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Health & Beauty, Life & Style

Six Soaps Leading the Clean Revolution

best ethical soaps

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Today I have a post from Ethical Consumer magazine on the best ethical soaps to look out for at a time when washing your hands is more important than ever.


Who would have thought this time last year that soap would be making the headlines?  

Strange days indeed and as we lather up a little more often, it’s never been more important to choose our soap wisely. Palm oil, toxic chemicals and plastics can all creep into our soap but there are some great brands out there keeping it clean. 

Jane Turner from Ethical Consumer Magazine reveals some of the best brands out there beating the bugs with good ingredients, minimal packaging, and ethical practices. 

Breaking It Down

The humble bar or splash of liquid soap is our most important weapon in fighting COVID-19. Using science that is thousands of years old, soap works by destroying the outer membranes of the virus, killing it and stopping it from spreading. Nothing else is more effective in this fight. But although soap has natural origins, some of the soaps available today are far from natural. 

Soap doesn’t need complex synthetic chemicals, plastics or exotic ingredients grown on deforested land. Here are the nasties to look out for in your soap and the brands that are leading a clean revolution. 

Ethical Consumer Recommends…

Following an intensive investigation into over 50 soap brands that are included in our ethical shopping guide to soap, we recommend the following six brands as our Best Buys. 

Lucy Bee

Lucy Bee is a business founded on the humble coconut, providing everything from milk to sugar, skincare, and soap. Lucy Bee soaps are organic, vegan, and Fairtrade and contain no palm oil or palm oil-derived ingredients or nasties, such as parabens, phthalates, or triclosan.

The whole range carries the Leaping Bunny mark and no ingredients are tested on animals. The soap bars come in generous 150g chunks in paper packaging with four delicious scents to choose from. 

Odylique

Skincare brand Odylique uses virgin olive oil to create plant glycerine as the basis of its organic, vegan, castile soap bars. Although the bars do have palm oil-derived ingredients, these are present in small quantities and are from RPSO-assured sources. Ingredients are locally sourced wherever possible and Fairtrade when sourced further afield. The bars are free from synthetic chemicals and come wrapped in non-toxic recyclable packaging. 

Friendly Soap

Friendly Soap certainly knows how to bring the fun to handwashing. Not only can you find a wide variety of bright, scented soap bars on its website, but also a range of travel soaps, shave, shampoo, and conditioner bars. Friendly Soap uses an ancient cold-press method, pouring, cutting, and stamping the soaps by hand and maintaining a small carbon footprint. 

The ingredients are biodegradable so there’s no waste; poppy seeds and hemp take the place of microplastics to gently exfoliate the skin. None of the products or ingredients are tested on animals. The soaps are Vegan certified, contain no palm oil and the shea butter is sourced from a women’s cooperative in Ghana. 

Bio-D

Bio-D supplies a wide variety of household and personal care products and the brand is sold on the high street, as well as in various independent health food and whole food stores. Vegan and cruelty-free, Bio-D soap bars and liquids contain no plastics. Although some products contain palm oil derivatives, Bio-D is actively reducing its use and uses only RSPO-accredited supplies. The liquid soap is sold in bulk online at just £18.99 for 5 litres, and is also widely available through refillable liquid soap stations. 

Caurnie 

Caurnie Soap uses organic herbs and essential oils to produce its rustic, handmade soaps. The bars and liquid soaps are chemical-free, containing only pure vegan ingredients and no palm oil or derivatives. Many of the ingredients are sourced locally. 

ALTER/NATIVE

ALTER/NATIVE is the own-brand soap line from wholefood collective Suma. Choose from a huge variety of vegan, cruelty-free bars and liquids and access refillable soap stations in health food stores.

Suma is a vegetarian company and uses only RPSO-accredited palm oil in its products. You won’t find any plastics in these soaps and all packaging is 100% recycled and recyclable, although we strongly advise the refillable route with the hand wash option. 

For more on these companies and to see the full list of brand researched visit Ethical Consumer’s guide to soap.

Make Soap a Hobby

If you’re looking for a new hobby, why not make your own soap bars? Take a base recipe, and then once you’ve mastered that you can experiment with different natural fragrances, and drop bars off as gifts for your friends and family.

What Else to Look Out For

If these brands aren’t easily available to you there are some top tips of things you can look for in some of the more widely available brands.

Plastics

Microplastics have been banned in soap in the UK since 2018 but companies can still use non-degradable liquid plastic polymers and petroleum-based chemicals. And of course, plastic packaging is a clear problem, especially when it comes to liquid handwash and non-recyclable pumps. 

We recommend bars of soap over liquid handwash. Bars work just as well and come in a fraction of the packaging (mostly paper) and some with none at all.

