Category Archives: In the News

The Ugly Box: Soap Hope’s Upcycled Product Solution to Unnecessary Waste

Businesses are struggling to deliver customer orders in an environmentally-friendly method, either through upcycled product packaging or recycled materials. With the ecommerce industry on the rise (and, by default, the shipping industry too), the need for sustainable packaging solutions is greater than ever.

A Growing Need for Upcycled Products

We all know the feeling. You place an order for the perfect pair of shoes or that new dry shampoo you’ve been wanting to try, and before you know it the shipping box is sitting on your doorstep.

Chances are you’ve placed quite a few Internet orders in recent years. You’re not alone. Cyber Monday in 2015, for instance, was America’s biggest ecommerce sales day ever, with U.S. online orders totaling $3.07 billion.

When More Convenience Means More Waste

Our culture and economy are shifting towards all sorts of “on-demand” products. With just a few clicks, you can order groceries, clothes, beauty products — just about anything your heart desires.

There are some pretty serious consequences that come with this kind of convenience, however.

“From a sustainability perspective, we’re heading in the wrong direction,” said Dr. Dan Sperling, from the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis. In a recent interview with the New York Times, he explained that this trend — while convenient for consumers — is ultimately damaging.

In 2014, 35.4 million tons of paperboard materials were produced in the United States, “with ecommerce companies among the fastest-growing users.”

The numbers are pretty daunting. It’s clear that significant change is needed to shift the impact of consumer waste.

The Problem with Recycling

There is, of course, the option of recycling, but even that process poses its own issues. Not all materials are recycled in the same way or use the same resources.

“Each material has a unique value, determined by the rarity of the virgin resource and the price the recycled material fetches on the commodity market,” states environmental journalist Amy Westervelt. “The recycling process for each also requires a different amount of water and energy and comes with a unique (and sometimes hefty) carbon footprint.”

In short, not all materials are worth recycling.

The Upward Trend of Upcycling

So if recycling isn’t always sustainable, what other options are there?

While individuals can make changes to lessen their carbon footprint, it’s the businesses that are creating these products (and their packaging) that can create a bigger impact.

For the average consumer product sold today, nearly 10% of the finished and shipped product contains packing material which is normally unusable, and therefore dumped.

The concept of upcycling or upcycled products isn’t a new one in business — if you shop on Etsy, you’ll see a wide range of goods made from discarded materials that would have otherwise been tossed aside: jewelry made from old vinyl records; tables crafted from wooden baseball bats. The possibilities seem endless when it comes to turning “junk” into something you can flaunt.

This same concept can be applied to shipping, and Soap Hope has found an upcycled solution that customers are thrilled about.

For our planet. The Ugly Box.

Enter the Ugly Box

At Soap Hope, we’ve made it our mission to end poverty for women worldwide. But another value we hold close is our dedication to protecting our planet.

We ship all customer orders in upcycled product packaging, made with barely used scraps of cardboard and packaging material from local businesses. This is what we call the Ugly Box.

The standard shipping practices of ecommerce retailers create two unnecessary consequences:

  1. They use new cardboard boxes, which means more trees cut down and more environmental waste.
  2. The boxes used by these retailers are often many times bigger than necessary to fit the product(s) being shipped. You may have experienced this phenomenon from another ecommerce retailer who shipped you a small product in a box that was large enough to fit four or five times the amount.

Our Ugly Box addresses these two important problems:

  1. The cardboard we use is an upcycled product, which means it has been gently used — usually only one time — by local businesses who would have otherwise thrown the cardboard away.
  2. The Ugly Box minimizes the amount of cardboard needed to wrap a product, because it is built to fit the exact size of the products being shipped.

While the Ugly Box may not be the most attractive package you receive in the mail, it does its job of keeping your products safe during shipping and eliminating the need for new cardboard.

With that said, many Soap Hope customers have expressed their love of the Ugly Box.

