Eco-tip: Reusable Bottles

It amazes me every time I read about the amount of plastic bottles that are used in the United States. At the warehouse club stores, you see people buying them by the case. In 2009, American consumers recycled 2.3 billion pounds of plastic bottles. Yep, you read that right: billion.   At first glance it sounds like we’re doing something good overall, but 3 out of 4 purchased single-use drink bottles are thrown out rather than recycled.  Doesn’t that make you wonder about the amount of plastic we are constantly introducing into our world? Continue reading

To add or not to add….

….that is the question.

Rose Lotion

For quite some time now, we’ve been struggling with the idea of preservatives in lotion.  We have come to a decision that we are at peace with for now, but we have been asked about it many, many times so I wanted to share our thought process with you.

Initially all our products were 100% natural.  We started the business with that in mind and every time we had to make a choice, we would return to that underlying decision and use it to guide us.

Lotion has always been a problem for me.  Like soap, I have a hard time using what is available in a grocery store or drug store.  My face in particular was in issue.  My skin is very dry and very sensitive and anything with a fragrance was literally painful to apply.  For many years I was stuck using a dermatologist-recommended lotion that I had to buy at a pharmacy.  Very expensive and full of ingredients that I couldn’t read or pronounce if I tried.

It was an easy step for me to being making natural lotions.  I used my skin and face as a test to see how things felt to me and how my skin felt after using them for a period.  After quite a bit of trial and error, we found a recipe that seemed to work.

After doing a significant amount of research on natural lotions, I became quite concerned about customer safety.  The short version is this: natural lotion is a mix of oil and water.  It is moist on purpose and is kept in a closed container.  People apply it to their skin by taking their fingers and dipping it into the lotion, then using fingers and hands to apply to to their skin.  Unfortunately, this means there is no way to avoid introducing bacteria.  Most of us know that if you add bacteria to a moist, dark place, it will thrive.  Bacteria heaven.  Also fighting against us was the idea that this bacteria is not always visible.  Sometimes you will see the mold, other times it will just live in the lotion and you may not realize it.

It’s hard for us to say our goal is to be natural because it’s healthier for us and the environment if our choices are exposing people to anything potentially harmful.

With that in mind, we made the decision to include some sort of preservative and moved on to decide what would be the best option. We’ve spent several months trying desperately to find something that worked for us. We had finally decided on pottasium sorbate only to find out that it  would not truly protect from bacteria and that it was significantly changing the texture of our lotion.

After contacting fellow natural care product sellers and much hesitation, we chose to use Liquid Germall Plus. It’s not what I would like to use in an ideal world, but it honestly appears to be one of the better options. We chose it because it is paraben free and the minimum amount required for effectiveness is very low (.5%).  The perservative is made up of: Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, and Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate.

For anyone who is interested in researching the contents of cosmetics (I highly recommend it….it’s an eye opening experience), the Skin Deep’s Cosmetic Database is a fantastic resource.  If you were to search each of the preservative ingrdients mentioned above, the item of concern to most people is iodopropnyl butylcarbamate.

As I mentioned, Liquid Germall Plus is .5% or so of our lotion recipe.  Of that .5%, 0.002% is iodopropnyl butylcarbamate. To put that number in perspective, we make everything in small batches and at most pour 16 ounces of lotion at a time. In that entire batch, we add less than 0.01 ounce of the preservative which means that we’re adding approx. 0.0003 ounces of iodopropnyl butylcarbamate. That batch makes 8 jars of lotion.

As soon as someone releases a natural preservative with proven effectiveness, I plan to switch even if it means changing our formulation.  In the meantime, our only other option is to discontinue our lotion line completely, which we discussed many times, but I truly feel that having a lotion that is 99.9% natural is a much better alternative than the commercial options available.

I hope this open dialog helps to clarify the decision we have made.  If you have any questions or concerns, we would be happy to answer them.

Farm Update: Oh deer!

We have known for some time that there are unique challenges to trying to grow crops on our land before we had moved out there.  We thought we had most of the bases covered: plant a hearty crop that doesn’t require daily care, plant a crop that doesn’t have a small harvest window and plant a crop that will build up the soil for future crops.  We didn’t think about the fact that with all the readily available vegetation around our land that the local deer population would consider our 400 bean plants such a delicacy.  We were wrong.

For any city slickers who aren’t sure what is wrong with this picture; there should be leaves on those stems.  🙂  I wasn’t really sure what to do so I decided  just to weed and mow and hope that the plants survive.  If not, they will have served part of their dual purpose: to fix nitrogen in the soil for fall planting.

About a week ago we decided to plant a row of flowering perennials on each end of the garden rows to attract beneficial insects and create a more balanced eco-system.  Ironically, the deer decided to avoid those completely.

The flower varieties that we have added so far include Russian Sage (Wayne’s favorite), Agastache, Coneflower, and Anise Hyssop.

The second chore for the day included checking on the bees and putting in some new wired foundation.  When we put the frames in the hives we include a thin layer of wax (known as foundation) so the bees are able to get a head start on building out their comb.  The foundation we put in when setting up these hives had no wiring in it so when it got hot the wax softened and flopped over creating a less than ideal environment for our bees.  You can read more about that little oopsie at our other blog –  Julia’s Bees.

Here is a picture I took looking between the tops of two frames, into the hive.

You can see the layer of wax that is laying down across the bottom of the frames.  Normally this would be standing up in the frame as demonstrated in the picture below.

After getting the slight bee problem corrected, I took a break.  I normally like to walk around the land and take a picture or two to share but 3+ hours in the sun convinced me that it would be best if I just sat down and relaxed.  While doing this I snapped a shot of the open portion of our land.

I like this picture, because it includes the bees, the beans (sans leaves thanks to the deer), and the blueberry plants (a bit hard to notice but in the clearing on the far side of the picture).  My goal is to get the grass down to where it is manageable by the end of summer so we can do a sizeable fall planting of bushes, trees, and winter crops.  Wooohooo!