Animal Products

Although plant-based ingredients are just as effective as animal-derived products, some manufacturers continue to use substances like sodium tallowate and stearic acid, while glycerine may also be animal-derived. The good news is that there are loads of vegan brands out there, many from purely vegan companies.

Look out for the Leaping Bunny label endorsing cruelty-free soaps. Some brands carry this label across their entire product range, showing a strong commitment to avoid any ingredient that has been tested on animals. 

Palm Oil 

Although many companies source palm oil sustainably and are members of groups such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), these accreditations have been criticised for not doing enough to break links with deforestation. 

Whether to buy or boycott palm oil remains a controversial subject and you can find out more about the issues in our palm oil section. Palm oil-derived ingredients are trickier to identify but there are companies out there who use neither. See our palm oil free soap page for more.

Fairtrade

Many ethical brands choose locally sourced ingredients to cut their carbon footprint. For those who use ingredients such as coconut, cocoa or soy, look for the Fairtrade logo to be sure that the farmers are getting a fair price for their crops. 

You can find out more about all the companies and issues in our guide to soap on our website, where you can also find over 130 other ethical shopping guides covering everything from bread to banks.

Fashion, Life & Style

What’s So Bad About Fast Fashion Anyway?

problems of fast fashion

Today I have a post from Lianne Bell, author of How On Earth Can I Be Eco-Friendly, on the problems of fast fashion, and what you can do to help.


What’s So Bad About Fast Fashion?

I recently signed up to Slow Fashion Season. Here 25,000 people have pledged not to buy any clothes for 3 months, between 21st of June and 21st of September in order to raise awareness about the wasteful nature of the fashion industry and how you as a consumer play a role in it.

I love sustainable fashion. So much so that friends, family, and people on Instagram all ask me the same thing – how can I shop more sustainably? And my response is pretty simple – just stop buying clothes. Because let’s be honest, the rate at which we are collectively consuming clothing is beyond nauseating.

The number of garments being produced has doubled in the last 20 years. As a result of this, we are wasting the equivalent of one garbage truck full of textiles every single second.  This is a staggering amount of waste, that has severe ramifications on the planet.

Fast Fashion and Economics

Over the last 20 years, as the price of our goods and services has steadily risen, clothing has not. In fact, clothing is the only consumable which has deflated in price. It has instead done a complete 180, dropping considerably in comparison to other consumables, and thus completely defying the laws of economics. But why?

One of the main factors which contributed to this was the Multi-Fibre Agreement. This was an international trade agreement that imposed quotas on the volume of clothing we could import from developing countries. When this ended in 2005 it opened the door for suppliers and factory owners in developing countries to work on a larger scale with major corporations within the western retail world. 

Western corporations were able to treat the labour of garment workers as though it were a commodity. The factory owners offered labour at lower and lower prices in order to meet the desired garment prices. These prices were demanded by the high street stores attempting to meet their profit margin targets.

When Cheap Equals Disposable

If you’re sat there wondering why cheap clothing is such a problem, then do not fear, you are not alone. I thought the exact same thing. This was until I realised that the heart of the problem lies in the fact that we’ve come to think of clothing as disposable and easily replaceable.

When something is so readily available to us, it devalues the whole item. We don’t even have to think about it; we just buy it, aimlessly and needlessly. Half the time, we’ll buy clothing, then send it off to a charity shop without ever wearing it

This creates a whole new problem. Once our high street charity shops are overrun by cheap, generic clothing which they can’t sell, they bundle it off to developing countries. Here it is chopped up into rags, sold on at markets, or thrown into landfill.

The town of Panipat in North India recycles over 100,000 tonnes of our cast-offs every year. So much so that it is known as the world’s “cast off capital“.

The women of Panipat that shred these practically unworn garments have surmised that there is a water shortage in the Western world. That’s because the mindless nature of our clothing consumption is so alien to them, that they assume it’s too expensive for us to wash our clothes. This is the only way for them to make sense of how we discard our clothing after only wearing it a handful of times.  

What Can We Do?

So what can we do to stop this deluge of clothing? Well, this brings me back to Slow Fashion Season. By avoiding buying from fast fashion brands; trading, upcycling or DIYing clothing; buying second-hand and vintage clothing; and/or supporting sustainable, local, small fashion labels who may be struggling due to COVID-19, then by acting as a crowd we can be a force for change. Change for ourselves, the people around us, and the policies and industries that are woefully inadequate.

The fashion industry should be more sustainable, and the fashion industry should treat its workers fairly, and having a direct effect through our own consumption changes, as well as call for transformations of the fashion industry can help bring about the changes needed.