A photo posted by Soap Hope (@soaphope) on

The Future is Now

While there is still much ground to cover in waste reduction, it’s promising to see that there are new and outside-the-box (pun intended) methods of upcycling, packaging, and shipping your favorite products right to your door.

“Ugly” Box or not, there is hope that businesses are capable of creating a positive, worldwide impact.

Empower Women. End Poverty.

(Article written by guest contributor Amy Wynn)

Entrepreneur Magazine recently published an article highlighting the ONE campaign, urging legislators to empower women by promoting gender equality through their work.

“Girls and women living in extreme poverty – those often hit hardest by the injustice of gender inequality – have been left out of the conversation,” the letter says, asking for data, funding and policy changes to support its cause.

Signed by heavy hitting advocates and activists like Sheryl Sandberg, Amy Poehler, Condoleezza Rice, and Melinda Gates, the open letter concluded in a bold statement that read, “Poverty is sexist.”

Women at Risk

Worldwide, women are far and away the most at risk for facing extreme poverty, preventable disease, and other limiting circumstances. As these limiting circumstances increase, it becomes more challenging for women to get access to many basic resources that could help reduce or eliminate the problems.

Soap Hope was founded with a mission focused on lifting women to a place where they have power to improve their own lives, their families’ lives, and the lives of members of their communities.

Why Soap Hope Supports Women

As we’ve discussed on past blogs, women are the backbone of society, key players in the success of communities large and small.

  • Women consistently invest more of their money back into their families and communities than men.
  • The participation of women in an economy is a proven factor in the stability of a country, and has been linked to lower levels of corruption within government.
  • When a woman is struggling simply to eat, to feed, and to access care for her family, there is little room for her to step into a position of active participation within her community.  Women facing extreme poverty are inherently excluded from participating in leadership and decision making, the very fields from which we all benefit the most from their equality and inclusion.

In short, empowering women is good for everyone.

How Soap Hope Empowers Women

To us, empowering women means giving them a voice and an outstretched hand, not only as a way towards an education or starting a business, but also to empower the women as leaders and decision makers in their communities and around the world.

Through our mission at Soap Hope, women are being brought to the table to participate in and lead these larger conversations. By providing women with resources to lift themselves up, we are able to help loosen the grip of poverty on their lives and free them to contribute to their own communities and society at large.

Every dollar of profit generated from Soap Hope purchases – 100% of it – goes out into the world for one year through programs that provide capital and business training to women so they can start, build and grow their own businesses.

From microloans through Milaap in India, to Esperanza in the Dominican Republic, we join forces with our mission partners to plant the seeds of change for women worldwide.

Don’t Let Poverty Persist

Poverty is a global problem. And as the article from Entrepreneur Magazine reminds us, the key to ending poverty is empowering women.

Women around the world, including in your own communities, are struggling to survive, to provide for their children and families, and find themselves severely limited by their circumstances.

We – you, us, and our mission partners – are doing good by maximizing our collective ability to raise women from poverty. Through your purchase of natural, healthy products at Soap Hope, we are able to partner with organizations around the world to make real, tangible changes in the lives of women.

Conquering poverty takes all of us, working together.

IN THE NEWS: President Obama signs act banning microbeads

2016 is off to a great start for consumers.

On December 28, President Obama signed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015.

The law will effectively ban “the manufacture and introduction into interstate commerce of rinse-off cosmetics containing intentionally-added plastic microbeads.”

Several states have already banned the production and use of microbeads in products, with Illinois being the first state (in 2014) to roll out legislation that prohibits the materials.

Several other states have followed suit. California lawmakers approved a bill in September of 2015, which includes the ban of any biodegradable microbeads. Roberta Larson, executive director of the California Association of Sanitation Agencies, spoke on the importance of enacting these laws.

“Plastic microbeads can pass through some wastewater treatment plants and make their way into the environment, where they can be harmful to marine life,” she said. “Controlling these microbeads at their source is simply good public policy.”

