Thursday, April 24, 2008

#212 - Bah, Bah Black Sheep

Have You Any.... Soap?



It was only three months ago that I found Dr. Bronner's Castille Soap and already I'm saying goodbye. It's not that I don't like the product... I do. In fact, I LOVE that soap. It's all natural, organic, and fair trade. It has a great lather and a yummy scent. It's not tested on animals. Hell, it's even got nice packaging. The only, and I mean only downside to that soap is the distance it travels to arrive at my home. You see, Dr. Bronner's soap is manufactured in a factory out in Escondido, California and I live here in Richmond, VA. That means that every bar that finds its way into my home has traveled over 2,550 miles to get here.

Now, I know that since reading Omnivore's Dilemma, we're all working to get our food miles down under the average 1,500 miles traveled per meal. And according to Deep Economy, we should be doing the same for other purchases. And so I am. In fact, I'm going to begin sourcing as many local products as I can and I'm starting with my soap.

Why start with soap? Because I already found it. Last week at the Farmer's Market, I stumbled upon Wild Heaven Farm Handmade Goat Milk Soaps. Mary, the woman who was selling them, was beyond chirpy and upbeat, but I bought from her anyhow. And I found out that she doesn't just sell them, she's also the one who makes them. And she makes them right here in the Richmond metro area.
According to Mary, the soaps are made from "fresh squeezed" goat milk, palm oil, coconut oil, olive oils and, depending on the soap, oatmeal and/or natural essential oils. I picked up the unscented castille-style soap so that I could try it on my face and (hopefully) replace my Neutrogena face bars, in addition to my body soap.

I'm still using up what's left of my existing soaps (no sense tossing them in a landfill, they've already been purchased) so I won't be using the goat soap exclusively for another couple of weeks, but I have given it a test lather and it's amazing stuff! It lathers up nicely and seems like it won't disintegrate after three uses. Also? I don't know if it's just the castille-style (which is extra-moisturizing), but it has left my skin AMAZINGLY soft. It feels like I'm all lotioned up - and not in a greasy way. Of course you know I had to try it on my hair too and it worked quite well. In fact, it left my hair feeling softer than the Dr. Bronners or even the Burt's Bees shampoo.


Savings:

I picked up my bar downtown at the Farmer's Market last week, less than 25 miles from my home. But get this, after I checked out the brochure, it turns out the goat farm is located just a hop, skip and a jump away (that equates to approximately 15 1/2 miles). But let's not split hairs here, we'll just call it a savings of 2,500 soap-transporting miles.

Assuming I use one bar of soap every two weeks, and each bar of soap weighs 5 ounces, I would be purchasing over 8 pounds of soap per year. Based on the data I found here, that means that it takes .75 gallons of gas to transport my annual soap allotment. Which is not much, but, when you consider I'm going to the Farmer's Market anyhow to pick up my CSA bounty, it is an annual savings of .75 gallons of gas per year.

Again, you're saying "big deal", 3/4 of a gallon of gas. Whoopdie-doo. But what if everyone in the greater Richmond area purchased their soap locally, rather than truck it in from the opposite coast? Why, we'd save over 902,255 gallons of gas each year! And Mary would now be the wealthiest goat-milker this side of the Mississippi. Which is good because I'll bet she'd need some serious carpal tunnel surgery at that point.

Added bonus? Wild Heaven Farm uses even less packaging than Dr. Bronner. Just a simple paper ring around the center of the soap that lists the ingredients. In fact, I'm betting if I asked real nice, I could even get my soap sans wrap.


Difficulty Level:

Super easy. I'm already at the market, I just swing by the Wild Heaven Farm stand and pick up a bar. But you're thinking "homemade soap? that's gonna be pricey as hell". Well, depends on what you're comparing it to, I guess. If you compare it to cheap-ass Walmart brand soap made with a carcinogen-filled chemical concoctions... well, yeah, anything would seem expensive. But really it's not anymore than what I've been paying. Homemade soap from Wild Heaven Farm: $4.00. Dr. Bronner's soap from California: $3.99.

All in all, I'd say this switch isn't half baaaaaaaaad. Unlike that joke.

21 comments:

Vera said...

Okay, seriously this year I MUST go to the market and check it out...the soap is definitely peaking my interest. I have a whole stack of Bath & Body works soap to run through first...which I purchased on sale the year before last and am still working through them!

20dollarsaday said...

Sounds like a good switch--but the dilemma I keep encountering w/soap is that the palm oil, coconut oil, and olive oil probably came from across the ocean. I'd like to see how to make a super duper completely local soap, and I think that would probably mean lye soap (which my grandma made). It's made from fat drippings and lye (which I THINK is made from wood ash).

It doesn't smell bad, per se, but it definitely isn't fragrant.

I'm really enjoying following your blog.

Heather said...

This is great! We have soaps at our farmers market and I always talk to the girl who makes them. I've bought them as gifts, but never once did I think of buying them and using them myself. But you're right. what an easy switch!

I'll have to find a container so that 1) it doesn't end up filled with pet hair and 2) the water in the shower doesn't wash it all away. Do you use something special?

Wendy said...

Awesome find! I found a liquid castille soap made in Vermont and switched from Dr. Bonner's about a year ago. Their bottle carries the slogan "Organic stuff that foams." You gotta love that ;).

