All posts by Heather Stevens

A Mission with Good Returns

Meet Kyle one of our mission mangers here at Soap Hope. Kyle’s passion for helping us reach our mission of lifting women and their families out of extreme poverty can be seen in the little details to big scale projects.

How does a customer’s purchase drive an opportunity for a woman to be lifted out of poverty?
At Soap Hope we invest 100% of profits into programs and organizations that sustainably help women lift themselves out of poverty.  Currently, the organizations use Soap Hope’s investment to provide crucial, short term loans to women starting their own businesses so that they can grow and generate income for themselves and their families. When you empower women and enable them to generate their own income data shows that they are far more likely than men to use that income to invest in their communities and children’s education. This means that our investments don’t just help lift the women out of poverty but actually build the foundation to break the cycle of poverty for entire communities.

How do you pick your partners?
Relationships followed by due diligence. Salah (CEO) and I served on the board of a large nonprofit here in Dallas that funded global organizations specially focused on empowering women. Through our roles on the board we were able to develop relationships with numerous organizations and take a deep look at their management teams, mission statements, and processes. At Soap Hope you’ll notice our focus on sustainability – from the products we sell to our packaging – and our impact partners are no different. We seek out partners that are investing in long-term solutions to poverty rather than simply treating the symptoms.

Have you been to meet the women?
Oh yes! I had the privilege to visit one of the partner organizations in the Dominican Republic and meet several of the women (they refer to them as associates) in Santo Domingo.

What was that like?
Inspiring and challenging. Woman after woman that I met told stories of courage, perseverance, and a deep love for their families that kept them going through the toughest situations. I remember one woman in particular. When I asked her how her loans impacted her life she pointed at a one story home that had 3 children playing outside and said “It gave me a house, but more importantly it gave me the opportunity to provide a life for my grandchildren that I never had.”

What drives you every day to do this work?
Meeting the women truly challenged me and allowed me to experience the potential of what we are doing at Soap Hope. Every loan matters because every life matters and the ripple effect that can be felt in the community from just one empowered woman is so powerful. Take Maria, who felt called to start a school within her community for those who otherwise would have no access to proper education. Today she has over 100 children in her classrooms and has graduates who now serve in the government, are doctors and lawyers, and raising children of their own. To know that by simply selling our products those types of outcomes can be achieved gets me fired up… and that’s why I do the work I do.

Learn more about our mission.

Let your Vacuum Infuse Your Home

Add a little essential oil to your vacuum to infuse your home and elevate the mood. There are lots of essential oils to select from, but it’s more than just a beautiful fragrance. From insomnia to anxiety and depression to stress, essential oils are powerful and it is easy to add to your vacuum.

  1. Clean your vacuum thoroughly prior to putting in your essential oil. Wipe down the vacuum outside with a damp cloth. Make sure the bag is fresh, or empty and clean the canister on your bagless vacuum. Starting with a fresh, clean vacuum will allow you to infuse your home 100%, rather than dealing with competing odors still remaining in your vacuum.
  2. Open your vacuum cleaner filter pad or dust cup, depending on the type of vacuum you have. Clean reusable parts with running water, refer to your manufacturer handbook or prepare a new filter if the filter is disposable.
CHOICES TO ADD ESSENTIAL OIL TO VACUUM
  1. Use only two to three drops of the essential oil of your choice. Drop, one at a time, onto the filter or dust cup. Wait a moment or so to allow the oil to drive before replacing. Refresh the oil as scent wears or as desired.
  2. Drop two or three of the essential oil of your choice on a cotton ball or small cloth, place in the vacuum canister or vacuum bag. Refresh as needed.
  3. Drop two or three of the essential oil of your choice in the water reservoir. Refresh as needed.

You can do this seasonally, infusing your home with the scents of the season, to calm, energize, or whatever mood you are looking to create in your home.

Enjoy!

