an environmentally sound business, even when you're making something as seemingly innocent as soap. I thought I was doing pretty well because I was using natural fragrances and colorants, my soaps were almost all vegan (one variety contains local honey), and I was using minimal packaging. So I was horrified when I learned that rain forests are being decimated to make way for palm plantations. Palm oil is one of the key ingredients for most soapmakers, myself included. It makes a bar hard and long-lasting with a stable lather--and there's no perfect, vegan, environmentally benign substitute.

I still haven't developed a palm-free recipe, but I've switched to an organic, sustainably-grown palm oil. It comes from South America and is grown on land that was cleared over thirty years ago. More recently I've switched to organic shea butter as well. But I think it's the palm oil that's most important.

I try to be environmentally responsible in other ways as well. My local customers get a discount when they bring back their containers for refilling. My deodorants are aluminum-free (mining bauxite for aluminum causes environmental damage). And my fragrances are still natural. Of course, the plants from which essential oils are derived are resources to be used wisely. Everything we consume has a price. But the majority of synthetic fragrances are petroleum-based. Some are neurotoxins. And waste water treatment methods can't filter synthetic fragrances out, so they end up in our rivers and oceans. Synthetic musks, which are used to anchor or extend scents, have been found accumulating in mussels and fish.

Although these are the choices I've made, I want to emphasize that other soapmakers--and customers--may weigh the environmental factors differently. You could easily argue that an animal-fat based soap is the most environmentally sound choice, or that it's better to use a chemically-derived fragrance than an essential oil derived from a precious botanical. Or maybe your wallet is in conflict with your ideals. (I know I wish I could afford to print my labels with soy inks.) But one thing's for sure: any handmade soap is a better choice than a mass-produced, petrochemical-based "cleansing bar" or "beauty bar."

2 comments:

UrbanEden said...

Thank you for putting together this post! And thank you, too, for using Earth Day to highlight some of the environmental issues soapmakers and consumers face.

T.A. Helton said...

Love the piece Urban! Honestly, everyday should be Earth Day. But you are right when you say that every soaper is different...and focuses on different aspects of being enviromentally responsible. Hopefully all of us take some steps. I know I try, not only in the products I make...but my everyday life.