Theresa said...

Hee! Cute joke, actually!

I love my Dr Bronner's soaps too. But you're right, it's better to get them more locally. I'm going to have to do some more looking around closer to home. I'm checking out a farmer's market I've never been to before tonight after work, so maybe I will have luck there....

Green Bean said...

Awesome! It's so wonderful what you can find at the farmers' market.

Here's a classic Burbs line: "beyond chirpy and upbeat, but I bought from her anyhow." I buy our soap from the honey lady at our farmers' market. She's neither upbeat nor chirpy. However, when I suggested she was crafty for making the soap, the candles, the lip balm, the hand cream, she immediately corrected me with "No, just earthly." Um, ok. I'll take 2 soaps and 1 honey, glass bottle please.

Christy B said...

Not trying to burst your soap bubble but I do have some qwerstions!

Where are the coconut oil and olive oil coming from? My guess is the Philippines and the Middle East perhaps. I am wondering if they are sourced fairly (fair-trade)?

I do think buying local is the best first choice. Just throwing out some probably unwelcome questions!!

Trying to do the right thing is fraught with questions - it's why we are where we are and they don't stop!!

MamaBird said...

Mmmm, I *just* noticed soap at the Dupont farmer's market last week. Gotta finish up my old soap first...

Our Lovely Life said...

Darn, I wanted to try her soaps, but she charges 7 bucks for shipping! I live in Northern VA, so I can't get to her easily! Poop! The soaps sound wonderful. I'll have to check out our farmers market this weekend and see if anyone is selling goats milk soaps.

gregra&gar said...

It would seem that learning to make some of your own "necessities" from the natural resources used by the manufacturer or your local "processor" would be the next logical step toward ecological sustainability, not to mention teaching your young ones lore more important than big bird in an era when such skills may come to define survival. Not that lack of soap ever killed anyone, but you get my drift.

Blue Collar Crunch said...

Aww...it's so cute! I want goat-head soap!

Regular soap was the one thing I didn't order from Lush when I decided to try them out, but even so it's gonna be a loooong time before I need to think about a better soap option, given the amount stashed in my linen closet.

Melissa said...

I had the same thought about the sourcing of the oils, BUT then I also thought that it's still a net gain, because the Dr. Bronners or the even worse stuff still has to transport their ingredients, then transport the final product, no? So although it may not be totally perfect (what is?), I think it's definitely awesome progress.

Fake Plastic Fish said...

Sounds great. We are getting our soap from a woman at the Ashby flea market in Berkeley. It is a good step to buy from a local soap-maker I think. I don't know where her ingredients come from, and that would be good to know.

The thing about Dr. Bronner's is that they are 100% organic and fair trade. So wondering what the savings would be if you factored in those... um... factors. Can you find out where the goat lady gets her oils?

Maya C. said...

I had the same thoughts as Christy B. While I do think buying Local is always best, I believe there is a good chance that you are actually using more gas with the goat soap. Dr. Bronner's is a huge operation, and they receive their shipments of ingredients directly from their fair-trade sources, in large quantities. This means that per unit they are using very little gas. The local soap-maker is buying in much smaller quantities, and probably from distributors instead of directly from the source. Which means more shipments and more gas. Dr. Bronner's also has the resources to be visiting their sources and making sure they really are fair trade or organic, which most large companies do... Have you visited the farm? Does she bring any of her goats to market (our local goatboy soap maker does). How does she treat her "workers"?

All in all, I think the local soap is still better, as it is also stimulating your local economy and the small business-person, which is very important. Just wanted to bring up the point, as it was nagging me a bit all yesterday morning.

wasteweardaily said...

I just love your humor! It makes me want to come back and read more of your blog.
Great point about the Dr. Bronners. Now I feel like crap for having chosen it over the local soap. It was really because Dr.B had lemon and the local didn't, but for future transactions I won't let that sway me. Thanks for the kick in the pants.
Cindy in FL

Rhonda Jean said...

You've made a great choice. I love the little goats head soap too. Have you thought about making your own?

CindyW said...

Why do we have so many soap bars (almost endless) from hotels? Oh, because I used to travel for work all the time. I was too cheap to leave a barely used soap bar behind. So over the years, many many half wrapped soap bars have accumulated under our sinks. Then I discovered Dr Bronner's and started using that. Recently I decided to minimize our plastic consumption. So those endless supply of soap bars are re-appearing on our sink counter. They are not exactly local, in fact some of them have traveled with me from overseas. I kid you not. But why throw away a good bar of soap. They'll probably last us a couple of years...

cristele said...

fair trade is great BUT do you know the damage done by Palm trees planted exclusively for our palm oil for our soap? It's considered as one of the factor of desertification+ hunger (removing survival crop for this kind of plantation).
So when buying your soap prefer olive oil than palm. Chances are Palm oil is from a country that would be better off without it, fair trade or not...

GiGi said...

I love this soap too!! I have purchased from her before and the soap had a wonderful. not overpowering scent that lightly lingered all day and also made my skin incredibly soft!! Go Mary!!

Anonymous said...

I would never use something w. palm oil in it. It is v. environmentally destructive.

Mary Kroll said...

I know this post and its comments are from last spring, but http://vagoatsoap.blogspot.com/2009/02/have-you-hugged-your-orangutan-today.html