Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Green Soap

How often do you wash your hands, five, seven, maybe more, times a day? Each time you'll probably use some type of soap. But have you ever thought of the environmental impact that soap is having?

When you really start thinking about it even a mundane thing like soap has lots of impacts to consider. How much water do you use, is the soap tested on animals, is it vegetarian certified, what is it made of, how will the soap affect the environment when it leave your house in the dirty water? And probably most important for this week, do the producers of the soap ingredients get a fair deal in the purchase chain?

Now, I've watched Kirstie Allsopp making soap on TV and it doesn't seem too hard. But I'm sure the professionals will do it better than me, and buying it from a shop is definitely quicker. But how can I be sure that my soap isn't destroying the environment?

It's a tricky question because there are lots of ingredients to consider, not just one single producer to pay fairly. The main ingredients that can be un-fairly traded seem to be the essential oils and butters used. So far I've found one company that sells Fairtrade soap but they sell their products in Waitrose, Oxfam, and Traidcraft as well as on Ethical Superstore so they're easily available. This company, the Visionary Soap Company, go above and beyond the bare minimum required to be Fairtrade certified. Instead of 2-5% certified ingredients (the minimum required) the products range from 19-99% certified ingredients with their soaps averaging 60% certified. What a fantastic achievement! As with most Fairtrade products they are a little more expensive than the standard brands but you get much more exciting "flavours" like cinnamon-orange-clove and lemon-grass as well as unscented bars for delicate hands.

Another company which is pushing the boundaries for ethical cosmetics is Lush. At the moment they only have one Fairtrade product, their Fairtrade Foot Lotion, but they are passionate about minimising their negative impact and ensuring their products are as green as possible. Minimising packaging is central to their work,  they recycle any unavoidable packaging, and never use any ingredient that has been tested on animals. They also use organic natural ingredients, giving each product a sell by date so that you know when it's at its best. To find out more about what Lush are doing have a look here.

Fairtrade buy of the day is some co-op own brand orange spiced dark chocolate, my favourite. But maybe I'll try one of the others later in the week too!

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