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How to tell Green from Green washed

Chemical Free Living
Chemical Free living, Ricky’s journey…
July 2, 2020

Last week we had a Facebook comment on one of our posts suggesting we were misleading people into believing our products are chemical free when they are not. We really appreciated the engagement because this is a topic very close to our hearts. Ricky has had to learn the hard, with dire consequences, how to tell how to tell Green from Green washed products.

There are brands on the market that claim their products are chemical free but actually do contain harmful chemicals, some hidden from their ingredients list. This is the very reason we embarked on the journey of creating the Ricky’s Drift range of home and body care products.

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Ricky’s Drift, our chemical free farm where we produce our range of natural home and body care products.

Why knowing how to tell green from green washed is so important to us

Our founder Ricky sufferers from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), a debilitating condition which can be life threatening. If exposed to trace amounts of certain chemicals, even the residue on other peoples skin or clothes he becomes gravely ill.

Our social media interaction inspired us to delve deeper into the subject of product green washing to help deepen peoples understanding. We also want to talk about what exactly we use to make our products and how we go about it.

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Our little Soap Factory out in the foothills of the Rooiberg mountains in the Klein Karoo

Why do you the consumer need to know how to tell green from green washed?

Let’s start with understanding business and how it is starting to change as the health of the environment is reaching crisis levels. The ‘old ways’ of business are to use the environment to create financial profit. The trees, land and animals of this world are seen as a resource to be exploited with the aim of making money.

Yet there is hope as consumers and businesses are slowly awakening to the reality that treating the environment solely as a resource has led to some really big problems. Like global warming, pollution, the extinction of plant and animal species, deforestation, flooding and drought. In recent years this shift is growing in momentum. Businesses have started seeking ways to be more environmentally friendly. Some are even coming up with strategies to try solve some of the problems that industry creates. They have a green or Eco friendly approach.

However, not all businesses are genuine in their claims or practices. Unfortunately a lot of the time it’s just ‘good’ marketing made up of deceptive claims. Riding the growing trend of consumers looking for more environmentally friendly options, especially because many people are willing to pay more for an Eco-conscious product.

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Vista’s like these fill us with peace. We can all be a part of helping to preserve nature for the sake of all life.

Why product green washing is important for consumers to understand

As the consumer we have to get savvy and educate ourselves on how they go about this green washing. For some people like Ricky it’s not just a choice, chemical contamination has a disastrous effect on his health. In the past decade the prevalence of diagnosed MCS sufferers has increased over 300%. So even though MCS is not well known to most people, we should all start paying attention.

If we don’t learn how to tell green from green washed we are just letting businesses fool us and are still contributing to the problems nature is facing.

So green washing means giving a false impression or using misleading information to help a company and their products/services appear to be environmentally friendly. Making unsubstantiated claims to deceive the consumer. In this way they can capitalize on the growing demand from consumers for green options, without having to change a thing about their product. Green washed products convey the idea they are more natural yet don’t go into any specifics.

How to tell green from green washed – its all in the details

On the other hand companies that are genuinely environmentally friendly back up their claims with facts and details. They are happy to be transparent in their marketing and spell out the differences in their ingredients. Truly Eco friendly companies are open and share information about what is in their products and how they make them. This IS their marketing strategy.

To help you understand where we fit in let’s take a closer look at our packaging, ingredients and the processes we use to make some of our products.

Ricky’s Drift’s packaging

Unfortunately products have to come in some kind of packaging that protects them as they journey from where they are made to the consumer. Unless you are shopping at a Refillery store which we support 100%. One of our first stockist is a Refillery store in St Francis Bay, called Denude. We hope to find more zero waste store stockist in the future as it’s such a simple and practical solution to the problems packaging presents.

Plastic free and recyclable packaging

Our soap and shampoo bar boxes are made from a 100% recycled paper called NAUTILUS®, they are fully recyclable. We hope our customers will help us close the cycle by recycling.

hand-made-soap-cold-pressed-method-superfatting-moisturising-plant-based-how-to-tell-green-from-green-washed
All of our soaps are hand made and contain no nasty chemicals so they are safe for your skin and for nature. Our natural additives like Aloe, Cannabis Leaf and Pomegranate are grown locally without pesticides.

All of our packaging is plastic free and for a small business this is not an easy goal to accomplish. Over the period we were working on our packaging, Ricky changed the name of our business WhatsApp group to Soap Opera! Our greatest challenge was the minimum order quantity which for most of the good packaging options was around 40 000 units. Any small business owner who has gone down this road will understand the dilemma.

