Handmade soap is always such an easy gift to give for special events such as birthdays, weddings, holidays, even baby showers. Until recently, I never thought much about the social awareness of our environment in relation to something like soap.
I am a joyful soap maker. I like melting, mixing, choosing fragrance, swirling colors, and cutting the soap. I especially enjoy giving my soap to all my friends. Seeing their faces when they open their fresh made bar of soap is priceless. Watching them close their eyes and take a deep breath of the yummy scent gives me great pleasure. Knowing that later they will enjoy the lush bubbles and clean feel of the soap is even better. The fact that I did something to make them happy is their gift to me.
In my new circle of friends, I have several who are Vegan. I always thought that was just about vegetables! Well, I was wrong and when it came to gift giving, my fall back gift of homemade soap, I was surprised that I could be offending my friends. This was certainly not my intent, so I needed to find out more about handmade vegan soap.
MY SHOCKING DISCOVERY
When making soap from scratch, aka handmade soap, I decided to pay closer attention to the ingredients. Usually there is a base of fat or oil, a lye mixture, maybe some fragrance or color. Here is the part I was not aware of… the fat or oil. My Vegan friends gave me a website called PETA to help educate myself.
In the day of my Grandmother, she would render the fat from the cow that had just been butchered for its meat. That is how we used to live. We would butcher the cow, eat the meat (and I do mean all of it…tongue, heart, brains), scrape and tan the hide, use the bones for soup and we would render the fat to make soap. We used this soap to wash everything from our toes to the dishes to the clothes we wore.
When I explained this to my Vegan friends, a complete look of shock came over their faces. Now back to the PETA website. The first thing I see when I log onto their website is their header statement:
“Animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.”
OK… so I have to agree with them.
But really, how exactly does this impact my gift giving to my friends? Well, here it is. My big discovery. In order to make my homemade soap, I need fat or oil. Yes, fat is usually lard and that comes from animals, so ok, I won’t use the lard. That takes care of the fat…no animals hurt!
What about the Lanolin we see in our soaps and body butters? Well, the lanolin comes from the sheep’s oil glands. Nice stuff to soften our skin, but what about that poor sheep?
I’ll just make my soap from various oils such as Palm Oil, Coconut Oil or something like that. No animals involved.
Well, not exactly. Hmm.
WHAT DO ORANGUTANS HAVE TO DO WITH SOAP?
According to the Orangutan Foundation International,Part of being Vegan I find is really about not harming animals in any way. So how can orangutans have anything to do with handmade vegan soap?
“The main threat to the survival of orangutan populations in the wild is the massive expansion of palm oil plantations in Borneo and Sumatra.”
Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world, and is often a main ingredient in handmade soap. My favorite kind of soap for gift giving!
So although the palm oil I might use in making my soaps is not from an animal, many orangutans are starving as their habitat is wiped out to create these Palm Oil Plantations. According to the Orangutan Conservatory, “Orangutans have lost well over 80% of their habitat in the last 20 years due to deforestation and palm oil plantations.”
In addition to this destruction of their native food source, the orangutans are shot, clubbed, killed by the workers on the plantations as the animals encroach on the land forging for food. Definitely disappointing information. I had no idea. PETA has opened my eyes.
My Vegan friends are smiling at me as I grow in knowledge!
So, earlier I wondered why can’t I just give a nice bar of handmade soap to my Vegan friends. Well, I now understand it is a life choice for my friends, a lifestyle. They are truly dedicated to a purpose and belief that animals are just as important on this earth as we humans.
Although I never think twice of eating a hamburger, I might if the hamburger was made from human meat instead of animal meat. Actually I respect this thought process and lifestyle. There is a great deal of reverence and respect for those living creatures we share our environment with everyday.
After visiting the PETA website, I have looked at everything a bit differently. That includes my soap making.
Although I may not run to my closet and throw away all my leather jackets and shoes, I will make my future purchases with a bit more thought. I certainly will consider how I approach my soap making activities from now on. Working in my own small way to protect the Orangutans by not using palm oil in my recipes, focusing more on a product that I will be proud to share with my Vegan friends, and sharing my new knowledge with others.
All of us are unique in our feelings and beliefs. Who would ever think a bar of soap could open up such a Pandora box. Learning to be sensitive to those around us is not that difficult and even in gift giving, a simple handmade vegan soap can make a difference in the world we live in.
If you would like to discuss any of my thoughts here, leave a comment and we will talk.
Happy In Bubbles,