I was told that putting something about the environment on our company website "is good for optics".
WOW! That statement was quite upsetting. Environmental stewardship is not a buzzword for me. It is not a talking point, not a political stance nor is it about optics!
As a young city girl in the early 60s, I felt a kinship with nature. I could spend hours on a very short walk in a park just amazed at the intricacies of everything around me. I don’t know why--I just felt at home.
In the 1970s and 80's I made homemade baby food because natural baby food did not exist. All of my children wore cloth diapers because I could not figure out what they were going to do with all that paper diaper waste. I even put bricks in our toilet tank to decrease the water use when flushing.
As I raised my children I wanted them to appreciate that we share our “home” with lots of living things and need to be mindful of the impact of our actions. Something simple like--if you pick up a rock or a leaf in the woods, put it back because it may be part of something’s home.
I wanted to encourage them to notice the lichen on the tree, smell the dirt, watch the spider build a web, listen to the wondrous sounds all around them and appreciate the natural resources our Earth provides. Most of all I tried to be a role model.
Whatever I do (or have done) to play a very small role in the stewardship of this planet whether as an individual, a mother, a teacher, or a business owner—I do because I believe it is the right thing.
COMMITMENTS TO DECREASE OUR ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
Our business began in my home, located on the Chagrin River in the Chagrin River Valley, where each day I was reminded that the health of our planet is affected by the impact of our daily activities.
We work hard as a family business and a family to be vigilant of the impact we have on the environment. We believe that every business, no matter how small, can be a force for good and inspire change for the better.
Every day we reuse, recycle and compost to reduce waste and our impact on the environment.
Here are just a few simple things we do to help keep waste out of our landfills.
- Use real dishes, silverware, cups, and glasses instead of disposables
- Use rags and hand towels instead of paper towels
- Use a water filter instead of plastic bottled water
- We recycle everything
- Our shredded office paper becomes packaging material
- We collect packaging materials from our neighbors
- We reuse packaging materials we receive
- Our trash “cans” are the plastic pails in which our oils were packaged
- Our product packaging is 99% plastic-free
- We are mindful of every possible way to keep waste out of our landfills
- We use green cleaners that don’t include toxic chemicals
We use recycled furniture. About 90% of the furniture in our factory has been rescued from companies that were remodeling offices or friends and family that were redecorating. According to the EPA, there is a large amount of office furniture that is tossed each year, generating an enormous amount of wasted resources. Plus it takes a lot of energy and raw material to make new tables, chairs, couches and desks. Recycled furniture ensures that functional furniture will not end up in landfills.
There is a Native American proverb that says...
I have children and grandchildren. The future belongs to them which is why we strive to run our family life and our business life in an environmentally responsible manner.
COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABILITY
What is Sustainability?
"Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." (The Brundtland Commission, 1987)
A Native American proverb expresses sustainability in a lovely way:
"The frog does not drink up the pond in which it lives."
The pond is our beautiful planet, Earth, and we are the frogs.
We have a responsibility to use our resources wisely and to protect them for ourselves and future generations.
Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve not only works hard to make the best skincare products out there, but we are mindful of our impact on the environment. While we may only be only one small frog in our large pond, we believe responsibility is critical at every level.
It is our practice to use raw materials that are sourced in an environmentally and ethically responsible manner. For example:
- We buy Certified Sustainable palm oil
- Read our blog about the Palm Oil Controversy
- We do not use ingredients like Rosewood, Sandalwood or Frankincense essential oils if they come from endangered or threatened plants.
We also support sustainable, wholesome agriculture by purchasing natural and organic ingredients.
Growing organically improves the quality of our environment by protecting our land and groundwater from contamination and by promoting the use of sustainable resources and the conservation of soil and water.
We do our research and buy from local farmers, small businesses, and companies that share our commitment.
We look for companies that not only promote environmental stewardship and sustainability but also support FAIR TRADE. Fair Trade practices promote fair wages, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and improved social standards.
Our goal is to do what we can as a family and a small company to consume as little water as we can from the pond in which we live.
COMMITMENT TO DECREASE OUR IMPACT ON CLIMATE CHANGE
Climate change is no longer a debate and poses a major threat to people as well as all other forms of life on our planet.
I believe it is incumbent on each and every one of us to do our small part to protect our planet for future generations.
Our planet is a highly interdependent system of air, water, soil, plants, and animals. Nature provides us with all that we need for survival. So even if you are skeptical about the human impact on our planet, how can it hurt to take some simple steps to treat our natural environment with love and respect.
