Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Plastic Free July Business & Family Dilemma Box Videos

We are nearing the end of Plastic Free July for Aquarian Bath and our family. It has been quite an eye opening experience.  Even though we tried our best as a business and family to avoid single use plastic, there were most times not a lot of good options available for people looking for alternatives. Even though we have a flexible schedule, it was hard to try to keep up with the extra effort required to keep plastic use minimal in our family, like bread making, cracker making. A significant percentage of our plastic consumption came during a short time period when I had an injury that kept me of my feet. Another big issue was packaging from Organic produce. The more plastic that I tried to avoid, the more I noticed people carelessly discarding plastic at the beach. This was hugely frustrating. From Wikipedia, here are some facts on the effect of plastic pollution on marine animals:

Plastic pollution has the potential to poison animals, which can then adversely affect human food supplies. Plastic pollution has been described as being highly detrimental to large marine mammals, described in the book Introduction to Marine Biology as posing the "single greatest threat" to them. Some marine species, such as sea turtles, have been found to contain large proportions of plastics in their stomach. When this occurs, the animal typically starves, because the plastic blocks the animal's digestive tract. Marine mammals sometimes become entangled in plastic products such as nets, which can harm or kill them

As someone who runs a business with plastic free products like deodorant and shampoo bars, I can fairly say that there are a lot of people who are looking for plastic free packaging for their online purchases. So if you have an online business, don't be afraid to advertise that you offer plastic free options. Also sometimes less is more, so don't be afraid to try minimal or different packaging options. When I started shipping our flaxseed pillows in paper flat rate mailers a year or two ago, we had a fun time playing 'football' with test packages to see how well they held up, with surprisingly good results. 

Here is a rather novice video that we made of Aquarian Bath's Plastic Free July dilemma basket. These are plastic items that we ended up with despite trying to eliminate plastic. 

My daughter Moira of Organic Kitty Land, gives a run down of the plastics from her and her sister Tessa's plastic dilemma box. Moira shared at the end of the video that they ended up with plastic packaging from gummy bears that came with their restaurant meal. I was very proud of her for rejecting the plastic wrapped fortune cookies the next time we went out for a dinner. Tessa who said she didn't like Plastic Free July also surprised me by asking the waitress at the same dinner to not give us straws. Great results! I'm glad we signed up for the whole month instead of 1 or 2 weeks.

I do have another box of plastic that was individual/family/car/house and not so much related to kids, but I will just post of picture of that on twitter at the end of July.

Thanks for following our Plastic Free July posts.

Cory Trusty, President
Aquarian Bath

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Scented Geraniums in the Garden and Kitchen


A Rose-scented Geranium cultivar in our Garden

Pelargonium graveolens of the plant family Geraniaceae is a spreading aromatic shrub which grows 2-3 feet, and is used frequently in Aromatherapy, skin care, and perfumery. This plant originated in South Africa, and now grows worldwide. One of the main areas of cultivation is Egypt. We use this herb or its essential oil in many of our Aquarian Bath products, and now you can discover more about this remarkable herb.

From Garden to Kitchen
There are many cultivars of Pelargonium with different scents. In our garden we have Rose Scented Geraniums and Lemon Scented Geraniums. I have found these geraniums are exceptionally easy to cultivate from cuttings, with nearly a 100% success rate. All that is required is a little pot of garden soil. Put the fresh cut stem into the soil and add water every 2-3 days. Mountain Valley Growers boasts 24 varieties of scented Pelargonium. A few of those include Apricot, Cinnamon, Lime, and Ginger.  
Lemon scented Geranium has a Citronella type scent.
What can you do with fresh Geranium leaves? Fresh geranium leaves can be included when making fruit jams or jellies. Linda Reed has a dedicated pinterest board for geraniums and geranium recipes. The list goes on and on, starting with lemonade, mojito, cakes, and cookies. 

Our lemon scented Geranium cultivar at high magnification.