Soap Hope founder, Salah Boukadoum, wrote about the dangers of microbeads here on our Good Life blog, back in 2014:

“These plastic beads do not break down. Marine creatures eat the microbeads, which ultimately end up in our food. They cannot be removed from the environment.

Microbeads are getting even more attention lately because they have been found lodged in the gums of many people who are using Crest toothpaste. No one knows how much damage they are causing to the very teeth that were supposed to benefit from the product.

Manufacturers of these products are fully aware of the harm they are doing to humans and to nature – but they put profits above all else and use them anyway.”

We’re excited to see that lawmakers and leaders are taking action to improve our environment and health, and prevent businesses from such destructive practices.

The bill signed by the President would require manufacturers to stop using microbeads by Jan. 1, 2018. You can read the public statement here. 

 

(Header image credit: Wikipedia)

IN THE NEWS: Legislation introduced to modernize food labeling

In a public release, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), with Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) announced the Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2015.

The Food Labeling Modernization Act approaches food labeling reform in a comprehensive manner, addressing front-of-package labeling, misleading health claims, and requiring updates to the Nutrition Facts label and the ingredient list,” states the release.

The Act will address a number of revisions to laws that “have been unchanged since the 1990s.”

cart-15507_640“By empowering consumers with accurate, truthful, and concise information, this legislation will enable them to make healthier choices, and outsmart deceptive pitches and promotions,” said Senator Blumenthal.

An overhaul of the food labeling process is an important step towards providing U.S. consumers with healthier food choices, and ultimately addressing what has been referred to as the “obesity epidemic” here in the States.

“Healthy eating is especially critical to combating the growing epidemic of childhood obesity,” states Congressman Palone, “which has nearly tripled in the past 30 years and is one of the most serious public health problems in this country.”

Here at Soap Hope, we offer products for the body and home, but understand that what we feed our bodies has a serious impact on not only our skin, but overall health. Knowing what makes up the food that we’re eating empowers us to make better decisions about what food we purchase.

“Food labels should inform — not mislead — consumers as they grocery shop,” said William Wallace, Policy Analyst for Consumers Union. “Consumers deserve labeling that is simple, straightforward, and meaningful, so they can easily compare products and make healthy choices for their families.”

You can read the entirety of the Food Labeling Modernization Act here

Our Plastic Bottle Addiction

The use of plastic today is both prevalent and highly profitable.

In 2000, Americans drank 23 gallons of bottled water (per person) annually.

In 2014, that number significantly increased to 34 gallons per person. That’s 10.7 billion gallons of plastic bottled water in a year.

The Plastic Industry

“The single most important factor in the growth of bottled water is heightened consumer demand for healthier refreshment,” Gary A. Hemphill, managing director for Beverage Marketing Corporation, said recently .

“Convenience of the packaging and aggressive pricing have been contributing factors,” he noted.

And recycling these plastic bottles, which only 31% of people actually do, doesn’t necessarily mean they get turned back into plastic bottles. They usually get turned into textiles, like clothing.

And when synthetic clothing is washed, those microplastics just wind up back in our water.

The Solution

Many Americans are aware of the amount of waste that comes from plastic bottles and the other negative implications caused by the industry.

But John Stewart of Corporate Accountability International points out the battle that’s ahead when it comes to fighting the system in place.

“Cities are so desperate that they don’t think about long-term implications of job cuts, rate hikes, loss of control over the quality of the water and any kind of accountability when it comes to how the system is managed,” says Stewart.

“We need to turn all eyes to our public water systems and aging infrastructure,” he says, “and our public services in general that are threatened by privatization.”

Access to clean water is, thankfully, something that a majority of Americans have.

We also have the option of better, more sustainable choices.

Steps in the Right Direction

At the 2010 Conference of Mayors, 72 percent of mayors said they have considered “eliminating or reducing bottled water purchases within city facilities,” with several mayors indicating bans already being in place.

Earlier in 2015, San Francisco passed a law that bans the sale of bottled water on city property.

Companies like Klean Kanteen are also doing their part and adding to the conversation by offering more sustainable solutions to consumers.