As the world debates how to tackle climate change, "Big Business" usually becomes the focus of the most political attention.
Although a small business may use a lot less energy than a large manufacturing plant, when you consider the number of small businesses across the world, the environmental impact becomes significant.
Small businesses are the backbone of the United States and many other countries. The large voices of small business owners and their team of employees often drive a culture in a community that can create a ripple effect toward positive change.
At Chagrin Valley we believe it is our duty as citizens of the world to make our voices heard and make commitments to do our part to reduce our carbon footprint and reduce our impact on climate change. We may hold the fate of our planet in our hands.
Many of the commitments that we have shared on this page will help play a part in reducing our impact on climate change.
There are also many small changes we have made since we moved into our newest space in 2014 such as:
- installing programmable thermostats
- installing motion-sensing light switches in bathrooms, kitchens and other traffic areas where people often forget to turn off lights
- replacing old appliances with more efficient Energy Star certified appliances
- replacing old warehouse heaters with high-efficiency units
- installing gigantic energy-efficient warehouse fans to cut down on air conditioning needs
- allowing a grass area in the rear of our lot to return to its natural state which encourages pollinators
- planting pollinator gardens in front of our building
But we wanted to share other larger measures we have taken and also some future plans.
In June 2018 we participated in an energy audit of our business, after which we created a plan including long-term and short-term goals for both large and small projects.
Some of these goals have already been accomplished. For example, since our energy audit we have:
LIGHTING: We changed every lighting fixture and/or bulb in our 20,000 square foot space to LED which can decrease energy usage by up to 65%.
Most of the fixtures in our Soap Factory were old fluorescent tube lights. Even though levels of mercury have decreased in newer fluorescent tubes, mercury, an environmentally toxic metal, is still found in every fluorescent tube. The average life rating of a fluorescent bulb is about 20,000 hours, which doesn’t compare with the typical 50,000-hour LED. LEDs can last over 20 years, which also means fewer lightbulbs to throw into our landfills.
SKYLIGHTS: We added skylights to rooms without any natural light. The skylights not only allow us to use less lighting and even keep lights off in non-work areas, but they were installed on a slope to optimize solar heat gain in winter and minimize solar heat gain in the summer.
ROOFING:We replaced our large black tar roof with a cool white roof with doubled the R-value. White roofs, like wearing a white T-shirt in summer, help keep the internal temperature of our building cooler in the summer months. This roof also aids a bit in decreasing the "urban heat island effect" that occurs when cities experience much warmer temperatures. Our shop is located in an area of large and small manufacturing buildings, office buildings, and other buildings with loads of black roofs and black asphalt parking lots. A white flat roof can help reduce the amount of heat transferred from the roof to the air which can help lower ambient air temperatures.
We know that we can do even more and our goal is to do what we can as a family and as a small company to decrease our impact on climate change. Here are a few of our already planned future improvements.
- TREES: Plant more trees
- DECREASE NON-PERMEABLE GROUND: There is a 3000 square foot asphalt area in the rear of our building. Our plan is to dig up some of the asphalt, create some vegetable gardens, plant more pollinator gardens and trees and add some natural stone areas. Decreasing non-permeable surfaces helps eliminate stormwater runoff by allowing water to simply soak into the water table.
- SOLAR: We are in the process of investigating solar panels for our roof. Based on our research, the solar panel that we would like will generate more electricity than our business is using (at least in the summer months). The extra electricity is fed back to the overall grid. Since our shop will be net-metered, we will be credited for the electricity we produce but do not use and can utilize it in the cloudy Cleveland winter months when the panels are producing less energy.
COMMITMENT TO BIODEGRADABLE INGREDIENTS
What Does Biodegradable Mean?
By definition, biodegradable means capable of being broken down by the action of living things, like natural bacteria, into simple substances that are not harmful to the environment.
Chagrin Valley Natural Soaps are Biodegradable
If You Are a Camper or Backpacker Please Read On...
There are many soapmakers out there with good intentions who are claiming that their biodegradable soap or shampoo is safe to use in rivers and streams. Even biodegradable soap can eventually pollute lakes and streams if it is not used sparingly.
The bacteria that break down soap are present mostly in the soil. That means that when you wash, please be sure that your soapy rinse water ends up in the soil away from fresh water sources like lakes, rivers, and streams.
COMMITMENT TO CRUELTY-FREE
Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve is certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny.
