Tag Archives: conscious business

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.

You Must Mist!

Since this week at Soap Hope we’re featuring free mists, we thought you might like to know how other Soap Hopers tell us they use their mists. Do try this at home!

  • Spray in your shoes. Mint, Sea Salt, and Tea Tree are especially good – they keep your shoes fresh inside.
  • Put your favorite mist it in your suitcase when you travel. Makes your hotel room smell great.
  • Spray lavender mist on your bedsheets and pillows. Lavender is calming and will help you rest.
  • Spray in your closet to keep it fresh and wonderful. Worried about moths? Spray tea tree in the closet to help keep  moths away.
  • Use essential oil mists as a substitute for perfume. Spray on freely – it’s all natural.
  • Spray some mist in your dryer – your clothes will pick up the aroma.
  • Keep a mist in your drawer at work, to freshen up if you feel hot.
  • Spray on the treadmill, workout bench, and exercise or yoga mat.
  • And a mist in every bathroom, of course.

Share your favorite mist uses in the comments below. And pick some up for yourself and for gifts, at Soap Hope. One mist empowers a woman in her business for four days!

We Vote

America is an amazing place for entrepreneurs.

In America you can start a business to do just about anything, anytime, and usually without anyone’s permission. We wanted to sell soap bars to change the world. It took a two-page form, twenty minutes, and $300 to incorporate a company in Texas. We filed the paperwork online from the kitchen table.

In America you can freely compete with other businesses. It might be hard, and the big guys might have an advantage, but any person can decide at any time to be an entrepreneur. Here, an entrepreneur’s only limitation is herself.

In America you can freely state your opinions about the rules we live by together, and you can work to change them if they are wrong. If you don’t like the rules, you can get your voice heard, organize a movement, nominate a candidate, and create change.

Do you agree or disagree with the notion that companies should label foods that are genetically modified? Do you agree or disagree that there should not be new taxes on Internet sales? Do you agree or disagree that plastic microbeads should be prohibited in products that reach our water supply? You can elect representatives who share your values.

If you want your voice to be heard you can get to know your representatives, learn about the issues by researching online and talking with others, and vote. Election day is November 4.

As entrepreneurs we value everyone’s right to vote. That’s why Soap Hope has a policy in support of employee voting. Every team member gets paid time off to vote in local, state and national elections. If you are a business owner, we encourage you to consider a similar policy. You can find ours here: Soap Hope Policy in Support of Employee Voting.

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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Good Intentions

If you’ve ever ordered from Soap Hope, you’ve seen a little scrap of folded paper fall out of one of your products when you unwrapped it. It says, “Can Shopping at Soap Hope Change the World?” In the packing room we call it the “Easter Egg” because it’s hidden in your order.

Like most things at Soap Hope, the Easter Egg is very intentional. We hide it in your package. It’s a symbol of extra impact that your order made, on a woman’s life far away from you. It’s a surprise to make sure you know about the mission of Soap Hope, even if you skipped the paperwork we include.

Inside the Easter Egg, we explain that we were inspired by Dr. Muhammad Yunus. Dr. Yunus is known as the father of microfinance. His efforts have touched the lives of millions of women around the world. I’m driven every day by his achievements.

In 2010 I heard Dr. Yunus speak at Austin College in Texas. He told the story of a woman who lived in extreme poverty in a village in Bangladesh. She received a small loan to help start a personal business that could provide income for her. She took and repayed a number of loans over the years and slowly increased her standard of living. She was able to send her daughter to grade school – now the daughter could read, even though the mother could not. Through continued access to training and credit, she was able to afford to send her daughter to high school. Her daughter was able to fund her way through college, and then medical school.

Think about the change in the standard of living from mother to daughter – from a life of illiteracy and poverty to that of an independent woman with a career as a medical doctor, in one generation.

This opportunity is why we started Soap Hope. Can we realistically expect people here, with busy lives, families, and interests, to figure out how to send girls in Bangladesh to school? Maybe not – but Soap Hope can:

We partner with local institutions like the one established by Dr. Yunus. Since Soap Hope sells things that everyone needs for everyday life, and uses all the profits to fund loans for women so they can afford to do things like send their girls to school – that means now everyone can participate. Wash your hair with shampoo from Soap Hope – help teach a girl to read. Wash your dishes with dish soap from Soap Hope – help teach a girl algebra. Drink a cup of tea from Soap Hope – help empower a generation of women.

We’re intentional about the products we curate for you, the environmental impact of the box your order is packed in, the placement of the Easter Egg, the use of the profits your order generates. We do this so that you can simply shop for your everyday needs with us, and the rest is taken care of. But we do need your intention too: Remember Soap Hope. Remember to shop with us for your family. Remember to tell others about Soap Hope. Remember to share your thoughts and ideas with us about how to grow this movement.  It’s our actions together that matter.

