When I started Madison Soap Company, my goal was to make the most sustainable soap possible using as many local ingredients as possible. I didn't really understand at that time what sustainability meant, but I wanted to. I learned along the way so many constraints businesses in general, especially small business come up against when trying to do the right thing for their community and the planet.
I now think about sustainability of the business in two main ways. The first way is sustainability of our business at each state: production (our workshop practices), product (the ingredients and packaging we use) and post-life (what happens to the ingredients and packaging we give life to in the world when they are all used up).
I've also started to think about the sustainability of Madison Soap Co through a more comprehensive lens called a "triple bottom line." The triple here stands for people, planet and profit. It's a theory developed by John Elkington to offer businesses a framework to expand their idea of success from just profit to also include the impact of their business on the lives of people and the health of the planet, or in other words, to consider all aspects of profit and last, not just the financial ones.
This focus on triple bottom line thinking is a cornerstone of the certified B corporation.
"Certified B Corporations help the concept of the triple bottom line, as John Elkington designed it, come to life. B Corporations are a relatively new type of business, legally required to consider impacts on all stakeholders including employees, customers, suppliers, community, and environment. Their mission is to become a community of leaders who drive a global movement of people using business as a force for good."
Madison Soap Co has just started our journey toward B Corp Certification, and we are so excited to learn more about how what we are already doing is having a positive impact on the planet and also what more we can do.
So in terms of production, product and post-life, here are the things we are already doing.
Our practices revolve around the idea of
Using what we already have
Make what we have last as long as possible and, if we can,
Reusing what we already have (give it a new life!) and, if we can't,
Composting what is left
In terms of production
and our practices in our workshop, all of our production equipment is reusable. The only waste we produce in production is the water we use to wash towels and tools and the newspaper we re-use from our local co-op's mailing. The newspapers are made with soy ink, so we compost them either in our worm compost bins or inside or our 3 bin compost system outside.
In terms of our product,
the ingredients and packaging we use, we strive to ause organic base oils like coconut and sunflower that don’t have a negative impact on the environment. These oils are from sunflowers and coconuts grown without pesticides, which means they have a much smaller ecological footprint than conventionally grown sunflower and coconut oils. We never use fragrance oils that may contain phthalates. We don’t use endangered essential oils or essential oils that have a negative impact on the environment because of their method of harvest.
Many people have heard or experienced that their natural bar soap doesn't last. If you've ever used a well-drained bar of soap on your sink, you know those bars can last almost forever. The difference between the bar of soap on your sink and the one in you shower is that the one on your sink, if placed in a draining soap dish, is able to dry out more thoroughly between uses.
For tips on how to keep your soap dry between uses, check out our blog post on keeping your soap dry.
In terms of post-life,
we think about the impact our products and packaging have after they are all used up. For example, what is the impact of the grey water produced by someone using our products and what happens to the packaging when it is no longer needed.
Grey Water: The grey water produced by showering with most soaps and detergents is safe to use on your household plants. Things to look out for are large amounts of sodium, boron and bleach.
Packaging Post-Life: We are currently using boxes that are 100% recyclable. We do hem and haw over whether we should switch to compostable packaging. There are benefits to both options.