Let me start by saying that I do have vegan soaps available and will always keep a few types for those customers that demand it. Vegan soaps are where I got my start in the soapmaking world, as do many others. As I immerse myself more into soapmaking and continue to educate myself on the ingredients I use, I am drifting more into using good, old-fashioned lard. The vegan lifestyle (whether human or soap) is intended to create a smaller footstep on Earth, but is that what's really happening when it comes to soap? Here are a few reasons why I am transitioning away from vegan soaps.
Palm oil is used in many vegan soaps to create a hard bar with a reduced curing time. This is a great way to begin soapmaking as it is easier to navigate than other oils and creates a solid bar. The downside to palm oil is that it is destroying our rain forests and endangering wildlife (the opposite of what makes being vegan great). Profit hungry corporations continue to produce palm oil with little respect to the environment or the people that work for them. Palm oil can be found in many household products from baking ingredients and processed foods to cosmetics and detergents. There are sustainable, eco-friendly options in the marketplace (which I choose to use in all of my products that contain palm oil), but you have to do your research. It is a limited resource and I have seen the cost go up drastically in the 3 years I have been making soap.
Another ingredient that is hard to miss in vegan products is coconut oil. Coconut oil is the "wonder oil" that everyone is raving about these days. I don't disagree on its benefits or that you should use it as opposed to other options in your household, but everything in moderation. Many people don't know that a lot of leading brands in the coconut oil industry utilize child labor and have extremely hazardous working conditions for their employees. Coconut oil is also exported to the United States from other countries that do not have the high standards that we expect. Some coconut oil you purchase may have been produced in the kitchen of an under-paid worker or bleached to achieve that pearly white color you expect. Using coconut oil is almost unavoidable in soapmaking, so while I do have a lot of products that contain it, I am trying to reduce the amount I use and replace it with other oils that aren't in short supply and don't have questionable practices associated with them.
That brings me to my decision to use lard in more of my products. A lot of people are against using lard or tallow because an animal had to die to obtain the product. Lard is actually something that there is a significant oversupply of in the marketplace. People who choose to incorporate pork into their diets are not going to stop anytime soon, so there will be an abundance of lard in the foreseeable future. A pig did not give its life so that I could use lard in my soap, but because a pig gave its life for others to eat, I am making sure that the byproduct is not going to waste. This fits with my lifestyle as it ensures that I am doing my part to bring another purpose to something that would otherwise be discarded. All of the lard I use is currently coming from a local farm in Fairview, NC where the pigs live happy lives with plenty of field to roam. Our farm is growing and soon I will be able to say that the lard comes from pigs that I had a hand in raising.
To sum it up, are vegan soaps bad? Not necessarily, but they may not be as environmentally friendly as people would have you believe. Vegan soaps may also be worse for the environment than soaps made with lard or tallow, depending on the source and your view of it. Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoyed the post!