Yours,

Salah

You know by now that every bar of soap purchased from us funds one day of a woman’s business – “a bar of soap is a day of hope.” If you’re a follower, you also know by now that I want to sell one millions bars of soap, to create one million days of hope. Let’s tell a million people about it, and get this done. #milliondaysofhope

Beginnings

Salah's Itinerary
I ran across the itinerary for my 1993 six week concert tour through Africa and the Middle East.

 

Prelude

Some of you know that I started my working life as a classical pianist, not as an entrepreneur. In 1993 I was very lucky to go on a six week international tour through Africa and the Middle East, traveling through almost a dozen countries and playing concerts in national theaters, universities, and ambassadors’ halls.

The core idea behind Soap Hope really started all those years ago. After one concert, I had the fortune to spend time with the Director of the World Bank in Kenya. He explained to me about his efforts to address poverty in Kenya. He told me that of every ten dollars sent to alleviate poverty in Kenya, nine went to corruption.

That challenge stuck with me for years: only 10% of the aid that was intended for the extreme poor was making it to those who needed it.

Main Event

It was three companies and 15 years later that Soap Hope was born. When we designed our model for addressing world problems, we wanted to learn from the lessons of that evening in Nairobi. We didn’t want 90% of our effort lost. The Good Returns model was born.

We don’t give money away – we invest in women. When you buy your household products every month from Soap Hope, we send all the profits to women – every dollar – so they can start or expand their own small enterprises around the world, whether in Kenya, or in the Dominican Republic, or right here in Dallas.

How do I know the money isn’t being lost? Because every dollar is repaid after one year, interest-free. We don’t take anything out of our company until those profits are returned. Only then do we get the rewards of our entrepreneurship.

Our intention is to provide opportunity with accountability: yes, all of our business profits are loaned interest free, but all of those profits are required to be returned after they have done good in the world for one year. This approach puts us and those we help on the same page, responsible to each other.

Our vision is to take Soap Hope from the small business it is today to a nationally recognized enterprise, serving millions of customers and millions of women around the world. Then we want to teach many other companies to do the same. I’m so grateful and delighted that you have been an early adopter, creating this vision with us by shopping at Soap Hope and sharing the Soap Hope story.

Encore

I still love music and playing the piano, and when the day comes that Soap Hope is big enough to operate without me every day, I will start working on concert material again. The next time around, I want to play fundraiser concerts to raise awareness and money for sustainable social enterprises. I hope you’ll join me then too.

Yours,

Salah

Salah Boukadoum
Co-Founder, Soap Hope
salah@soaphope.com

 

#LikeAWoman

You’ve probably seen the “#LikeAGirl” video that debuted not long ago. If you haven’t, take a minute to watch it – it’s inspiring and eye-opening.

At Soap Hope we often think about how perceptions of women either empower or limit people. Why do we invest in women? Here are some amazing facts about the behavior of women that inspire us:

  • Women consistently reinvest a much larger percentage of earnings into their own families and communities than men do. This behavior creates opportunity and advancement for more people.
  • The more economic and political participation of women there is in a country, the more stable that country is likely to be.
  • The more women there are in the legislature of a country, the lower the level of corruption is likely to be.
  • Women are far more likely than men to repay a business loan.

In short: it’s smart to invest in women.

Soap Hope was founded (by two men, incidentally) on the belief that solving humanity’s greatest problems will require balanced participation by women in all aspects of society, especially decision-making and leadership. We decided to focus on women at the “bottom of the pyramid” – those who are most disadvantaged.

We choose to make our difference by empowering those women through entrepreneurship – and we’re serious about it. Every single dollar of profit that we earn goes to fund loan capital and education for women.

These women start and grow their businesses, changing the dynamic of their local societies by bringing success, hope and opportunity to them. We believe that this, too, can and will become a pervasive worldwide phenomenon.

Who wouldn’t want to invest in a person who saves like a woman, invests like a woman, plans like a woman, strengthens the community like a woman, and transforms the world like a woman? I know I would – how about you?

– Salah Boukadoum, Co-Founder, Soap Hope

If you want to participate, it’s easy: shop at Soap Hope, share the story with others in e-mail and social media, and please write us – we want to hear from you.

Women, Take the Stage

Soap Hope co-founder Salah Boukadoum introduces award-winning global philanthropist, Mina Chang.
Soap Hope co-founder Salah Boukadoum introduces global philanthropist Mina Chang, winner of the Women That Soar Philanthropy and Humanitarian Award in 2012. Ms. Chang is CEO and President of Linking The World International, an international humanitarian children’s organization working in developing countries to break the cycle of poverty.

The Conference

I recently attended a conference about the future of cities.

Like many conferences, this one started with a packed room of attendees ready to hear some great opening speakers.

Right at 9:00, the conference chairman came on stage to welcome us. Then came the city mayor. Then the conference organizer gave us an orientation, and an expert gave a great talk about the cities of the future. And then a powerhouse panel of five world leaders took the stage.

