About me... and why I make soap
I get asked quite a lot how I came to be making soap. It’s not something in my family history, nor something I was introduced to through friends or school. It wasn’t even something I gave any thought to really for most of my life… I have always had a strong environmental consciousness, keenly aware of the impact that so many moments of my life were having on the earth. But until I had my own family and we had our routine of daily life and in particular I was doing a lot of regular shopping for the weekly essentials, I hadn’t thought specifically about soap.
I had thought a lot about the volume of ‘stuff’ we consumed, but I hadn’t become so conscious of the quality of that stuff - questions like what was it made of, how was it produced. As farmer markets and organic produce became more available, I became more conscious of this in the context of food. Then of course I began considering these questions in relation to other items we consumed as well. I was becoming more aware how much artificial ingredients were used in the production of many of our everyday essentials, and that I didn’t even know how many of these ingredients, and therefore the end products, were produced. I was realising just how disconnected I was from my needs - I relied on so many things that I had no idea how to make myself. I decided I wanted to take some more responsibility in this regard and provide more of what we needed by making it myself. Hence my foray into learning how soap is made and having a go at making it myself, in a way that minimises resource use.
In addition to discovering that I love the process of making soap (and that my skin loves good quality, real soap!), something else I am so glad I got out of this journey is a realisation that I don’t have to be so reductionist in terms of my environmental impact. I had always considered that to be a good environmental citizen, I need to focus on minimising my environmental footprint. What I better appreciate now is that, while that is true from the perspective of negative impacts, there is plenty of scope to have a positive environmental impact. This realisation, coupled with what I had already learnt about food (growing your own or buying local and organic is best!), is also what lead us to the idea of becoming involved in farming.
We recently have been learning as much as we can about the practice of regenerative agriculture and are excited to take part in this too, by better understanding what we consume and what is relied on to make it, as well as by understanding the wider processes involved and how best practice management can positively impact things like soil health, biodiversity and carbon sequestration. So here we are, happy as pigs in mud, with a farm and a soap business, who would’ve thought it!
About my business
My goal when I started making soap was really just to help my own family transition towards more earth-friendly, informed and waste-free living. Now that I have a little business making soap and cleaning products, that goal has not only remained but has become my business’s purpose (in terms of helping others do the same) and the guiding principle against which all my business decisions are made.
Because of this goal, The Icy Creek Soap Co will always be committed to:
. locally made ingredients
. no imported oils
. only the essential ingredients
. nothing synthetic
. transparency about ingredients and where they are from
. home compostable packaging
About my ingredients and suppliers
The hero ingredient in all my soaps (excluding my dish and laundry range - see below for the hero ingredient in these!) is the highest quality extra virgin olive oil. Why olive oil? First, because it is one of the most sustainable oils to produce - because olive trees require little water and can be grown and sustained without the use of chemical fertilisers or other synthetic inputs, and the trees can be harvested year after year without affecting the tree’s life. And because the climate in Victoria is perfect for olive trees, there is little transportation required, adding to their being the most sustainable choice for a Victorian soapmaker. The second reason I choose olive oil as my main ingredient is because olive oil soaps are one of the gentlest soaps you can use and wonderful for your skin, as olive oil is rich in antioxidants and vitamin E, both of which help keep skin feeling and looking healthy.
I source my extra virgin olive oil exclusively from Mount Zero Olives, which was founded with their grove at the foot of Victoria's Gariwerd/Grampians National Park. I choose Mount Zero Olives as I like to source and support locally, and I want the best - in terms of quality as well as environmental and ethical production standards. I know that Mount Zero Olives care very deeply about their trees and the environment that sustains them, as well as the people involved in their production, so I am very proud to exclusively use their oil.
My second hero ingredient is coconut oil. Coconut oil is the main ingredient in my cleaning soaps, as it's great at pulling oils out for a deep clean. As a minor ingredient in my hands, face and body soaps, it helps gives a beautiful lather. Sourced exclusively from Australia's Niulife, it is certified organic and fair trade, and absolutely top quality! Niulife was founded by Canberra couple Maureen and Dan Etherington, a champion of sustainable agriculture and Member of the Order of Australia for his work helping South Pacific Islander communities to become economically empowered. As with Mount Zero Olives, Niulife is a producer that deeply respects the earth and the people involved in their production.
About my packaging
I am committed to being a zero waste business as I am all too conscious of the environmental impacts of the consumption patterns of our society. I will never use plastic packaging and strive to be as zero waste as possible in all aspects of my business. I purchase my ingredients in bulk as much as possible, reuse containers and packaging as much as possible, and compost any other waste. All my packaging - including labels, flyers, boxes, bags, wood shavings and even the cellophane and the stickytape I use - is completely biodegradable and home compostable.
My labels and wrapping paper are all made from recycled paper. It is made out of 100% Australian post-consumer paper and cardboard waste, sourced from kerbside collections.
I have recently switched from glue to sticky tape for sealing my labels on, as I could not find an easy-to-use glue containing no petrochemicals, but I have found a plant-based stickytape that meets all my criteria.
The wood shavings I use in my giftboxes are sourced entirely from on our farm, no transportation or packaging involved! We are very lucky to have plenty of beautiful old trees around us here. Occasionally they will drop a branch or even fall entirely as they move into the next stage of their life. This is part of the cycle of life as the dead trees provide habitat for plenty of animals, bugs and fungi that contribute to regenerating soil which supports continued plant and tree growth. So we leave these branches and trees to do their thing, but are able to take some of the wood for use as firewood, and some of the lovely soft shavings that are produced when the wood is cut.
The cellophane I use is also biodegradable and home compostable. True cellophane is plant-based (you can tell as it rips easily - if your ‘cellophane’ doesn’t tear then it is most likely a petrochemical-derived plastic). The one I use is also not coated with nitrocellulose, wax or polyethylene as some types of cellophane are (generally for use in applications requiring water impermeability or heat sealability).
About composting and soil health
As well as being serious about zero waste, I am equally as committed to doing my bit to improve soil health. Did you know that, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, there could be less than 60 years of farming seasons left on average globally, if soil degradation at current rates continues, primarily as a result of intensive and chemical based agriculture (as at 2020)??
The good news is - soil can be regenerated! While agriculturalists and horticulturalists need to be the drivers of this - and many of them are - we can all play our part... by composting! Soil health is maintained by having organic matter (leaf litter, food scraps, animal droppings, etc) constantly added to it. Not only does healthy soil mean more capacity for growing healthy food, but also: the healthier the soil, the more carbon it can store and the more water it can hold, thereby helping to address issues of global warming, erosion and drought. So... we can all help regenerate soil around us by planting trees and composting as much as we can!
Other ways we can all help improve soil health is by considering what food we purchase. There are many farmers nowadays producing high quality produce using farming methods that regenerate the soil rather than deplete it. At your grocers and butchers, look out for regenerative farming labels, or you can ask for this kind of produce (use your power as a consumer!).
For more information about my soaps and my journey, feel free to check out my Instagram page here.