Some Everyday Uses for Castile Soap

This natural soap is definitely making a comeback! With good reason! Castile Soap has tons of uses, from body care, household cleaning, laundry, pet care, and more. Plus, this soap is very concentrated and goes a long way. Castile soap is made all-natural, with chemical-free ingredients. It is one of the most trusted soaps around and Dr. Bronner’s is one of the most popular and known producers of Castile soap. Today, Castile is one of the most popular European soaps and has gained a ton of popularity in the US. We sell Dr. Bronner’s products at Soap Hope and here are our top methods for using Castile soap.

Dr. Bronner’s liquid Castile soaps are made of pure coconut, olive, hemp, and jojoba oils. The product is concentrated and completely biodegradable that is gentle, but effective – with a ton of uses, making it an excellent value (despite the higher price tag.) Remember a little goes a long way!

We sell Dr. Bronner’s products at Soap Hope and here are our top methods for using castile soap:

Dish Soap
Just replace your regular store-bought dish soap with castile soap and a few drops will take care of those dirty dishes.

Laundry Detergent
Castile soap is a pure laundry detergent and will allow your clothes to last longer since they aren’t exposed to harsh chemicals. It will also aid in irritation of the skin from the heavy dyes and perfumes along with a list of other unnatural ingredients found in store-bought versions of traditional laundry detergents. Here’s an easy recipe:

  • 1 cup liquid castile soap
  • ¾ cup baking soda
  • 2 ¼ cup lukewarm water
  • ¼ finely grated sea salt

Dissolve the baking soda and salt into warm water. Pour into a gallon container and add the liquid castile soap. Fill to the top with water and mix. Use just about ¼ cup per load, meaning that this recipe should last about 64 loads.

All-Purpose Cleaning Spray
Add 1/4c of castile soap to a quart of warm water, stir in well. Add your favorite essential oil for added scent, cleaning and disinfecting power. Put the solution in a spray bottle and use it to clean any surface in your home!

Fruit and Veggie Wash
To rid fresh produce of any harmful pesticides or other dirt, you can spray a simple and effect spray with castile soap to make them ready to devour. Add ¼ tsp of castile soap to a bowl of water and stir. Submerge your produce into the bowl, rub with your hands to remove dirt or debris, and then rinse under cold water.

Ant Spray
Add 1/4c of tea tree soap to a quart of water and stir to mix. Place in an easy to use a spray bottle and spray indoors or outdoors, wherever those creepy crawlers are spotted.

While there are some creative uses for castile soap, Dr. Bronner’s has tons of products from bar soaps to body care, shaving soap to hair care, toothpaste to lip balm, and more. Definitely, a brand to check out.

Navigating the Natural and Organic Terrain | Do you know what you’re buying?

Sometimes we can get overwhelmed trying to figure out what is natural and organic and what is not. With so many misleading ”organic” and ”natural” claims found in thousands of beauty and household products, how’s one to navigate the terrain?

Yesterday my girlfriend Rachael and I were having coffee and she shared a story with about her most recent trip the grocery store. She said she saw a shampoo that really caught her eye. It was aesthetically appealing and its name had a variation of the word “organic” in it, with a slogan talking about how pure and simple the product is. At first, I thought to myself this might be an interesting product for Soap Hope to carry, but then she showed me a photograph she took of the back of the bottle with a long list of ingredients on the back. Rachael continued in frustration that not only might the name make you think that it must be organic, but it also has that simple slogan. In addition, the words on the back state it is a “Unique blend of Natural & Sulfate Free Surfactants for renewed softness,” one would think this is a natural product. I took her phone and started to analyze the image of the ingredients I found that it had DMDM Hydantoin – a formaldehyde releaser that we would never allow in a product – and Red 4 and Yellow #5, two artificial colors!

After reading this I quickly handed the phone back to my friend and realized that many of us are drawn to products with a quick glance, not realizing what we are putting in our bodies, on them, or in our homes. There must be an easier way to sort through the ingredients that are acceptable, and that reminded me of Soap Hope’s Good, Better, Best rating system for the products we sell on our online marketplace. With that in mind, I told Rachael I was going to make this our next blog so others could learn and ask questions, so here we are sitting with Soap Hope’s Fulfillment Manager Jeremy Porter for a quick interview.