“At Klean Kanteen, our commitment to you and the planet drives everything we do,” states their website. “From our stainless steel creations to the company we keep, we are firmly fixed on the task of making healthy, high-quality goods that will faithfully replace a lifetime of single-use items. Our hope is that you will go forth and re-use our products for years and even decades to come. One cup, bottle, and container at a time adds up… to big results.”

We’re thrilled to offer Klean Kanteen’s entire line of durable, BPA-free, high quality bottles here at Soap Hope. Here are some of our favorite items!

 

 

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

IN THE NEWS: Triclosan found “no more effective” an ingredient for killing bacteria than regular soap

Recently, the Oxford Journals published research on the effectiveness of antibacterial soap versus other “normal” soaps.

“Antibacterial soap containing Triclosan (0.3%) was no more effective than plain soap at reducing bacterial contamination when used under ‘real-life’ conditions,” according to the research completed by Korea University.

What this means: products (soaps, body wash, dish liquid, etc.) containing Triclosan aren’t any better than regular old soap at killing germs.

In fact, because Triclosan is antibacterial, this means it doesn’t discriminate against what kind of bacteria that it kills. So all of those good, healthy bacteria that live naturally on our skin are being killed off, too.

Not only that, Triclosan has been linked to “hormone disrupting effects, bacterial and antibiotic resistance, and impacts on aquatic organisms.”

“[W]idespread use of Triclosan and other antibacterial compounds result in contamination of the nation’s waterways,” with Triclosan being the “most prevalent contaminant” remaining in our waterways, despite being treated by wastewater treatment plants.

Earlier this year, the European Union made a decision to ban triclosan in any hygienic products. According to the European Chemicals Agency, “[N]o safe use could be demonstrated for the proposed use of Triclosan.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that “75% of the U.S. population contain triclosan in their bodies. Triclosan enters the food chain through use of contaminated water or fertilizer on agricultural crops.”

Luckily, you can rest assured that none of our Soap Hope products contain Triclosan or other harmful ingredients — and we disclose information on all of the ingredients that are in the products we sell.

It’s our hope that changes will continue to be made in the way antibacterial products are advertised to customers, and that harmful chemicals like triclosan will be banned entirely.

Corporations Are People

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One of the most important things we do at Soap Hope is to evaluate the ingredients in products. It’s a much tougher job that you might imagine. Not everything that’s natural is good for you, so we have to keep tabs on everything used in every product. And makers update their ingredients all the time, so we’re constantly reviewing the field research, making sure that everything we carry is up to our strict standards. Our vision is that if you find it at Soap Hope, you can trust that it’s good for you.

Did you know that not everything that goes in a product is required to be on its label? One terrible ingredient that has made its way into thousands of products is called microbeads. Sometimes they are labeled simply “PE” or “PP.” It’s in everything from toothpaste to facial scrubs to shower gels. And it’s terrible for people, animals, and the planet.

Microbeads are tiny plastic particles that manufacturers put in products to make them scrubby or for visual effect. They go directly into our water systems. Our drainage systems were not designed to filter them out, so they end up in our water supplies and in the oceans.

These plastic beads do not break down. Marine creatures eat the microbeads, which ultimately end up in our food. They cannot be removed from the environment.

Microbeads are getting even more attention lately because they have been found lodged in the gums of many people who are using Crest toothpaste. No one knows how much damage they are causing to the very teeth that were supposed to benefit from the product.

Manufacturers of these products are fully aware of the harm they are doing to humans and to nature – but they put profits above all else and use them anyway. When a recent outcry finally got Procter and Gamble’s attention, they promised to eliminate microbeads from their toothpaste – in two years.

You’ve heard the saying “corporations are people.” It’s true in this sense: businesses are run by people, and those people make conscious decisions every day either to responsibly serve customers, or to earn profits regardless of the impact on people and the world. When you choose companies that care about humanity and pay attention to the consequences of their decisions, you contribute to more good in the world.

