Soap Nuts Startup: An Unexpected Cancer Death Leads One Entrepreneur to Start a Clean, Green Business
Ken came across soap nuts and knew he was on to something big.
Ken Marion was about to retire in 2009 when he got a stern wake-up call. His older brother Rich had died from cancer at the ripe age of just 52. He had never smoked, led a seemingly healthy life, but left three kids and a wife behind. Ken was devastated and left wondering how his brother could suffer such an untimely death.
After doing a vast amount of research, Ken was surprised to uncover the number of carcinogens hiding in everyday cleaners. From laundry detergents to fabric softeners as well as household cleaners, he couldn’t believe the number of toxic chemicals and carcinogens in these everyday products. He was even more surprised to learn how so much of the population had absolutely no idea the damage that these products could do.
It was here that an entirely new journey began. Ken dove deep into his research, looking at ways to manufacture eco-friendly products that were free of toxins that could cause cancer and other illnesses down the road. He found that lax regulations in the U.S. had led to a market filled to the brim with products that consumers think are safe, when in fact, they’re far from it. Some of the ingredients found in many widely available detergents are on the EPA list of hazardous chemicals. The European version of the EPA has outlawed well over 1,000 chemicals that are still legal in the U.S. Yet shockingly, the EPA has banned or restricted only five chemicals since 1976. How could our standards be so different? How could so many carcinogens be hiding in products we deem safe?
Ken’s research first led him to soap nuts, a fruit that grows on the Chinese Soap Berry Tree. The shell of the berry contains saponin, a natural surfactant with amazing cleaning abilities. At the same time, these soap nuts, also called soap berries or wash berries, are hypoallergenic and gentle on even the most sensitive skin. Ken knew he was onto something when he tried soap nuts and saw how effective they were. What’s more, they were inexpensive when compared to conventional detergents. By simply adding whole soap nuts in a drawstring bag, the berries clean and deodorize a load of laundry without detergents, fabric softeners, or dryer sheets. And at the same time, soap nuts were relatively unheard of in the U.S.
Ken was hooked. These simple soap nuts, found deep in the forests of Nepal, had so many great uses. That’s when Green Virgin Products was born. Ken discovered that the best soap nuts were grown in Nepal and India, which is where he sources all of his premium, deseeded, USDA certified organic soap nuts today.
While it may seem like a stretch to go from pending retirement to starting a soap nut e-commerce company, Ken was driven to inform the public that there’s a better way to clean laundry. And from there the business grew into non-toxic cleaners that today come in all shapes and sizes. Their formula is 100 percent non-toxic and completely odorless. Green Virgin Products also manufactures non-toxic soaps and deodorant stones. It’s all about getting the carcinogens out of everyday products.
If you’ve never used soap nuts, you should give them a try. I’m a huge fan because they’re completely biodegradable and safe. In fact, they actually clean septic and grey-water systems. For too many years I was left itchy and uncomfortable as a result of harsh laundry detergents, but soap nuts work great for those with sensitive skin like me. Plus, you can replace multiple products with a simple soap nut, so it’s actually a cheaper substitution.
Finding safe cleaning products can be confusing because often times I don’t know which ingredients are dangerous. And more and more it’s becoming difficult to depend on the federal government to properly regulate both cleaning and personal care products. For me, the easiest way to reduce my poison load was to find non-toxic cleaning products that allow me to simplify my routine. Green Virgin Products does both.
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