Borneo by Rainforest Action Network

[pic source]

I don’t use palm oil.

I mean, firstly, there is the environmental impact. Dead orang-utans, deforestation, cruelty and a long list of other things turned me off the idea of using palm oil in soap long before I even started making my own.

Secondly, palm oil is kind of a hassle and when I hear soap makers complaining about having to melt the entire bucket of palm oil down and stir well before they use it, I’m glad my own personal ethics prevented me from even experimenting with palm oil in the early days.

But that’s the thing about ethics, they’re tricksy and they hold me to a far higher standard than any other person truly could.

Our entire business is based around the idea of making luxury soaps, along with bath and body products, and not using any palm derived ingredients along the way.

This was an easy point of difference to hold while I was only making soap. The alternatives to pure palm oil in soap are many and varied and creating a palm free recipe truly wasn’t difficult.

But lotions, man, lotions. Trying to work out how to make lotions without using anything palm derived has been a headache and a half.

Firstly, there’s emulsifying wax. The main kind – Emulsifying Wax NF, contains palm derived ingredients.

So our emulsifiers get tricky. I can buy olive derived emulsifier, but they tend to need more work to retain stability, as well as costing a good deal more, and requiring a higher percentage to work well.

If I combine two different types of emulsifiers (olive derived), with a palm free thickener (xantham gum, or carrageenan), a lotion base containing high stearic ingredients (cocoa butter and shea butter), and a little wax (beeswax, cadelilla wax, or macadamia wax), I can get a stable lotion.

But it’s more expensive than a cheap hand cream you buy from Kmart, or even a good hand lotion made using palm derived ingredients.

Even trickier, some of the ingredients we commonly think of as palm derived, such as Cetyl Palmitate and Sorbitan Palmitate, are the main ingredients in a stabiliser derived entirely from olives. The problem is the fatty acids were named after they were found in large amounts in palm oil. Olive oil can still be broken down to make Cetyl Palmitate and Sorbitan Palmitate, just in much lower quantities.

You can see my problem here, can’t you? Ingredients need to be queried over and over again with my suppliers and often times with their manufacturers. One of the most common preservatives on the market has an ingredient which may be palm derived, but it may also be synthetic and created in a lab. We’re still trying to work out which, and while we wait to hear from the manufacturers, I can’t buy or use the product.

The benefits add up of course, despite the amount of time I spent frantically googling, and emailing suppliers, I get to feel comfortable with all of my products.

I plan to start testing lotion recipes in the new year, using an entirely palm free recipe. When it eventually goes on sale (probably around September, to give time for effective challenge testing), the price won’t look like a bargain. I won’t have people exclaiming over how inexpensive my products are.

However, the point isn’t to make the cheapest skincare products available. The point is to make amazing products entirely palm free, so I can sleep at night.

Someone once said, “soapmakers are such a small percentage of people using palm oil to make products, I don’t see how us avoiding palm changes anything.”

And maybe it doesn’t. I am a very small maker in a world filled with Kmarts, and Coles-Myer groups, and no, I don’t always check my chocolate to make sure its palm free, so I might be a hypocrite.

I can however, take a stand in this one small thing, because I can’t feel good about the things I make if I know I’m using ingredients derived from palm.

It’s a complex issue and I really encourage you to do your own research on palm oil and what sustainable palm oil is (I haven’t been able to find any information on sustainable palm oil which convinces me to use it, although in other countries it can be quite different – I know the US has palm farms on US soil, so it may well be less awful to use palm there) and how everything is used.

In the meantime, I’ll keep trying to untangle the threads of what each ingredient is derived from, and making what I can.

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Poverty isn’t a choice you make

by Veronica on May 16, 2014

in Headfuck, Soapbox

I watched Bill Shorten’s Budget Reply Speech last night, quietly cheering from my couch as he addressed issues which concerned me. Youth Newstart, poverty, the medicare co-payment. I sat there, waiting for him to go in to bat for young disabled Australians.

Only he didn’t.

Sure, he mentioned pensioners multiple times, but unless recipients of the Disability Support Pension (DSP) have suddenly morphed into senior citizens, he wasn’t talking about us.

Yet again, the disabled are relegated to the corners, out of sight out of mind. We don’t count – not in a visceral way. Surely people in wheelchairs can work? After all, they’re sitting down all day anyway.

There is despair in my household today.

The solar panels we installed to hopefully cut our energy costs aren’t helping us out and my power bill arrived. $670 I have to find from somewhere, while also paying off the stupid panels. Multiple phone calls to the solar company complaining have netted me a lot of reassurance about “we’ll have to check your contract and see what we promised we’d deliver” and “we’re looking into it”, but that doesn’t stop my bills arriving, or the money being paid off the panels leaving my bank account.

