A look back on 2019

2019 year in review

It's been a busy year here at the studio both personally and professionally. I just re-read my 2019 goals blog and am feeling like I actually was able to accomplish what I set out to do. For the company one of my main goals is always to be as environmentally friendly as possible. I spent countless hours researching packaging options and making decisions regarding which would be the most friendly both for the environment while staying budget friendly. As a small company we sometimes have less options because we are simply not able to purchase in the quantities that large companies are able to. Also some packaging that I REALLY wanted to use required specialized equipment which made it not feasible for us. I also tried some new ideas over the summer at the markets such as a bulk filling option for lotions and scrubs AND I left all my soaps unwrapped and sold them by weight instead of by one flat price. It was a neat concept and I was excited to see how many people supported the idea but since people come to markets not expecting to purchase in bulk I ultimately was still providing the containers for filling. I DO think that people are open to this concept and would embrace it in a store if given the option. I also think that by participating in these markets I helped people to know about us as local makers which I think is also an environmentally friendly move.

So what did I end up doing about packaging? Well I offered 2 options for containers at the markets a 4oz glass jar or a 2oz PCR (post consumer recycled) plastic container. It's not virgin plastic so I felt better about using it but it's also not a perfect solution in my mind. The problem with glass is that my products sometimes end up in a shower or being held by wet hands and the glass just simply is unsafe at that point. For those reasons I do not find glass to be a great solution for bath and body products. 

As for other packaging options I looked into I love the idea of compostable packaging but as far as those container options go I really could not find any that would hold up to products like scrubs and lotions, the containers would have broken down before the product was able to be used and also the container would not have held up in wet environments making it possible for mold, yeast and bacteria to grow thereby negatively impacting the product. I did have an idea to use mini milk cartons for refills for people but those actually require special machines to fill and close the container, also the minimum buy was insanely high, it was not a feasible solution unfortunately. I did go back to shrink wrapping my soaps for now. The system I use is called Biolefin and it is a biodegradable plastic that begins to breakdown within 18 months of being used and finishes its cycle within 3-5 years. I like this because unlike compostable materials it will breakdown regardless of where it is disposed (trash, recycle bin, compost etc.) whereas some compostable materials will not break down unless properly disposed. So if the consumer is not aware or does not have access to a composting system then the compostable material simply becomes another piece of trash in a landfill. 

Packaging is complicated is really what I learned this year, there is no simple one-size-fits-all answer. As new technology comes out and as the zero waste movement pushes large manufacturers to think through these issues more critically though I think that small companies will also have more green options available to them, I will never stop looking into what the next best solution might be.

One great product that came of all this zero waste interest was it pushed me to develop a shampoo bar. I spent the year learning about hair and proper surfactants to use on it and then got to formulating. I wanted a product that was long lasting, gentle and vegetarian. I actually formulated three different bars and had a very strong front runner from the get go. These babies have been selling like hotcakes and I couldn't be happier. For me a shampoo bar can last 3-4 months or more if my hair is fairly short. For others that have purchased them they agree with this. This replaces the plastic shampoo bottles which is a huge win! I currently have a conditioner bar in the works and hope to release it in 2020, the conditioner bars seem to last much longer thus far. 

As for personal goals we have been doing really well on our zero waste journey. I did not need to buy any plastic storage bags this year because we were able to stay in the groove of using the silicone storage pouches as well as our normal food storage containers. We also tried misfit market and really liked it, I stopped it for the summer because we support a local CSA farm share and did not need both but we will go back to misfit market now that that has stopped. It provided great variety and none of the items we got were unusable which was great! We did lots of little things which are green such as upgrade the lighting in our house to include more LED options and also have sensors on our outdoor lighting so it only comes on when needed. In my opinion every little thing counts when trying to do better.

So how was your 2019? What goals did you set and were you able to hit the mark? What will be your goals for 2020?

'Till next year (next decade!) my friends, 

~Your Soapsmiths


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