Friday, July 20, 2012

Eco Natural Soap

Have you looked at the ingredients of your personal care products? In my green-living evolution, I've learned that natural, Eco-friendly products really are best, especially when it comes to the things I put on my body. At one time, I didn't think a lot about it ... I assumed (wrongly) that if a lotion, shampoo or lip balm was on a store's shelf, then it was safe to use. It didn't occur to me that the chemicals in those products were causing (or at the very least irritating) my skin allergies. In fact, it wasn't until after I switched to earth-friendly varieties that I finally "got" the connection and realized that my skin was getting healthier as I banned the toxins.

So ... when we read the label (you all read the labels, right???), what should we avoid? Here's my short list:

  • I've written a couple of posts which list toxic chemicals to avoid. You'll find them HERE and HERE.
  • If a product doesn't list the ingredients, either on the label or on their website, leave it alone. Companies who have nothing to hide seem to be very forthcoming with that information.
  • If the ingredient list is fairly long and includes words that you don't recognize (or can't pronounce), consider leaving it on the shelf. If it sounds like a chemical, it probably is.
  • Stay away from products which are labeled "antibacterial" ... they typically contain a harmful chemical which has been linked to cancer.
  • Be cautious when you see words like "Natural", "Fragrance Free" and "Hypoallergenic" ... these words are not regulated and are typically used to fool consumers into believing they are safe ... and that's not necessarily true.
  • Do not assume that handmade products are safe ... follow the rules above and hold them to the test, just as you would commercial products.

Now let's talk about the good stuff ... the products that are good for the earth, good for us and are a joy to use. To do that, I'd like to introduce you to Alicia and Alan, the owners of Eco Natural Soap, and tell you about some of the products which I'm using. You might recognize Alicia from our Change The World Wednesday challenges ... she's a regular participant and always offers thoughtful tips and ideas. What you might not know is that Alicia and her husband, Alan, have built a very successful business by creating and selling natural, earth-friendly body care products. I've learned a lot about them through their website and Alicia's blog, Eco Friendly Homemaking ... but I wanted to know more. Here are a few questions which I asked them recently:

1. Would you please share a bit about how and why you started Eco Natural Soap?

When we were living in California not only was it an awesome adventure but a real learning experience as well. There are so many people who are "Eco Friendly" and we learned so much. I had a lady come up to me one day and asked if I knew what was in the soap we were using and that I ought to go home and Google the ingredients and then to remember that doctors prescribe patches for people because you absorb so much through your skin. I was shocked to learn what ingredients are allowed in the soaps, creams and lotions we put on our bodies each day. I had read that the average woman puts around 200 chemicals on her body before she walks out the door for work in the mornings! We threw away all of our soaps and started buying all natural organic chemical free soaps and lotions and really saw such a difference in our skin really quickly!

While out there I also learned of the terrible dangers of fabric softeners and made wool dryer balls from wool sweaters from Goodwill. Not only did we cut out the awful fabric softener but cut our drying time by 30%. This got us motivated to reduce as many toxic chemicals from our household as we could. I am happy to say that we pretty much have accomplished this.

2. How are your formulas developed and where are your products manufactured (kitchen, shop facility, etc.)?

When we moved back to Tennessee we brought the knowledge that we had learned back with us and decided to start Eco Natural Soap. Alan has put in thousands of hours of research on specific herbals and ingredients. He gives God all of the glory for the wonderful formulas. He tells 100's of people a week; I give GOD all the Glory for our success and formulas. I use almost 200 ingredients in formulating and I could have mixed this, with that, for the next 25 years and still never achieved the success and the formulas that we have. It is GOD, not man.

The products are manufactured in our shop and we are so excited to be looking for a bigger shop as we speak. As of May of this year we now have over 100 local retail stores that carry our products as well as our website where we ship out at least four times a week all over the United States. I think Alan mentioned the other day, we now have about 125 products with more in development.

3. I know that your products are Eco-friendly ... please tell us about the environmental aspects of other things like packaging, mailing, processing, etc.

We use recycled paper for our labels and our business cards are made with recycled paper as well. They are printed with soy based ink also. Alan recycles the peanuts, paper, foam, etc., that shippers use when sending our supplies. If you have ever purchased from us, that's why the packing is so many different colors and types. We offer free shipping on all orders so as of right now we use USPS flat rate shipping boxes.

