Cleaning up with a little bit of soap

A little bit of soap may wash away lipstick and other things but, with the right ingredients, it can also help clean up some of the damage being done to the environment.

Lomond Soap, a small cottage industry from Cardross, near Dumbarton is helping to reverse a trend which threatens vast areas of the world’s rain forests and has already destroyed the habitat of several important animal species.

Corrie Smith, Lomond Soap

Photograph by: Stewart CunninghamCorrie Smith, Lomond Soap

One of the most popular ingredients in the majority of soaps is palm oil and increasing global demand has caused widespread deforestation in countries like Borneo, Malaysia and Indonesia.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records Indonesia has the fastest rate of deforestation in the world, and as a result it has the third largest carbon dioxide emissions after the US and China. Estimates suggest that if the present rate of palm oil forest conversion continues it could soon wipe out all of Indonesia’s native forests.

The clamour for the cheap oil has already forced numerous indigenous people off their land and pushed animals like orangutans to the brink of extinction.

Although the majority of the world’s palm oil is used in food items such as crisps, bread, biscuits and ready meals the cosmetics industry uses around seven percent of the global supply.

Lomond Soap is one of a new breed of manufacturers turning their backs on the oil to create a unique range of luxury palm-free products The business, which was started in 2007, began as something of a hobby but has turned into a thriving international concern for owner Corrie Smith.

“I started making soap for myself after a severe outbreak of psoriasis and I wanted to find something that might help as I discovered a lot of supermarket products were very harsh and only exacerbated the condition. I quickly found I had more than I could ever use in a my lifetime so I decided to try and sell it and the business developed from there,” explained Corrie who now has clients across the UK and is venturing in Europe.

“It was when I was doing my research that I discovered the really major environmental impact that demand for palm oil is having on the world. I decided I didn’t want to have any part of that so I cut palm oil out of the production process and started using a different oil.”

As a result of her ethical stance Corrie has found favour with a number of conservation-minded clients and her soaps can be readily found as far a field as Monkey World in Dorset, the Scottish Seabird Centre in Berwick and Edinburgh Zoo.

“They are the kind of businesses that understand that I am trying to be environmentally friendly in what I do and they support me for it,” said Corrie who makes a small donation from every soap sold to The Orangutan Protection Foundation UK to help rescue, rehabilitate & release Orangutans displaced by the palm oil industry.

Instead of palm oil Corrie uses shea butter, a naturally occurring fat derived from the nut of the Karite tree, and all her products are packed full of vegetable oil goodness, aromatherapy grade essential oils, clays, herbs and flowers.

All her other ingredients, where possible, are sourced from around Scotland, especially for some of the more unique soaps made with whisky and ginger, beer and even the four different flavours of chocolate soap she produces for a special client in Oban.

“I try to source what ingredients I can locally so if I’m using oats or honey or things like that then I always use local ingredients,” added Corrie.

“It is an approach people seem to like as business is growing. I’ve now started selling to Europe and I get quite a lot of inquiries from America and further afield. However’ my main business remains in Scotland and across the UK. There are new clients coming on board all the time and there is no sign of the bubble bursting anytime soon.”