We’re paying attention to things like microbeads for you. Of course nothing at Soap Hope has them. We don’t have Procter & Gamble’s problem of what to do with two years worth of unacceptable ingredients. We never carry those kinds of ingredients in the first place. When our makers want a product to be scrubby, they use sea salt, or flowers, or cocoa seeds.

In our view, business should be of service. When we prioritize the well-being of our customers, our employees, and the world we all share together, it’s easy to make the right decisions.

The Crest controversy has led Soap Hope on the search for great quality toothpaste that is effective and free of harmful ingredients. We’re working on boarding oral care products for you soon. In the meantime, be sure to avoid products with the words polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), nylon or Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) in the ingredient list.

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No Thanks To Paraben

Last week, Environmental Science and Technology published the results of a study by researchers from Arizona State University and State University of New York’s Downstate School of Public Health.

The study tracked 180 pregnant women in Brooklyn, New York. The study found triclosan – a commonly used chemical in antibacterial soaps – in 100% of the women’s urine. Every one!

The same researchers also found parabens in 100% of the cord blood samples they tested, with triclosan in half of them.

Endocrine-disrupting parabens like triclosan affect the body’s hormone system. It has been clearly shown that there is a relationship in humans between triclosan levels in the body and allergies. A study by the National Institutes of Health shows that the more triclosan you have in your system, the more likely you are to develop allergic reactions to a variety of foods, for example.

The irony is that other studies reveal that simply washing your hands with plain soap and water is just as effective at eliminating bacteria as using a soap with triclosan in it.

Triclosan does act as a preservative in consumer products – but so does vitamin E, which is what many of our makers use in their products. Why do big manufacturers use triclosan? It’s cheaper. They don’t appear to be concerned about the side effects on people or the environment. They also know there’s nothing especially “antibacterial” for the user of their product, but they market it that way anyway.

We have strict standards about what may be used in products at Soap Hope. Triclosan, and every other paraben, is banned from the products we carry at Soap Hope. Our carefully selected products simply will never have parabens, period.

Essential oils? Definitely. Vitamin E? Yes, please. Parabens? No thanks.

Our goal is to free you from reading labels – we read them for you. If you find it at Soap Hope, it has passed our research test. And when you buy it here, the entire profit for your purchase goes to empower women. Soap Hope means “Everything Good for Body and Home.”

USDA Organic – The Basics

Soap Hope is about to launch a new product line called Nourish Organic with the unique claim to fame that the entire company is Certified USDA Organic.

But just what does Organic mean? What’s the difference between Organic and USDA Organic? And does organic matter for skin care?

The Meaning of Organic and the USDA Seal

If a product is labeled 100% Organic, by law every single ingredient in the product must be 100% USDA certified organic (except water and salt). Since 100% organic ingredients are not allowed to contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms), 100% Organic products are also automatically non-GMO.

If a product is labeled Organic, it can contain up to 5% non-organic ingredients. But those non-organic ingredients must adhere to strict guidelines – for example, no synthetic preservatives or petrochemicals are allowed in the final product.

Watch out for products labeled Made With Organic Ingredients. They are allowed to contain up to 30% non-organic ingredients, and there are no restrictions on what’s in those 30%.

Only products in the first two categories – Organic and 100% Organic – are allowed to display the USDA Organic seal. That means when you see the seal, you know the product has 95% or more organic ingredients, produced without toxic pesticides or herbicides, artificial preservatives or colors.

Is Organic Important for Body Care?

Most people who are seeking to live a natural life don’t want pesticides on their skin – but if the product isn’t organic, how do you know if there are pesticides in it? That’s why so many of the products at Soap Hope are certified organic: we know many folks like you want the guarantee of purity that comes with certified organic products.

Later this week you’ll learn more about Nourish Organic, the first beauty company in the world to receive 100% USDA-organic certification from the government. You can also look for organic products from our top makers like Leap Organics, A Wild Soap Bar, Badger, and By The Grace of Tea.

Here’s a link to organic labeling rules for body care products on the USDA website.