Friday, February 3, 2012

Why Bar Soap is Better

 Whereas EcoYogini watches herself transform into a tree-thumping friend... over soap.

I have always prided myself in not being one of "those" tree-huggers. Ya know- the preachy kind. Oh I can pontificate all I want on my blog, but IRL I believe that my friends (and family) are intelligent people that will make decisions that work best for them.

Except. The other day a tree-thumping info-bite escaped my mouth before I could stop it. It went something like this:

EcoY & C. stepping into a Lawton's one Saturday afternoon.
C- "I need more handsoap refills- come help me choose something yummy smelling!"
Moments of us smelling and rating the scents of various pump soap refills, all synthetic and filled with chemicals. 
EcoY "They smell pretty good considering..."
C- "Ah, considering they aren't very good for the environment?" (concerned face)
EcoY: "Well... it's just there's those little plastic-y bits in the soap. They're called nurdles".
C-"Wtf? Nurdles? But I thought they were just bits of soap... they're plastic?"
EcoY: "Yep, and they go down your drain, don't get disolved by our water systems and flow into the oceans for fish to swallow. The fish swallow the plastic bits. It's really terrible actually."
Claps hand over mouth.
C- "But it's on sale...." (because she's an awesome friend, she forgave me- and bought the soap)

Nurdles are tiny bits of plastic that float around in the ocean. Sadly, our ocean is filled with these bits, from plastic that slowly breaks down into smaller parts (but does NOT decompose or disappear) or from things like the little balls present in handsoap or body wash. The "micro exfoliation beads".

These soap and body wash beads are made of plastic. Therefore, they don't dissolve in water. Instead they go down your drain, through your sceptic system (or municipal/city water treatment system) and spew forth into your rivers and ocean. To swim merrily on their plastic way until a fish eats them. According to research cited by Alan Weisman's "The World Without Us", all sea organisms able will swallow plastic nurdles (p.146). If they lodged in the intestines of the organism the result was terminal. Other times they passed through.

The point of concern was that plastic and how it bioaccumulates in living organisms hasn't been studied well enough as plastic hasn't been around long enough. One thing that was clear: soon we'll all be ingesting these plastic nurdles, from zooplankton all the way up to humans.

Surround those nurdles with synthetic chemical ingredients wrapped in more plastic and you've got bodywash and pump soap.

Sadly, I was addicted to both pump soap (because I thought men would NEVER use a bar to wash their hands... my brother and dad were always pump soap guys) and body wash (because it smelled so pretty).

(Peppermint poppyseed soap: week4 of use, poppyseeds= no plastic exfoliants)

Then I discovered Birch Bark Soap. (Actually, I just needed to discover yummy smelling, locally made soap). Sherrie at Birch Bark Soap, uses only natural essential oils, olive oil (no palm oil!) and her soap smells amazing, lathers beautifully and doesn't leave a residue. We order in bulk so that the soap is cheaper AND we place our soap in a jam jar with small ocean shore pebbles leftover from our wedding ceremony (long story). This way our soap lasts weeks per bar.

(our kitchen soap in a glass dish)

Soap ends that get tricky to lather or handle go in the kitchen and become our "kitchen soap". And wouldn't you know, Andrew's mother taught him to wash his hands with whatever soap was available. So no pump soap does not equal no washed hands. (Ok, my brother and dad aren't disgusting, but they seem to have their quirks).
(star anise soap in the jam jar- wide mouth- with pebbles. Easy to clean, keeps the soap from turning to mush! ps- this scent is delicious!)

If you're a pumpsoap/body wash kinda person, just know that making the switch to bar soap is totally doable, relatively inexpensive and can have equally yummy smelling results!


Anonymous said...

Yay for bar soap! Love it!

DownDoggin in MN said...

I love the idea of using stones in a jar to keep your counter tops from getting a gooey. I love locally made bar soap but have always hated the mess. I am totally stealing this idea starting today!!

ingrid said...

Wow. I've been thinking about going back to bar soap instead of body wash for a while. I use bar soap for hands and all my friends think I'm weird for it. It's so easy to continue doing what I'm doing and not have to test a bunch of things - and my skin is dry and sensitive so there is definitely a period of using yucky things and wasting money. Is plastic in ALL commercial liquid soaps and body washes? Is there a way to find out which brands are plastic free or is it a lost cause?