I can tell you there is a vast difference between what we were promised, and what has been delivered.

I was reading the Griffith Review this morning; a powerful piece about poverty.

It hit home, hard.

Poverty isn’t a choice you make. It’s the result of a series of impossible choices thrust upon you. Food on the table today, or money for a train ticket to a job interview. Getting the kids school uniforms, or buying a work shirt. Petrol for the car or money for power. A prescription, or food.

And I understand it.

The difference between those women and my situation is a fine line. There’s no domestic violence here, and no addiction to hold us hostage. A very fine line. I’m not beholden to market place rent, just interest rates. I don’t have to worry about a landlord kicking us out onto the street.

I am lucky, and how lucky I am. I chose a man who doesn’t beat me. It seems like it should be an easy choice, but look around you. Domestic violence is everywhere, fueled by the hopelessness and despair of poverty and the addictions that take hold when you try to forget how bad your situation is.

Poverty is insidious and it isn’t as simple as asking us to choose not to be poor. It’s more than the ‘just get a job’ rhetoric. Youth uneployment in Tasmania is 20%. You can’t tell me there are enough jobs to go around.

My car is at the mechanic today, having wheel bearings replaced. It’s a necessary thing – there’s no public transport here and we need a car. But it’s also an extra chunk out of the budget I would have preferred to spend on things like groceries and new shoes for the kids.

A fine line between surviving and not.

We will be fine, but many other people will not be.

In September, I’m due to open up my shop to sales. We had planned to launch in November, but we’re moving it up because we can’t afford to wait the extra two months. We’re hopeful our networks will support us, and our business will grow and thrive.

Like I said yesterday, I have options many people do not. I can write articles and pitch to magazines. I can make soap and sell it. I can put my head down and push through until things look brighter.

I can make my work fit around my disability.

I could not make my disability fit around my work.

And that is what is wrong with the politicians right now. They truly believe we can make our disabilities fit around a job. This shows an intrinsic misunderstanding of the nature of disability, which is a complex and nuanced issue. We’re not all in wheelchairs. We’re not all mobility impaired. We’re not all paralysed.

What we are right now though, is hopeless. Filled with despair at what our future might hold.

Tired from fighting it.

That’s what we are.

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I am disabled.

Every few months I’ll have a run of good days and start to think wistfully about going to University and studying something I’m interested in. Or the disability bashing will get inside my head and I’ll start to question myself. Surely I could work a part time job, right?

Then something will happen. My body will collapse and I’ll spend three days vomiting, only managing to parent my children through the use of heavy duty anti-emetics which will probably cause Parkinsons when I’m 50. Or maybe I’ll dislocate something so badly I’ll end up curled up in a little ball whimpering and unable to move until my husband reduces the dislocation for me, braces my joints up and puts me to bed. Or my blood pressure will bottom out and I’ll puke and pass out at the same time.

It doesn’t last long, my wistful wanting, before I’m faced with the reality of my particular disability.

I can’t drive because I can’t be trusted not to dislocate something badly while driving, or go all wobbly and dizzy. Public transport is non-existent, and it wouldn’t matter anyway, because the simple act of sitting up straight with my feet on the floor causes enough problems to write an entire blog post about.

Disability is a multi-faceted and complex thing, but Joe Hockey isn’t interested in hearing our personal stories of woe. To him, disabled Australians are an untapped workforce. Too long we have languished in our beds, on our couches, collapsed on our floors. Not only do we refuse to work through sheer laziness, sucking at the public teat like our life depends on it, but we also clog up the medical systems.

No worries. He’ll just stop indexing our pensions, make doctor co-payments a thing, charge us for blood tests and xrays and take away money from our hospitals.

Soon enough we won’t be sucking at the public teat, because we’ll be dead.

I’ve spent three days digesting this budget and I can’t see a way forward that doesn’t involve crying. How am I meant to survive if I’m assessed as being able to work eight hours? And I don’t kid myself – I have no cognitive impairments and I can walk for like, 2 minutes, so I’m perfectly capable of working, surely.

In the last three weeks, I’ve left my house once, and this was to take my youngest child to a speech therapy appointment. My husband, my carer, drove us. Then I forced myself to walk around the supermarket buying food so we didn’t starve. I spent the rest of that day in bed, and the one after too. In and out, parenting prone, between doing the work which we hope will support us when the government cuts us adrift to die.

You don’t want to know how much of our budget goes on food which is too expensive and doesn’t last nearly enough meals.

And I’m one of the lucky ones. I can freelance to make ends meet when I need to. I have a fledgling business which should be up and running by the end of the year. I have options I can carry out from my house, from my bed, when I need to.

My friends, my family, my peers, they don’t have this.