The reason we did not give up and stayed committed to finding creative solutions is plastic never goes away. Sure it can be recycled but only around 9% of it actually is. When you start looking at our oceans and micro plastics we knew we did not want to contribute to the plastic soup.

natural-hand-made-soap-artisinal-spekboom-chemical-free-natural-soap-for-dogs-repel-fleas-ticks-naturally-how-to-tell-green-from-green-washed
Our soaps are gentle and deeply moisturizing for the skin making them an effective natural choice. All of our soaps, shampoo bars and laundry powder are plant based.

Remember Re-use comes before Recycle!

All of our other packaging elements are also recyclable. Our tins and glass bottles are beautiful and we hope our customers will find creative uses for them. The laundry powder tin can make an excellent plant pot, you just have to make a hole in the bottom for drainage. They look especially attractive with a succulent in. The tin that our Enriched Cream comes in can be used for storing special keepsakes, like jewelry and other small items. Our Castile Liquid Soap bottles are such a beautiful shape and can make lovely flower vases. They are also very sturdy and a good size for a water bottle.

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Our laundry powder was by far the most challenging to package plastic free. Our tins could have so many different uses, we hope you enjoy finding creative ways to re-purpose them.

The method we use to make soap and our ingredients

If you visit the About Our Products page on our website https://www.rickysdrift.co.za/handmade-soaps/ you will see we have a lot of information on how we make our soaps and what ingredients we use.

In this article we will focus on our method and what we use to make our soap, as it can seem a little confusing at first glance. You may even feel like we are trying to mislead you because on our website we talk about using Lye to make our soaps, but Lye is not on our ingredients list.

The reason for this is because the Lye is completely used up in the chemical reaction that occurs between the Lye and oils. This process is called Saponification and is how all REAL soap is made. ‘Soap’ made without Lye is not actually soap, it’s a synthetic detergent normally made up of a cocktail of synthetic chemicals.

Why are we claiming to be chemical free but are talking about chemicals?

Chemical reaction you might be asking??? Isn’t this a chemical free product!

Gaining a little understanding of chemistry goes along way in informing our perceptions of soap and will help give you insight into our products. All life and matter is made up of chemicals, everything you can see, touch, breathe and ingest is made up of chemical compositions.

zero-waste-plastic-free-hand-made-shampoo-bars-natural-soap-for-baby-how-to-tell-green-from-green-washed
We want to be a part of making shampoo bars the norm, there really is no need for liquid shampoo and the plastic bottles it needs to contain it.

Our soap making method

We use the crystal form of pure Lye called Sodium Hydroxide, which sounds a little dangerous. Yet if you look at table salt (NaCI) it is made up of Sodium (Na – a highly reactive element that explodes if it touches water) and Chloride (CI – a deadly poisonous gas). Both are dangerous on their own but once combined they become edible. Sea Salt is also Sodium and Chloride but normally contains trace minerals too. So one can see that chemicals are the building blocks of life.

In the same way as the above example when we combine our plant oils with Lye there is a chemical reaction (Saponification) which results in soap and this is exactly what gives soap its cleansing properties. The process is complete because the Lye and oil molecules have combined and chemically changed into soap. So our soaps are made with Lye but no Lye remains in the finished product.

What about the caustic nature of Lye

In the old days soap made with Lye was murder on the skin. I’m sure you have heard stories of frontier women with raw skin from washing with soap. Us modern day frontier women out here in the Karoo have a long history and many developments in the soap making process to thank for our gentle and moisturizing soap. With these modern methods and accurate measuring scales we are able to use the proper mixture of Lye and oils insuring that all the Lye is consumed in the process. We also add an extra 5% more oil than needed, a practise called super fatting which ensures all the Lye is used up. This also adds to our soaps lovely moisturising qualities.

So can you tell whether our products are green or green washed?

Our REAL soaps which are free of synthetic fragrances, are environmentally friendly and a healthy choice for your skin. There are multiple benefits for you and for nature. Our soap will not cause your body harm as there are no chemicals to be absorbed by your skin. Nor will it wash down your drain and poison the rivers and oceans. It is suitable for all skin types and especially gentle on sensitive skin.

If you have children switching to a natural soap is a gift to their health. You can help them minimize the toxic build-up of chemicals in their bodies which science is beginning to show can have a devastating effect on a person’s long term health.

Our soaps are moisturising and hydrating helping your skin look more firm. They also help remove dead skin cells helping you skin stay acne free.

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Our liquid castile soap is an incredibly versatile product and can be used for washing yourself, your home and even your pets. Our fragrance free option is specially designed for people like Ricky who can not tolerate even natural scents like essential oils.

We hope you have enjoyed learning a little more about soap, who would have thought that soap could be so complex! Hopefully now that you know a little more about how to tell green from green washed, you will be able to find the kind of products you are really looking for.

If you would like to learn more about the method we use and our ingredients visit our About Products page

Below is a link to a non profit site who is dedicated to empowering consumers with the knowledge on how to avoid brands that use green washing techniques

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