Geranium Lemonade or Limeade Concentrate Recipe adapted from 
1 cup water
1 cup sugar* (not GMO beet sugar)
10 rose-scented geranium leaves
1 cup fresh Organic lemon or lime juice
ice water, to serve

In a small pot boil water with sugar. Remove from heat, add leaves and let infuse 4-10 hours. Squeeze out the leaves well. Add lemon or lime juice. Pour the solution into a bottle and refrigerate. To serve, add 1 T of this concentrate to 1 cup of chilled water and mix well. Serve over ice in a glass garnished with a small scented geranium leaf of rose petals. The concentrate can be stored in the refrigerator for two weeks. 
*You can use honey instead of sugar if you add the honey to the cooled boiled herbal infusion. Boiling honey is not required or recommended.
Another fun thing to do with geranium leaves is to make an herbal vinegar. You can use the vinegar in salad dressings, or for making a diluted vinegar hair rinse, which can be helpful for people make the transition to shampoo bars. With a little creativity, there is basically no limit to what you can create in your kitchen with this remarkable herb.
Geranium essential oil, together with Bulgarian Rose wax, Lavender and Cedarwood scent Aquarian Bath’s popular Rose oil shampoo bar for normal to dry hair types.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Organic Kitty Land Catnip Pillow Set Giveaway at the Aquariann Art Blog

Have your visited the great new shop, Organic Kitty Land? Our very own Moira Johnson has started a catnip pillow business with Organic cotton and hemp fabrics. Many of these fabrics were small scrap fabrics from Aquarian Bath's Organic Cotton and hemp flaxseed pillows Your cats will love this little Organic catnip filled pillows.  Our Etsy friend Aquariann is giving away this set of pillows at her Fantasy Art Blog. You can follow this link to enter, or click below on Organic Kitty Land's mascott, Pumpkin Pie.

Worldwide Giveaway

Sunday, July 20, 2014

How do Aquarian Bath Shampoo Bars Stack up to the Competition at Price per oz?

When shopping for products online, it can be hard to get a feel for the size of the item your are buying.  If you haven't tried Aquarian Bath soaps or shampoo bars yet, let me give you a feel for that. I did some comparison shopping with two popular Shampoo bar brands, Lush and J.R. Liggett. When comparing price + shipping of shampoo bars on our website versus these websites we found Aquarian Bath shampoo bars were significantly less expensive per ounce than both Lush and J.R. Liggett on single bar purchases for US addresses.

Lush Shampoo Bar 
1.9 oz bar
$11.95 per bar
$6 shipping
Total $17.95
Total price per oz $9.45

J.R. Liggett Shampoo Bar
3.5 oz bar
$6.99 per bar
$7.45 shipping
Total $14.44
Total price per oz $4.23

Aquarian Bath Shampoo Bar
4 - 4.5 oz bar (some variation d/t handmade)
$7.50 per bar suggested retail price
$6.50 special price (usually available unless inventory is low)
$3.11 shipping
Total at suggested retail price $10.61 
Total at special price $9.61
Total price per oz at suggested retail price $2.36 - $2.65
Total price per oz at special price $2.14- $2.40

To summarize, we found that Aquarian Bath bars are $6.80- $7.31/oz less expensive than Lush bars and  $1.58- $2.09/oz less expensive than L.R. Liggett bars. You can trust you will be saving money when you shop at Aquarian Bath.

Cory Trusty, president
Aquarian Bath

Friday, July 18, 2014

Plastic Free July Update Featuring Two Cracker Recipes

Sour Dough Crackers and Flax seed crackers may be able to replace bagged and box crackers for our family.

We are half way through Plastic Free July, so I felt it was time for an update.  The experience so far has been exciting, empowering, frustrating, depressing, inspiring and startling. Now that I have recovered from a bee sting on my foot, which kept me for 3 days from being my family's plastic cop and food preparer, I will try not to dwell on the depressing aspects. 

Aquarian Bath Update
I will start with the business end of the challenge for Aquarian Bath. So far the amount of plastic we have generated for business is relatively low, mostly clear plastic tape from suppliers or bags from bulk oils.  We try to buy the largest containers of oils possible to minimize packaging waste. Large hard plastic containers are repurposed for bulk grain storage, etc. I realized that one of our suppliers wraps the Dead Sea Mud containers that we order twice a year with a single layer of bubble wrap, even though the overall packing fill for the box is biodegradable. I contacted the supplier to tell them about Plastic Free July, and they have indicated that they would comply with my request to use minimal plastic packaging on all the items. The most startling experience that I had was to have an order from Mountain Rose Herbs come with plastic air pillows. My understanding from when I contacted them about it, was that they were reusing it.  I think this was meant to be a big lesson for me. I have been ordering from Mountain Rose Herbs for around 8 years. It was too ironic that they shipped to me with plastic fill for the first time during Plastic Free July. Usually they ship with a pretty green recycled paper that we in turn use to pack orders. The lesson of course is don't assume, always ask for biodegradable packaging. The good news is that Mountain Rose Herbs does primarily ship with biodegradable fill, and they have indicated that they will accommodate plastic free shipping requests.  I was worried that they had switched to 100% plastic fillers. The biggest dilemma that I have right now with Aquarian Bath's plastic "dilemma box" is our bagged Extra Virgin Olive oil. For years we had been buying good quality European Extra Virgin Olive Oil (but not Organic certified) in cans from a local restaurant supplier. We could even pick it up by bicycle. I really liked that option and felt comfortable with it. When that supplier became unreliable a couple months ago, we switched to QAI certified Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a bag which holds 35 pounds, the equivalent of around 143 of our Olive Oil soaps. Wanting to support Organic is important to us, so we have mixed feelings about whether or not we will be going back to the good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil in cans. We are not at the level where I can take in an entire drum of Organic Extra Virgin. 