H: Jeremy thanks for visiting with me, I’ve got some questions for you. In a market where consumers are increasingly seeking and buying ”Organic” and ”Natural” products, how does Soap Hope meet that demand?

J: Hi Heather! Regarding the demand, we’ve got our Good, Better, and Best rating standard. We inspect every single ingredient in every single product to determine if we will sell that product and what its rating will be.  We wanted to offer a sort of guide to let customers know that:

  1. We have very high standards for the products we carry.
  2. We can show them exactly how those standards work. The rating tiers are really just a way to explain the ingredients and let people know that we are paying as much attention to them as they are, or even more so. We also want to be completely transparent, so it’s a good way to put everything on the table.
  3. Anything that isn’t at least Good is something we won’t use or sell at Soap Hope’s Marketplace.

H: That’s great Jeremy! But what does that breakdown on rating look like?

J: It looks like this and can be found on our website under our ingredients philosophy, as well as indicated on every single product in our inventory. You can find the rating for all of your favorite products just by visiting our online store.

A rating of BEST is reserved for those products that meet the strictest of criteria. For a BEST rating, every ingredient must be 100% natural and 80% or more must be certified organic.

To be classified BETTER, a product must contain 100% natural ingredients, but not necessarily organic.

Products with a GOOD rating include one or more ingredients that, while considered safe to use, are not 100% natural. For example, some of our makers’ products use phthalate-free fragrance oil or may include a preservative necessary to keep liquids fresh.

H: On average, what percent are good, better, or best in your product inventory?

J: Currently the percentage breakdown of our product based on the rating system is Good: 57%; Better 24%; and Best 19%. So you can see that Best is pretty elite. There’s a secret level beyond Best called “Legendary” but even I’m not sure what that is.

H: Do any of your products have the following ingredients: Parabens, sulfates, chemical sunscreens, petrochemicals, glycols, phthalates, PEGs or PPGs, DEA/TEA, synthetic polymers, formaldehyde donors or 1, 4-Dioxanes?

J: The brand Everyone has some Bath Soaks that contain Magnesium Sulfate, which is just an Epsom Salt, and then I think a few other products that have a little Sodium Coco-Sulfate as a foaming agent, but both are safe.

H: On average, what percentage PCR (post customer recycled) is your packaging? Are they recyclable?

J: We put forth as much effort here as is practically possible. The tissue paper we use to wrap products is 100% recycled. The post office packaging is post-consumer recycled. About 90% of the cardboard that comes into our building is reused, usually to make an Ugly Box. The Ugly Box was just a perfect combination of being cost-effective and eco-conscious, and it’s one of my favorite things we do. I have this daydream about being in a sort of MacGyver situation where for whatever reason someone needs to make a cardboard box and I get to jump in. It could happen. We also made a video to show how an Ugly Box is made: https://youtu.be/24LnICCkK3A

H: Are your products tested on animals?

J: Never. NEVER. I mean, we do sell some soaps that are specifically intended for dogs, so I can’t with 100% certainty say that there have never been some trial baths, but baths aren’t tests, although dog baths can be tricky…

H: Jeremy this has been extremely helpful and honestly, I wish more companies rated their products based on quality and ingredients. How much easier it would be for the consumer! Now for a few personal questions, I mean, while I have you!

What are your favorite products and/or brands at Soap Hope that you use?

J: I really enjoy A Wild Soap Bar and Kind Soap Company. I don’t know if I’m just basic or lazy for picking brands with the word “Soap” in the name, but they’re cool products. A Wild Soap has such original ingredients and gets bonus points for being Texan. Kind Soap smells amazing, and I’m a sucker for anything Sandalwood Rose. I am also highly susceptible to a weekly Bath Bomb indulgence.

H: What about Soap Hope drives you in your work?