If you’re under 35 and disabled, sorry, but your disability isn’t a real thing. It doesn’t count. We’re just couchsitters, lazy, unwilling to commit to hard work.

Isn’t that right Joe? We’re disabled, so we have no right to live, let alone live without fighting a daily financial struggle.

And this is leaving aside entirely the nightmare of the changes to Newstart allowance, of forcing young people to earn or learn in an economy with no jobs and unattainable education systems.

Force the lot of us into work. Minimum wage to fill a gap, killing ourselves in the process. Cut the mental health budget – mental illness isn’t a real thing anyway. Cut the welfare. Cut the hospitals. Charge for doctors.

Joe Hockey is out there, smocking a cigar right now while our world crashes down around our ears.

The flow on effect of these changes is unimaginable. Crime. Hopelessness. Endemic poverty.

How many convicts were sent to Australia for stealing a loaf of bread, Joe? Is that what this is? Are we merely returning to our roots?

I look at this budget and I despair. Stamp all over the poor people. Let our blood fertilise your field of propaganda and lies.

We’re just grist for the mill now. Chew us up and spit us out.


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On not paying writers (again)

by Veronica on March 18, 2014

in Sending You Elsewhere, Soapbox

Around the time Evelyn was born, I began turning down PR requests left right and centre. I’m sure I burned a lot of bridges, and all I did was politely ask to be paid for my time.

Amazing how the PR requests dropped off after that.

But they didn’t stop entirely, and each time I politely ask to be paid, I am politely told in return “We don’t have a budget” or “We don’t pay for comment.”

People, you’re paying me for my time. For the time I take out of my life to write about your product. For the time I spend ignoring other things in order to focus on YOU and your product.

Now, let’s be clear – I’m not talking about the work I did for The Shake, which was unpaid, and enjoyable. This is because I KNOW The Shake didn’t have a budget to pay me. There was no one person sitting at the top of the pile making money from our work and refusing to pay.

But other publications, other companies, they’re different.

When a large multi-national company tries to tell you they don’t have a budget to pay you, you’re left laughing maniacally in the corner. Because REALLY? REALLY?


There’s money somewhere, but it sure as hell isn’t being spent on the bloggers doing actual work for you. Which is crap, frankly.

In any case, I wrote about this for Money Circle this week, and it is something which makes me a bit ranty. You wouldn’t refuse to pay your plumber, or your electrician, so why refuse to pay your writers?

money circle logo

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walk towards the light

Everywhere I go, people keep imploring me to be nice. Just be nice at the BBQ, be nice online, keep yourself nice in public. For gods sake, just be nice Veronica, okay? Surely you can manage that?

I am tired of just being nice, for the sake of everyone else’s comfort. Doesn’t my comfort matter too? Did anyone worry about how nice they were being the last time my reputation was dragged over the coals? Hey, how about that. I bet no one worried about how nice they were being when they bitched me out publicly, blocked me on twitter and refused to ever speak to me again.

I don’t do silent well. I don’t do nice for the sake of public propriety well either.

Nice is such a boring word. It’s bland. It’s inoffensive. Nice doesn’t make you think, or make you feel. Nice sex doesn’t give you a spine melting orgasm that makes your legs shake for minutes afterwards. Nice books are the ones they send home in Amy’s home reader, about Marcus sharing his toys and getting a cookie.

Nice. It’s warm milk. It is white walls. It is something that I won’t remember five minutes from now because fuck me, but nice is boring.

I am a kind person. I have empathy. I worry about how people will feel, about how my actions will be received. I want to be kind, and caring, and opinionated. These things are not mutually exclusive.

I say fuck a lot. Fuck is not a nice word. It isn’t bland, and it doesn’t leave any doubt in your mind about how I feel. I throw things. I shout, and I wave my arms in the air. I loudly used “because VAGINAS” as an argument to my husband in the supermarket, much to the shock of the lady walking past. It was a reasonable response when you consider that the question was why mothers wanted fluffy pink socks for Mother’s Day.

Being nice will get you nowhere. I don’t want someone to remember me as vaguely nice when I die. “Oh, her. Yes, she was nice.

There’s no point to niceness. People will hate you no matter what you do. Maybe your hair offends them. Or the way you laugh. Maybe the way you capitalise your sentences sets their teeth on edge. No matter how nice you are, someone out there somewhere imagines punching you in the face, and it makes them feel better.

Nice gets you nowhere.

I am a strong person. I have opinions and I like things the way I like them. My sense of humour is kind of fucked up. I frequently daydream about poking some people in the eye repeatedly with a blunt stick. I rescue small starving kittens and I cuddle small sad children.

I don’t want to be nice. I want to be smart, funny and kind. I want to be interesting and colourful and compelling.

You can keep your warm milk.

I’m aiming to be top shelf liquor.

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