Our goal is to replace all the toxic chemicals in the average household and we're about 70% there. Several items are close to marketing; laundry detergent powder with plant based enzymes that don't pollute the water, or your skin! A deodorant that's already tested and ready for manufacturing. On the planning board; Body Sprays and Air Fresheners. New Special Purpose Balms (by Fall 2012); Diabetic Neuropathy (Numbness Relief), Menopause/Hot Flash Relief, Gout Relief (Uric Acid Balancer) and the long awaited, much anticipated Wrinkle Relief Balm.

Finally, I'd like to tell you about the products which I'm currently using. One caveat ... I wasn't asked to review these items. In fact, I asked Alicia and Alan if I could share my thoughts with you.

AM Moisturizer Protector

I start my day out with the AM Moisturizer. Alicia told me that a little goes a long way because none of their products contain added water ... it's purely "good stuff". So a small pea-sized dab works for my face and neck area. It is light and odorless ... and feels so good. It is designed to wear under makeup but works equally well on it's own (I'm not a makeup person). Unlike other moisturizers which I've used, this product lasts throughout the day, keeping my skin comfortable.

Cuticle & Nail Balm

I love to work in my garden ... and, I love to touch the plants and soil. But refusing gloves comes at a cost ... my cuticles are dry, cracked and unhealthy. Rather ... I should say ... they WERE dry, cracked and unhealthy because this cuticle and nail balm is magical. It comes in a tube similar to the types used for lip balms. It's easy to apply around my nails and within a minute or so, it's fully absorbed. I use this item at night and by morning my hands look refreshed and supple. It's nice to have healthy nails.

Organic Lip Balm

I'm something of a lip balm fanatic ... I love the stuff. But not all lip treatments are equal. Not only do many commercial brands contain petroleum products, they simply don't measure up to the natural varieties. They wear off easily and seem to need reapplications often. I've been using Eco Natural Soap's Key Lime Pie and Natural lip balms. They both make my lips feel great and they last all day. The Key Lime Pie is slightly flavored ... enough to be pleasing but not so much that one licks the product off in seconds. Both tubes leave my lips feeling moisturized and healthy. As a true lip balm aficionado ... I give them major thumbs up!

Exotic Butters Luxury

Skin Balm (Citrus Sunrise)

If I had to choose just one body care product, this lovely skin balm would be it. I use it at night, typically on my face and neck ... sometimes on dry spots like my heels. The scent is wonderful ... it reminds me of driving through orange groves when the trees are in full bloom. This balm is slightly heavier than the AM Moisturizer but absorbs easily into the skin and feels so good. Again, just a small amount does the job. It might be wishful thinking on my part but ... after a month of using this balm, it seems that those fine, "smile" lines around my eyes have faded. I should also say that I was a bit worried about this product ... I have extremely sensitive skin and typically anything smelling of citrus causes a lot of irritation. But not with this balm ... it is actually soothing.

Every product from Eco Natural Soap is labeled with the ingredients. You won't find weird sounding items or chemical compounds ... instead you'll find things like Camellia Seeds, Shea Butter, Green Tea and Avocado. There aren't any warnings with these products because they are safe!! Eco-friendly ... natural ... "good for you" products! Perhaps the only thing better is that they are sold by two, very nice people ... Alicia and Alan!

Eco Natural Soap also sells soaps, shampoos, mineral makeup and a variety of problem-specific balms. You can connect with them in the following ways:

Eco Natural Soap Store
Twitter (@econaturalsoap)
Eco Natural Soap Facebook Page

Friday, July 6, 2012

Vegan Recipe - Salted Lemon Rosemary Shortbread

It is the first Friday of the month and that means ... another delicious recipe ... another delicious vegan recipe. Why vegan? Because meatless meals are good for the planet.

I'm so excited about our guest chef this month!! Please meet Kelly, the fabulous author & chef of Kelly Bakes. When you visit Kelly's blog (and I hope that you do), you may notice her tag line: "one girl. one blog. one dream. one
unending supply of butter." Butter? What's a girl who shocks her readers by saying that her middle name isn't “Bacon” doing here on Reduce Footprints? Well, Kelly has recently been experimenting with vegan baking ... she's been thrilling her readers with some delicious offerings like Vegan chocolate peanut butter banana tarts, Accidentally vegan blackberry breakfast bars and Vegan Pear Tart with Apricot Jam. Since she isn't vegan, I find Kelly's "take" on things very refreshing. One of my favorite things about Kelly's blog is her writing. Well ... here ... read what she has to say and you'll see what I mean ... she's brilliant!

