We currently have three major areas where we focusing our efforts at greening our business.
1. Switching to organic and all natural ingredients
In the time since Sapothecary's founding we have shifted away from synthetic ingredients and created a whole new line of soaps that contain only ingredients derived from botanical sources. This has meant replacing many of the scents and colors that we inherited. We now use only steam distilled essential oils for our scents, and use organic herbs and spices for our colors and additives.
At the same time we have put much effort into sourcing organic oils for our soap base. This has meant not only finding reliable sources for certified organic product, but has also forced us to increase the efficiency of our production line to compensate for increased materials costs. We feel that it is worth the effort. In an example of the difference that sourcing makes, our organic palm oil comes from reforestation projects on degraded land in Brazil, not clear cut primary forest in Indonesia.
2. Creating green packaging
In developing our packaging we have made sustainability, as judged through the Natural Step, a key criteria for each decision. Thus we have created three main package options:
a. Bag and Sticker: The bag is made of cellophane, a biodegradable material based on wood pulp. We source our bags from a company who's cellophane comes from eucalyptus plantations, not native or old growth forests. Because the bag biodegrades, it will not end up as another piece of plastic floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (a clear example of the results of disregarding System Condition 2).
The sticker is made from tree-free paper, a blend of sugar case waste (bagasse), cotton linters, and bamboo fiber. The adhesive is water based and the ink is soy.
b. Box: Our boxes are 100% post consumer recycled paperboard and are fully recyclable. The optional window insert is made from compostable corn bio-polymer.
c. Gift Box: Our Nepalese Gift Box is a 100% recycled paperboard core covered with handmade Nepalese paper. The paper is made from the lotka shrub by harvesting the branches, leaving the plant alive and growing. Colors are achieved with vegetable dies.
3. Greening our production system
We have made two major changes in this area:
a. Less Plastic: At the beginning, each of our soap molds had to be lined with a fresh plastic sheet to prevent the fresh liquid soap from sticking to the wooden surface. We switched from virgin plastic to recycled plastic, and we are now shifting to compostable corn-based plastic films. Next steps that we are looking at are reusable rigid sheet linings or non-stick mold surfaces.
b. Less water use: Washing the oily buckets we use to make our soap in is a water intensive job, which makes a high ecological impact in a dry-summer area like Ukiah. We are currently in the process of switching to a new batch system that will eliminate many of the dirty dishes that result from each batch. This should dramatically reduce our water use per bar of soap produced. It should also increase employee morale because we won't have to spend so much time scrubbing oily containers.