J: Well, there’s the base level of a paycheck and doing work well because it’s, well, work, but as far as a bigger drive it’s just nice to be with a company that tries beyond bottom lines and profit. It’s tempting to be cynical and jaded, especially in this current climate, but I do get to catch my breath and read about the women and families that have been so positively affected by the programs we support, so that’s really what takes it to that next level. I’m also excited to see how we can branch out and further embrace/earn the banner of “Empowering Women”

H: Any other personal tips for living a more natural life style?

J: Just everyday mindfulness. Stuff like that usually comes down to a personal line, moral or otherwise, and as you feel a little more stable in your convictions or pursuit of health, be it mental or physical or spiritual or whatever, you’ll find the area where you best sleep at night. For me, it’s important to decide that you’re going to pay attention, and then finding that line becomes a personal choice.

H: Do you support reforming our federal laws to protect public health from toxic ingredients?

J: I do, and I really hope that within the current realm of issues which require massive federal attention, public health and the environment can remain high.

Find out more about Soap Hope’s ingredient philosophy and our mission.

The Natural Way to Plan your Summer Trip | Your Must-Haves

It’s that time of year again, where the days are longer and the excitement of fun in the sun is in the air. Summer always makes me think of my childhood.

As a child, I was always in awe of lightning bugs and their green glow, trying to catch them late into the evening, long after the sun went down. Running outside to the ice cream truck, getting to pick out what I wanted, and paying for it myself like a boss from that money made from my own enterprise running a lemonade stand.

There were afternoons playing war with super soaker water guns and water balloons with friends in the sprinkler. Pool days, swimming = summer in my mind. My favorite days were lived in my swimsuit. Finally, was the long-awaited road trip,  getting in the car for that one summer family trip. I’m sure we all have our own memories. They might be similar, but either way, there is just something special about summer. Don’t you agree?

Those pool days were the best too. I remember that each time I would come in the house my mother would lather me, or rather slather me in sunblock and bug spray to ensure my safety. She told me it was my “armor” as I went on my adventures. While annoyed at the delay in my play, one can never have too much “armor” on childhood adventures.

As an adult, I still look forward to summer, but for different reasons. Lounging by the pool in the backyard is definitely one of them, drinking a nice glass of wine by the fire pit with friends and family in good conversation, and I still get goosebumps when planning that special summer trip. This summer my husband and I are going hiking in Redwood Forest National Park outside of San Francisco. I’ve already started packing and we don’t leave until the end of July! The kid in me always comes out. Too excited!

But growing up changes how you view what you slather yourself in. I remember the sunblock my mother used smelling slightly like coconut and very oily. The smell was indeed strong! Nothing natural about that smell. Now I choose the products that are right for me and my family – high-quality natural ingredients. In Soap Hope’s marketplace of over 3,000 items, you’ll never find parabens, petroleum derivative, artificial flavors, artificial colors, or anything that doesn’t meet the Good, Better, Best Standards.

As we venture into our own summer trips, travels, and adventures this year make it as natural as possible. If you’re all about making lists, then you know how magical they can be. To bring a little magic into your summer and save you time, I’ve put together a great short list of items to get you started as you shop and pack.

MY SUMMER ESSENTIALS
If you don’t pack anything else, pack these.

Sun Protection
A summer trip without sunglasses is a crying shame and so is not to slather that beautiful skin with sunscreen periodically.

First Aid supplies
Bring along bug repellent, bandages, lip balm, ointments, and hand sanitizer.

Toiletries
My don’t leave home without essential makeup, makeup bag, dry shampoo, deodorant, and a nice travel bag to put all your items in.

Food
If you want to avoid greasy, unhealthy food and save some money, pack your own snacks. I know I do! I recommend these non-messy containers to pack your fruit, pretzels, granola bars, crackers, etc. Also, be sure you have plenty of water with a beverage container.

For me, I keep packing simple, I know you’ll have items to add to your own personal checklist, but I hope this gave you a good start. Be sure whatever you put on your list its good for you, your family, and your body.

I’d love to hear from you and have you share some of your summer essentials.