Simply Authentic said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE bar soap. I also like it better because generally you can find it just wrapped in paper, rather than the waste of a non-recyclable or recyclable plastic container. Smells just as good as any of the other nasty chemical laden ones.

Eco Yogini said...

@Five Seed: Yay!! :)

@Downdogging in MN: YES- so happy that you're stealing this idea!

@ingrid: if your pump soap or body wash has 'exfoliation beads' or you can see little round beads floating in the soap you can check the ingredient list to see if there's any plastic-y ingredients. For example, C. was checking out 'Soft Soap': the ingredient 'acrylates copolymer' is the plastic beads.

Natural exfoliants would include something like 'coconut shell pieces' in the ingredient list.

However- if you take a peak at the other ingredients, it's a scary toxic mess... :S

Also- bar soap doesn't automatically negate the chemicals. Some handmade bar soaps have some sketchy ingredients like parabens and colour dyes and palm oil.

Checking the ingredients definitely is a great first step. :)

Eco Yogini said...

@Simply Authentic: YES- bar soap can be just as awesome :)

becki said...

I have a pump soap with triclosan in my kitchen right now. I cringe every time I use it... I think it just might be time to stick out that bar of Dr. Bronner's...

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

We use bar soap in the shower, but the husband is not down with bar soap at the sink. So liquid soap for hand washing, but I look for stuff w/o weird ingredients (currently using 7th Gen b/c it's the cheapest I can find). I feel bad about the plastic containers. :(
On the other hand, my husband and I both use shampoo bars. My husband no longer even needs to use conditioner and I only rarely use it -- so lots less plastic bottles there. : )

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

P.S. Personally, I always thought body wash was weird/suspicious. Not sure why.

Eco Yogini said...

@Becki: ahh triclosan... dr bronner's makes great soap :)

@Betsy: i think if given a choice Andrew would choose pump soap... lol. i know some people have made their own liquid soap before. I've tried but it failed miserably.

Green Bean said...

Love bar soap, especially from my local beekeeper.

I will confess that I switched to Whole Foods brand pump soap in my boys bathroom because, the bar soap was getting a bit nasty and no one else wanted to wash their hands in there. I've pinned a few recipes for turning bar soap into liquid soap and I'm so planning to do that.

Cherie said...

Did not know the beads are called "nurdles" but was vaguely aware of them. I've recently blogged about making my own liquid hand soap which consists of a natural bar of soap, water, vegetable glycerin, and essential oil.

Eco Yogini said...

@Green Bean: ouu i look forward to reading about your liquid soap adventures. i will admit- my attempt was lazy at best.

@Cherie: yeah, the term i read from Alan Weisman's book (and I've heard it a few other places since then). :) Like I've said- my liquid soap creation was a failure and i'm too lazy to make more. Bar soap is just easier :)

Rosa said...

Last time my brother was visiting, he couldn't figure out how to wash (unlabeled, oops!) bottle of bulk-purchase shampoo, and a bar of soap. What was he supposed to do, use his hands?

That said: we use a foam pump dispenser at the sink because a lot of our kid visitors can't seem to master the water-soap-water-put back soap-turn off water pattern completely. I bought a commercial foam soap a few years ago, and refill it regularly with watered-down Dr. Bronner's. The foam lasts a long time and saves a lot of water.

SharleneT said...

Have made my own soaps for years, hard-milled like French soaps. They last forever. NEVER thought of the pebbles trick and a big Thank You for that!. When the soap gets down to slivers, you can slip them into an old end of panty hose or crochet a little bag from 100% cotton. You'll get months of more use from them!

Brenda Pike said...

I thought nurdules were only in soaps that advertised as exfoliating—so more likely in body wash or face wash than hand soap. Am I wrong?

Eco Yogini said...

@Brenda: some pump soaps can be tricky about what they have in them- always check the ingredients and if it states anything like "petroleum" or something that makes you think "plastic!" don't purchase.

Eco Yogini said...

Of course, the plastic that you're pump soap comes in will eventually turn into nurdles as well....


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