Individual/ Family Update
Since Aquarian Bath is a family business, it did not make sense for me to sign up only for the business challenge, but also the individual/family challenge. During the first half of Plastic Free July, I have noticed that the main source of plastic waste which our family of four is generating is from Organic produce, lids from coconut or hemp milk containers, and bags from snack foods, so I have taken steps to cut out the big ones, which is bags from boxes of crackers.  But before I go on about the cracker recipes we made partial success with, I just have to take a moment to wonder if our family will ever reach a healthy equilibrium with the quality of the foods we are consuming and the amount of waste we are creating. Overall as a family, we agree that we want to eat as low on the food chain as possible; a plant based diet. These are the many times conflicting issues we are already trying to work with in terms of food preparations for one or more family members:

Tendency to excessive weight gain
Tendency to excessive weight loss
Aversion to (gag reflex) Avocado and Quinoa (staples in many in vegan diets)
Aversion to Dairy and Meats
Craving for Dairy and Meats 
Priority on Organic foods 
Priority on non-GMO (un-poisoned, nutrient dense) foods
Inability to chew hard or crunchy foods due to medical history
General distaste for soups, even really good ones
No un-fermented soy
Tendency toward high blood sugar with family history of diabetes
Tendency to over eat
Tendency to forget to eat

This list could go on, but I will leave it at that. Having burned out multiple times over a period of years on trying to prepare regular family meals with all these factors under consideration, adding zero plastic to the list adds another layer of difficulty. 

Our biggest successes this month is to get the children to get over their *need* for straws at restaurants. The solution was to tell them before going out that there would be no using straws for them at the restaurant. Wow, was it really that simple? We have also brought back home grown sprouts as a staple, having a greater awareness that the sprouts will be eaten more often if they are served as a salad, rather than sitting in the fridge waiting to be remembered. Another success is that our CSA, Front Porch Pickings, was willing to start delivering our locally produced produce without plastic bags. They used paper bags for Organic cherry tomatoes which were produced locally. Some of the produce like apples and bananas only come with bags and plastic tape.  Not from the CSA, but frozen blueberries in bags is something the kids eat often. Being in Central Florida, we can get Papayas off of trees this time of year, even in the backyard, but the kids hate them. Go figure. I get stuck often on produce options. I've had bad luck with blueberry bushes, which I've been trying to grow for a few years. On the positive side, the child who was weaned onto wild cherry tomatoes and broccoli that she picked herself while just learning to walk now grazes on kale and tomatoes in the front yard.

Moderate Plastic Free Cracker Success

This week we achieved two homemade crackers, which were partial successes. The first is a sour dough cracker, and the second is a flaxseed cracker made with a dehydrator. I have another Plastic Free July participant and customer to thank for the inspiration to get a sour dough starter going for crackers, tortilla and bread making. Check out Anne-Marie Bonneau of Zero Waste Chef for details on how to make a sour dough starter and sour dough crackers. Sour dough was something I tried a few years ago with very bad results, so I was glad to get off to a good start with this starter.  I followed her recipe precisely:

Sour Dough crackers:
2/3 cup unfed starter (see Anne-Marie's starter recipe here)
3 tablespoons Organic coconut oil
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt (I use pink salt)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for topping 
pink salt for topping 

First, I mixed the Organic Coconut oil with the starter. Then I mixed the other dry ingredients in a bowl and added them to the starter-coconut oil.  I kneaded them and let the dough sit covered with a towel at room temperature overnight. In the morning I rolled out the dough on a floured surface as thin as possible (1-2 mm), transferred it to a parchment paper on a cookie sheet and rolled it out a bit more. Then I cut the dough into squares and baked them in a 350 F oven until they were crispy, around 10-15 minutes.  I lost my timer at that moment, so I didn't time it exactly. Eight minutes, followed by rotation and again eight minutes was suggested.

