A sudsy co-operative dream

soap oils

A funny thing happened today when I was cleaning up from this week's soap making. Instead of throwing out the plastic that I use to line my wooden soap molds (for the longest time I re-used cardboard boxes until Damien built me molds when I decided to standardize my soap sizes) I thought to throw it in a sink of water and use the small bits of soap stuck to it for washing dishes.

Why didn't I think of this sooner?

I guess I thought that cold process soap might not provide a sudsy enough "washing experience" for my dishes. I was wrong. Having discovered that I can use my handmade soap for washing dishes I won't be buying Sal Suds anymore.

The only soap I actually buy these days is Dr. Bronner's Castille Soap - for toilets, counters, tub scrubs, etc and Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds to add to my homemade laundry soap and dilute for dish soap. With my new discovery I've decided I can drop Sal Suds which I always felt a little odd about because it contains (coconut derived - you know the story) SLS. Instead I plan to have a bar of my homemade lemon soap at the sink (keeping it from getting all goopy will be the biggest challenge) and scrape off a bit each time with a rough cloth and rub that cloth back and forth in the water, like old fashioned clothes washing, to suds up the water. If it works anything like today's dish washing experience I will be a happy camper.

This makes me very happy on a couple accounts:

  1. I've just eliminated one more item from our monthly shopping list, replacing it with something I've made.
  2. Soap making is a very enjoyable "sustainability handicraft" for me and it's production has positive environmental and financial benefits all while looking beautiful and smelling lovely! Almost too good to be true.

Top shelf: oils, newest (unnamed) soap, tea tree shaving soap: Bottom shelf: lemon, garden mint, orange blossom special

Top shelf: oils, newest (unnamed) soap, tea tree shaving soap
Bottom shelf: lemon, garden mint, orange blossom special

I wish the path to sustainability was as rewarding in other areas of my life. And some paths, like the grow my own food path, I've almost given up entirely during this season of life.

So while I was washing dishes I had a brain wave. What if I could be a part of an artisan/farmer/crafter/gardener/(insert your trade here) cooperative? A gathering of individuals and households (who don't necessarily live communally - we tried that once and that is way beyond my ability at this point) who swap and barter their goods to help us all move to more sustainable living.

Realistically we can't all pursue the back to the land lifestyle. But maybe we could all swap, trade and barter the elements of our lives that are sustainable so that we don't all have to re-invent the wheel and work incredibly hard doing so.

This is what I'm thinking... I would like to grow more of my own food but with hiking, homeschooling and other summer priorities I can't. Or I should say, I'm choosing not to. So wouldn't it be cool if I could belong to a cooperative where I traded my soap making skills and products with other people who traded their garden produce and other items we need?

It's a dream folks and in small ways I am already moving forward in this. And dreams sometimes do come true. Five years ago when my children were much younger and all I could manage was nursing, laundry, naps & supper I dreamed of starting a buying club. At the time I didn't see how it was possible. Today I belong to two, one I run independently and the newest one that sells exclusively Maine products I am a founding member of.

So I'm putting this idea out there to the world at large. I'm speaking it so fate, providence or a local person with strong organizational skills and a bumper crop of cabbage will help move this idea along.

What about you? What are your sustainability dreams and how are you moving forward in that direction? Let's learn from each other.

By the way, this is not a post about beating yourself up because you don't bake your own bread, make soap, grow all your food and use a composting toilet. It's about exploring ways to share what we know and do so that other's don't have to know and do it all over again.

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  • Cori

    Cori on Sept. 11, 2009, 9:16 p.m.

    Well, sign me up. Anyone need a wet nurse :-) I think it's a great idea, but I'm clearly NOT the organizer du jour!!

    Cori's last blog post... baby pictures


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 11, 2009, 11:05 p.m.

      Hey new (4th time) mama! Nice to see you here!

      I offered to wet nurse for friends when I had babies, no one took me up on it.


  • Denise

    Denise on Sept. 11, 2009, 10 p.m.

    I just can't stop looking at that second picture. It is so pretty. Maybe I could supply the eggs if I had more chickens. Or, well. I can't think of anything else right now but love the idea.

    p.s. - in regards to my post this morning - I was referring to Dave Ramsey : )


  • Rodney and Cindy

    Rodney and Cindy on Sept. 11, 2009, 11 p.m.

    Renee... if I lived near you, I'd think of something to barter for your soap! It is wonderful and the most moisturizing soap that I've used! I still have one bar left... I wonder if I can make it last until next May? I'll put in an order and buy some the next time I'm home!


  • SavvyChristine

    SavvyChristine on Sept. 12, 2009, 12:52 a.m.

    Does being an hour away count me as local or unlocal? Because I have knitting skills. They're not Super Awesome Knitting Skillz, but they're good enough in that I can make scarves, slippers, hats, and possibly even mittens. Sadly, I fail at growing my own food. I fail at keeping indoor plants alive too. :(

    SavvyChristine's last blog post... Slow Roasting Tomatoes is Easy


  • nicola

    nicola on Sept. 12, 2009, 3:04 a.m.

    i would love to be bartering more. it is something i am working on and i suppose, do unintentionally through freecycling. my brother and i have been talking about getting a local direct barter system set up locally. i have too many sustainable aspirations to list. but i can say that i am realizing more and more that, yes, i will be able to physically do more when my kids are a bit bigger. nicola http://whichname.blogspot.com

    nicola's last blog post... friday link love


  • exhale. return to center.

    exhale. return to center. on Sept. 12, 2009, 11:15 a.m.

    what a thoughtful post renee. i have been reflecting on something similar recently. my dream is to create a small farm-based learning community that would offer part-time programs for homeschoolers, after-school programs for schoolers, playgroups and preschool programs for the little ones...integrated with the activities of a working farm.

    i too love the idea of being in community, but do not desire to live communally.

    i have a feeling i will be reflecting on your questions throughout the weekend. thank you...

    exhale. return to center.'s last blog post... local movie night + a giveaway


  • Kika

    Kika on Sept. 12, 2009, 5:17 p.m.

    I tried to barter math tutoring for guitar lessons... didn't work. I taught a French class last year and decided not to continue (too busy!) but now you've got me thinking about offering classes in exchange for, say, milk or eggs or music lessons/sign language lessons. I think the problem with this is that it can create so much busyness for me... rather than simplifying my life. Your soap looks gorgeous! Do you actually sell it or is it just for your family's use?


  • Jody

    Jody on Sept. 13, 2009, 1:40 p.m.

    Fantastic Idea! I'll have to think about that......What could I barter for soap??! I LOVE your soap, Renee! Thank you for the wonderful evening Friday night. It was sooooo nice to get together and catch up on our kids, family & lives. Spectacular camera! Have a wonderful day.


  • Rana

    Rana on Sept. 14, 2009, 12:07 p.m.

    A girlfriend and I swap watching kids so the other mom can get a break or any shopping that needs to be done. I would love to make soap, my husband wants to learn how to churn butter. Thanks for the idea. I'm going to think about what else I can do homemade and swap with friends.


  • renee

    renee on Sept. 14, 2009, 4:05 p.m.

    Wow, this is an unbelievable (for this little blog) response to my post. I have comments over at Facebook as well where my posts also appear. I think I will write a follow up post as an easier way of answering your questions than responding to them all individually. For now if you want to know about if I sell soap, please read my FAQ and Fine Print.


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