Some of life’s greatest rewards come from pushing yourself just beyond your realm of comfort into the unknown, uncertain and uncomfortable.

In 2009, I packed up the bare essentials and moved four states away from my family in Connecticut to pursue my dream of getting a Master’s degree in English Literature. The subject had always been easy for me, as writing and reading were things I did well without even thinking much about them. I loved lit. It came naturally. End of story.

When I got to grad school, however, the romance was over. I fell out of love with English after a week. Classes were nothing like what I experienced in undergrad and I suddenly found myself four hours from home, living by myself for the first time, knowing no one and wondering if I had made the biggest mistake of my life.

I could have easily packed up my things and called it quits [after all, I had packed so lightly that, when I moved in, my mom & sister unpacked my apartment in the time it took to return the UHaul truck]. I don’t remember what made me stay, exactly, but I’m certainly glad. Pushing through my insecurities about grad school, the stress of advising 50 nervous college freshmen, and the anxiety about my future was one of the toughest emotional feats I’ve had to face in my short life. As I found myself at the end of it all, I not only had a diploma in my hand and a job as an Academic Advisor [who whudda thunk it?], but I had a strange itch to push myself past the point of comfort.

These cookies reflect that same spirit. I had never made shortbread, baked with herbs or attempted vegan baking until a few months ago. I have an almost debilitating dependence on non-organic white sugar, eggs and butter, the trinity of vegan no-no’s. Amazingly, once I made shortbread for the first time (a non-vegan version of these guys, in fact), I realized just how easy it was to adapt to an animal-free version without any compromise in taste.

I love the combination of flavors in the finished shortbread. Even with the vegan shortening, they still have the buttery flavor and slightly-crisp, yet still soft texture of traditional shortbread. The lemon adds a delicate tartness, the rosemary hints at savory but the sugar reminds eaters that they’re eating dessert. Finally, the tiny flecks of pink salt add a saline pop that transforms the flavor profile, adding depth and an exciting finish to each bite.

The next time you need an easy snack for a potluck or you’re craving simple, clean flavors, grab a lemon and some rosemary and prepare to bake! Warning, these are highly addictive, but they make plenty, so unless you want to eat ALL the shortbread, I would strongly suggest sharing!

Salted Lemon Rosemary Shortbread:
(adapted from this recipe:


3/4 lb {3 sticks} unsalted vegan shortening spread (such as Earth Balance), room temperature
3/4 cup organic white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 T minced fresh rosemary
rind of 1 medium lemon, grated
1/2 tsp artisan salt, plus more for tops of the cookies {I use Trader Joe's pink Himalayan}

Makes 2 dozen.


Preheat the oven to 350. With an electric mixer, cream shortening and sugar. In separate bowl, mix flour, salt, lemon zest and rosemary together, making sure the rosemary and zest are evenly dispersed throughout the flour. Add flour mixture into to the butter mixture on low speed, just until the dough starts to come together.

Cut dough in half, flatten each half into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1/2 hour.

Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface {or between 2 pieces of plastic wrap} to a nice chunky 1/2 inch thick, and cut into the shape of your choosing using a metal cookie cutter {I like squiggly squares or hearts but they'd be pretty in shapes for birthdays and holidays too. Get creative!}.
Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment, allowing 1 inch between each cookie. Sprinkle generously with artisan salt and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the edges are just barely golden. [Cooking time will vary depending on the size and shape of your cookie cutters. When I make 2” squares, they bake for at least 20 minutes.]

Cool to room temperature and store in airtight container.

Happy Baking!


Kelly is a 27 year old with a day job, dreaming of pastry school and the day she can finally say goodbye to Sallie Mae. Originally hailing from New England, she loves crisp autumn days, fall foliage and baking her way through blizzards. In 2009, she packed up her rolling pin and KitchenAid mixer, kissing Connecticut goodbye to move to the Philadelphia area. She may not say “wudder” or go “down the shore,” but she loves exploring Philly’s vibrant food scene, whether it be strolling through farmers markets, venturing to ethnic restaurants in different neighborhoods, or making friends with food truck owners. She lives on a tree-lined street with a sometimes-vegan roommate and a cat named Mascarpone.

Thanks so much for coming by, Kelly!!

If you have a vegan recipe which you'd like to share, please send it to me HERE. And for all the recipes we've shared so far, be sure to visit our recipe page using the tabs at the top of this blog ... or by clicking HERE.