These crackers taste really great, like Annie's certified non-GMO Cheddar Bunnies.  The only problem with these sour dough crackers was that for someone with chewing difficulties they were basically impossible to eat. I am not sure if there is something I can do to fix that. I didn't like the texture of the ones that were baked for a shorter time period.

The next nearly plastic free cracker epiphany was courtesy of a mystery guest at Dr. Mercola's 60th Birthday party; (and yes I am proud to say Joe is also one of our customers). I never found out who brought the straight up flaxseed crackers, but they were amazing. I was excited to try making them, because we already get Organic flaxseed in 25 pound paper bags for our flax therapy pillows and hens. So it is not uncommon to have 50-200 pounds handy!  I searched pinterest for a how-to and found this recipe which I used as a guide. The recipe requires a food dehydrator:

Flaxseed Cracker Recipe
2 1/2 cups of Organic Brown flaxseed 
2 T Organic chia seed
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
chopped veggie bits: Organic onion, Organic tomato
Organic Onion Powder to taste
Organic Garlic Powder to taste
Pink salt to taste

The first step was to soak the seeds in water for about an hour and a half. You need a lot of water because they swell up. While the seeds are soaking, line the trays of a food dehydrator with parchment paper, but skip the bottom tray if you have the common round plastic stacking tray type dehydrators.  If you don't then the bottom tray could overheat.  A better quality dehydrator, if you can afford it, is sold by our friends at Fresh and Alive for $200. The trays are made with break resistant polycarbonator, however. I'm not sure what the best way would be to be to make these crackers without a plastic dehydrator. Maybe in a solar dehydrator with wooden trays?

After the trays are lined,  strain the water from the seeds and add them to mixing bowl. Mix in your other ingredients and give it a taste to see if you like it. Then make a thin paste-like layer over the parchment paper. After the trays are lined and the seeds are soaked,   It takes about 2 and a half days to dehydrate them.  They are delicate and crispy, a much better texture than the sour dough crackers.  

This recipe I filed under "Wow amazing, I can't believe everyone else in my family didn't love it." I'm going to try next to make a hybrid recipe between the flax crackers and the sour dough in order to try to achieve the same sour dough flavor with a better texture from the addition of flax seeds. 

My next goal for before the end of the month, is to try again with a granola recipe, since I caught us buying boxed and bagged Organic granola, because it was on sale. I know I used to make granola, but I don't quite remember what put me off the habit a few years back, though I am guessing it may have been the high sugar content. We currently buy the 50 pound bags of Organic oats for oatmeal and for our chickens, so I will try making it again to see if we can make some to have stashed for a special treat instead of overeating it.

Thanks for reading our update.  Please feel welcome to leave a comment.

Cory Trusty, president

Aquarian Bath's brand new Lavender Vanilla Shampoo Bar is
made with the same base formula that we use for our
 Henna Shampoo Bars and Orange Lavender Shampoo Bars

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Harmony Drive Film Vignette Starring Tonya Kay

Have you ever struggled with trying to do what you feel is the right thing with limited support from family? One of our customers, Tonya Kay, stars in this short vignette from a larger film called The Pamphleteer about a woman whose quiet promotion of vegan lifestyle has profound impacts on those who read her handmade literature. Tonya plays Darcy, a new vegan who finds herself the odd girl out at her families Mother's Day dinner.

I loved this film, because even though I am not a vegan, I appreciate the presentation on multiple levels. First, I admire the vegan lifestyle and think it is healthy for a lot of people. That said I am more of a vegetarian, and I will probably never give up our backyard eggs from happy hens. Notwithstanding, I was happy to see a film presenting veganism and the ripple effect that can be created by the individual. The main reason I liked it though was that I think Tonya really channeled the feelings that anyone can experience within a mainstream family when they are trying to make healthy or ethical choices. So if you have ever felt frustrated with or isolated from your family by being the vegan, the vegetarian, the recovering alcoholic, gluten-free, soy-free, Organic, non-GMO, or trying to avoid plastic packaging, etc., then watch this short little film for a moment of solace. You are not alone.

