Be Relevant

Relearning everything we've forgotten.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What's Dirty about Soap?

One of the first steps to learning how to wet shave is building lather from the soap.  Now soap is something that I don't normally think about.  Its always there and its a good thing, right?  Not necessarily.

I first did a search for organic soap and low and behold there really is none.  The fact is that saponification, the process of making soap, requires lye.  Which wouldn't fall under the category of organic in the retail sense.  That was the first bummer.

So I began researching what all goes into soap.  In a grand oversimplification soap can either be animal or vegetable based.  Lard, tallow, fat all go into making the animal based soap.  Picture Fight Club.

For vegetable based soaps its all the major oils - olive, coconut, palm - and some lesser known ones- jojoba, castor - blended for different effects.  Olive oil gives you a smooth base, coconut oil helps for lathering, and palm oil for hardness and structure.  Its usually the vegetable based soaps that get labelled all natural.

Of course each company adds its own essential oils, fragrances, additives, preservatives, and that something special.  So if you are looking for an organic soap the best you can do is an all natural soap made from vegetable glycerin that only uses all natural ingredients.  Ixnay on the perfumes and preservatives.  Some of the chemical offenders are:

olefin sulfanate
cocamidopropyl betaine
parabens - extends the shelf life
SLS - sodium lauryl sulfates, sodium laureth sulfates, sodium stearate, lauryl sulfates, etc.
* Data extracted from Environmental Working Group's website

So going all natural should solve the problem.  WRONG!  Sometimes I wonder about life and coincidences.   Mel was showing me this video the other night on YouTube.  Mainly because we also have a Blue-Tick Hound.

At the end of this video there's a small caption box that says don't use Palm Oil.  What?  Don't use palm oil?  I had just happened to be doing research on soaps and this is a major ingredient in most soaps.  So I started digging around some more and found how devastating palm oil truly is.  It is not only affecting the environment but it is decimating orangutan populations.

"The forests of Borneo and Sumatra are the only two places on Earth where these gentle, intelligent creatures live. The cultivation of palm oil over the last decade has directly led to the slaughter of thousands of individuals as the industry has expanded into previously undisturbed areas of old-growth rain forest. The UNEP estimates that an area of Indonesian rain forest the size of six football fields is cut down every minute of every day. The palm oil and timber industries are guilty of truly horrific ecological atrocities, one of which is the systematic genocide of orangutans. When the forest is cleared, adult orangutans are generally shot on sight. In the absence of bullets they are beaten, burned, tortured, mutilated and often eaten as bush meat."

From: "Orangutans and palm oil: What's the connection?"

The sad part of all this is that Palm Oil is in so much more than just soap.  Try cereals, frozen dinners, candy, cookies, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, the list really does go on and on.  I guess an even sadder part is that its not just orangutans being killed.  Other species such as tigers and elephants are being slaughtered as well.  Huge expanses of the rainforest gone.  In Colombia there's guerilla groups threatening villagers to leave their lands so they can have it for palm oil plantations.

If you want to read more about this problem check out a couple of these sites.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Palm Oil Action Group

Palm Oil Crisis Blog

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