The Leaping Bunny Program was developed in 1996, by The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC), to identify and support companies that are doing their part to help eliminate the unnecessary use and mistreatment of animals to test cosmetic products and ingredients.
The CCIC is made up of eight animal protection groups including the Humane Society of the U.S., as well as groups from Canada and Europe.
At Chagrin Valley we obviously do not test our finished products on animals (other than human volunteers), but what about the raw materials, the ingredients we use? Many products display labels claiming that their finished product is "not tested on animals" but this does not guarantee that the product ingredients are actually free from animal testing.
The CCIC Standard is a pledge that a company makes to remove animal testing from ALL stages of product development. Our pledge to buy ingredients that are cruelty-free is integrated into the purchase order contract for all of our suppliers. We also do not sell into markets that require animal testing.
COMMITMENT TO POLLINATORS
Pollinators, like Bees and Butterflies, are crucial to the growth of 80 percent of our vegetable and fruit crops.
They also sustain our ecosystems and produce our natural resources by helping plants reproduce. Without pollinators, the human race and all of our land ecosystems would not survive.
Bees and Butterflies have been dying at alarming rates due to changing weather patterns, increased use of pesticides, and the destruction of their natural habitats.
Pollinators contribute to clean air. Carbon dioxide is the most commonly produced greenhouse gas. Carbon sequestration or carbon recycling is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. This process reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which in turn helps with reducing global climate change.
Over the past few years, we have created pollinator-friendly habitats at our homes and at our soap factory by providing food (nectar plants), shelter, water, and larval plants (plants that the butterfly caterpillars like to eat.) At my home, I have about 100 square feet of native milkweed plants for monarch butterflies.
About ten years ago my husband and I decided to allow the large lawn grass hill in front of our home to return to its natural wild state. Lawns do not provide food for native animals or pollinators. Furthermore, to keep them looking neat and tidy, they require mowing as well as watering. Water is becoming a precious commodity and lawnmowers require energy. Many lawnmowers and edgers emit high levels of pollutants. Our lovely hill is now filled with meadow plants and weeds that increase biodiversity and attract wildlife.
Each year we are adding more and more native plants to our gardens at home and at our soap factory.
For more information on pollinators read our blog "Butterflies & Bees Need Our Help"
COMMITMENT TO NON-GMO INGREDIENTS
The acronym GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. It refers to any animal, plant, or microorganism that has been changed in a lab at the gene level. It is also known as “genetic engineering."
At Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve we do not use ingredients that contain GMOs! We are USDA Certified Organic Company.
According to the USDA "The use of genetic engineering, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is prohibited in organic products. This means an organic farmer can't plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can't eat GMO alfalfa or corn, and an organic soup producer can't use any GMO ingredients."
Although you do not eat products made by Chagrin Valley, we are very concerned with the environmental impact of GMOs.
For example, farmers and environmentalists are worried that crops that are genetically engineered to be resistant to herbicides, such as soybeans, will result in heavier herbicide use, further polluting the groundwater, lakes, and rivers.
COMMITMENT TO ECO-FRIENDLY & ZERO WASTE PACKAGING
The plastic packaging industry, worth nearly 198 billion dollars, produces more than 78 million metric tons of plastic packaging worldwide each year. Sadly, just a fraction of that is recycled and most plastics are simply thrown away.
Plastic litter is now encircling our Earth. It clutters every corner of our beautiful planet, from the deepest ocean trenches to remote parts of the Antarctic.
To be honest while saying, "plastic is bad so let's use something else," may help decrease the amount of plastic, we know that what we really need is a complete change in the way we use product packaging.
Eco-friendly packaging means more than simply eliminating plastic. In order to produce less waste and move closer to zero waste, we must look at the entire lifecycle of all of our packaging materials, from their initial design to the end of their life.
We need to move away from what most packaging is now "use it once and throw it in the trash." While we know that reaching "zero" in zero waste is an aspirational goal that may never be possible, that does not mean that we should not try our best. We like this quote from Anne-Marie Bonneau:
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly."
Our customers are not looking for lots of "pretty" packaging, they are looking for great natural products in eco-friendly packaging from a company with an environmental conscience. We continue to do our best to use more and more eco-friendly packaging materials.
We are on a mission to make our customers healthier and our Earth a little greener.
We are committed to healthy skin, healthy people, and a healthy planet.
Please read more about our Eco-Friendly Plastic-Free Packaging