Monday, July 7, 2014

25 Uses for Aquarian Bath's Zero Waste Soap Saver Towel Pouches

We are finding more and more uses for our new hemp and Organic cotton Zero Waste Soap Saver Towel Pouches every day. You should pick one up with your next soap order, because they have so many uses and it helps you use up the last bits of your soap or shampoo bars. We tried to come up with as many uses as possible.  This list is just the beginning!  

1. Clean stove and counter tops
2. Quick wet dust the house.
3. Wash dishes by hand quickly and easily.
4. Use in the shower for scrubbing your body.
5. Clean finger prints off door knobs and around doorways.

We are offering these soap saver bags in different colors so you can have one color for the kitchen, one color for the bathroom, etc.  Shop for green here.
6. Scrub dust off of vents.
7. OCD cleaning tool
8. See #7
9. Use up the odd hotel soap left overs
10. Wash window sills.
11. Quickly wash up children who like to play in mud puddles. 
12. Polish bald spots (no soap required).
13. Give as a housewarming gift. 

Mix and Match Gift set
14. Great gift for a soap maker.
15. Great gift for a maker of ugly soaps
16. Wedding gift
17. Econerd gift
18. Pot holder for 18 inch doll.

19. Stealth bathroom stash pocket.
20. Bathroom soap coaster
21. Tile polisher
22. Pot scrubber
23. Toilet scrubber
24. Sink scrubber
25. Toe flossing device

Please join in the fun and add any other uses you come up with by leaving a comment on this blog post.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Plastic Free July

Plastic Free July started yesterday, and we signed up as a business (and individual/family). The goal of Plastic Free July is to refuse single use plastic. On a business level this can be quite a challenge when trying to source products and maintain inventory of supplies. One of our biggest frustrations as a business is receiving packages that are needlessly packaged in bubble wrap or sealed with plastic tape. We use paper tape from Uline for our outbound boxes. This kind of tape is usually offered with an expensive dispenser that has a place for water and a sponge.  It is really not necessary.  All you need is your fingers and a small dish with water.

 At this time our main vendors (oils, essential oils, clays, containers, herbs) do not use styrofoam or bubble wrap.  We pick up paper bulk bags of flax locally.  When we do receive bubble wrap or styrofoam we pass it on to a pack and ship company up the road to reuse. Sometimes our regular vendors run out of things we need.  In that case we do our best to work with new or back up vendors to restock. In those cases even if you have a good habit of asking for plastic free shipping materials, it is easy to forget to ask vendors not to include product samples that contain plastic. There are well meaning cooperative vendors who will agree to ship without plastic, but when shipping time comes they may forget. When we get boxes from the US postal service they are bundled in plastic. Our biggest plastic faux pax was the
'inheritance' of bottles from another company that was going out of business. After being offered and asking for the metal or glass bottles, we paid the shipping, and ended up with a huge box full of plastic PET bottles. This is why we still have massage oils in plastic bottles. When those run out, we will be purchasing glass or aluminum containers.

Many large companies refuse to ship with anything other than bubble wrap or styrofoam. This is insanely frustrating, and I think that it is very important that customers and individuals contact companies to ask them to cut back on plastic and styrofoam. For example, did you know that Ebay recommends bubble wrap packaging to every seller?  2013 Ebay revenues were at 7.4 billion dollars with 128 million active users. That is a lot of plastic waste if every seller follows their suggestion! This is a heavy ecological footprint, especially considering that many products do not need this level of protection during shipping. There are other more ecofriendly packaging options such as paper mailers, newspaper, kraft wadding. Please sign our
petition on to Ebay to make suggestions other than bubble wrap for securely shipping products.  We have had this survey up for quite a while, but have hardly any signers, even though a lot of plastic free folks retweet the petition for us, star it on twitter, etc. 

Having had experience trying to run a business with minimal plastic for some time now, we don't expect to have a perfect Plastic Free July. However, we are happy to have an opportunity to tally our plastic use and average it over a year, and to learn from other businesses who try to use minimal single-use plastic. 

As an individual, my biggest frustration with avoiding plastic is that so much of the Organic and non-GMO foods are available only with extra plastic packaging. When we try to do everything just right with shopping to avoid plastic, there are always frustrations.  When the Organic bananas are taped in plastic and the Organic carrots are bagged in plastic, there is no single
ecofriendly purchasing choice. We have 5 raised beds for vegetables and herbs, plus 2 hens, but it is not enough to do more than supplement our basic needs.

Cory Trusty, president