And that’s when I first noticed it. All the people on the panel were men.

I started thinking back through the morning. Before the panel was the conference organizer, a man. The expert before him, a man. The mayor before him, and the CEO before him, all men.

The panel took questions for an hour from a moderator – a man. Next on the agenda, a scientist – a man.

It was 11:30. The whole morning had passed. Not a single woman’s voice from the stage.

Women’s Voices, Women’s Choices

Half the people in the world are women, but women do not make up half the conversation or half the decision making about its future.

I have long believed that most of the ills of our world come from the imbalance of the missing voices of women in leadership, governance, planning, and decision making.

That’s one of the reasons that Soap Hope focuses on empowering women, particularly those who are the most disenfranchised.  If women don’t have the means to earn an income, don’t have access to credit, and don’t have a seat at the table, then half the world is excluded from the conversation and the decision making. How can we expect the future of the world to serve all humanity if half of it is left out?

I agree with Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women, who said, “Microcredit is about much more than access to money. It is about women gaining control over the means to make a living. It is about women lifting themselves out of poverty and vulnerability. It is about women achieving economic and political empowerment within their homes, their villages, their countries.”

Soap Hope, Women, and the Future

The conference organizers didn’t consciously exclude women that morning. But that didn’t comfort me at all – they didn’t even notice the absence of women. There is a blind spot in their understanding of the world.

Blind spots like this don’t just disappear on their own. We have to actively work not only to raise awareness and educate, but also to take action and use our resources to change existing structures that currently exclude women.

That’s why Soap Hope means so much to me. I love the idea that we can change the world with our simple system. We provide customers with everyday things – soap bars, shampoo, candles, laundry soap – and all the profits from every purchase create income for women, bring more women’s voices to the conversation, bring more women’s leadership to the society.

Soap Hope is my way of joining my voice to the many people who are asking, “Women, please join your colleagues on the stage.” I for one am very much looking forward to what you have to say.

Salah Boukadoum
Co-Founder, Soap Hope

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Thank you, Malala

As part of our Soap Hope Community you have probably noticed that we consistently communicate two unique messages at the same time.

On the one hand, we always want to share great products and specials with you. We want you to know when you can get a free Zum bar, or when we start carrying something we haven’t had before, like eye liner and eye gel.

And we always want you to know about our mission and the women we empower, and our belief in the capability and responsibility of businesses to take part in resolving our world’s biggest problems.

So in our shop you’ll hear as much talk about women’s economic development, social impact, poverty and education as you’ll hear about new colors and designs, product purity, safety and new developments in natural products for body and home.

This week we were reminded once again of Malala Yousafzai, the amazing young woman who has been standing up for the right of all people to be educated, regardless of their gender, religion, or geography.

During this very difficult week of violence in the world, it’s easy to get dispirited. Malala reminds us that we need to stay committed to education, even in the face of fear and violence. She reminds us that one of the best roads to peace is the empowerment of women.

If you haven’t seen Malala, watch her talk with Jon Stewart below about what motivates her to stand up for women’s education rights.

Thank you, Malala!

Try

Here’s a dilemma for you.

Every week at Soap Hope, we get together to talk about what to write on this blog and what special offers to send to the many customers who get our weekly email.

The team wanted to do a makeup promo, since we’re big fans of the Pacifica line – the products and packaging are just gorgeous, and our customers love the quality.

Normally that would mean I would pull out the research I did on natural makeup when we decided to carry it and write up some important points about natural makeup, what to look for and how to use it.

But this week I also saw a very touching music video called “Try” by Colbie Caillat. I really wanted to share this song with you, because it made a big impact on me.

But I was conflicted about sending out a promo about makeup, and also sending you this song. You’ll see why when you watch it. (I’ve put it at the end of the blog for you.)

I talked with my friend Kathy and told her about my concerns. “Is it insensitive to promote makeup in the same week as you share a song like this?”

Kathy asked me, “Well Salah, why do you sell makeup?”

It’s not a short answer, but it’s a simple one. I sell makeup because I wanted to create a company that solves big human problems by selling everyday things to my community. I wanted the company to use all of its profits to empower women to escape poverty. And I only wanted to sell things that were healthy and high quality, with the highest integrity I can bring.

I started with something simple: soap bars. And customers – you – showed up to participate. And then you asked for more – for shampoo, for lotion, for new brands, and yes, for makeup.

In return, I asked Kathy why she wears makeup. “The same reason you cut your hair a certain way. It’s fun. It makes me feel good. I like the way it looks. And some days I don’t wear it.”

In the end, Kathy and I decided you would understand everything. That there’s nothing wrong with selling makeup for the right reasons. That it’s OK to share this video with you about how we don’t need to be wearing makeup – or doing anything else – for the wrong reasons. And that I shouldn’t have to worry too much about sharing things with you that moved me, and that I think might move you too.

I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments below.


(Can’t see the video? Click here for the original post and scroll to the bottom.)