Making a difference with organic soaps

|    Daniel Lim    |

AMID the various chemical-ridden soaps that can be found in shops as well as in households across the country, five Panaga School students are striving to make a difference by making their very own handmade soaps using locally sourced natural ingredients.

As part of the Satu Impian (One Dream) Project Festival held earlier last week at KB Sentral Shopping Centre to provide a platform for students from schools in the Belait District to showcase environmental and scientific projects, the Panaga School group presented their project to the public.

Following their project’s success, the Bulletin caught up with the group at Panaga School, Melilas Campus.

They are Middle Year 1 students (or Year 7 equivalent in Brunei education context) Raymond Pineda and Aliza Uddin, and Middle Year 2 students (or Year 8 equivalent in Brunei education context) Stanley Kidd, Pepijn Stapel, and Lauren Miller, who were supervised by their mathematics and science teacher Paul Creaton.

The group showcased their project – handmade soaps made from natural ingredients – that they had first brainstormed back in January. Asked how they were inspired to do soap making as their project, Pepijn Stapel said that they came to the realisation that many soaps found in the market are laden with artificial chemicals.

“In addition, many of the soaps are covered with plastic wrappings, which can be harmful to the environment. So we decided to make a 100 per cent organic soap with biodegradable packaging as our project,” he said.

Fellow group member Aliza Uddin described the process of obtaining and making the soap for their project.

The students with their teacher display the handmade soaps
ABOVE & BELOW: Casting the soap; a soap being tested; and some of the handmade soaps showcased by the students. – PHOTOS: DANIEL LIM

She said, “We used a soap base which consists of coconut oil and lye, which we locally sourced from a coconut plantation in the Tutong District that is also making organic soap. From that, we added either essential oils or natural fragrant extracted from fruits or tea leaves depending on which fragrance of soap we are making at the time.”

Unlike normal process in which the ingredients are boiled, all the locally sourced ingredients are combined using a combination of low heat to liquefy the soap base and stirring to mix the fragrant extract. This helps maintain the health benefits.

The group also said that the whole process to make and cast the soaps, which they typically do in a batch of six, will take around one to two hours, and that it will take an additional day to ensure the soaps are ready to use.

“Having made our own soap this way, the next step for the students is for them to visit the plantation to see how the coconut oil is extracted, and how they make their soaps,” said Paul Creaton.

He added that rather than the students gathering ingredients from across the world, it is more convenient and easier for their whole production of the soap to be carried out within Brunei.

With the students successfully showcasing their soap project at the Satu Impian Project Festival earlier last week, the Bulletin asked about the feedback that the group received from the public who visited their booth.

“The feedback was overwhelmingly positive as we had people come up to us and ask how did we make the soap,” said Aliza Uddin. “We even had some asking if they were for sale, which we hadn’t planned for yet, as we are still developing the soaps as the ones we showcased were just prototypes.”

The group hoped to impart the message that choosing the most high-end soaps available may not always be the right choice, as many contain many chemicals that buyers may not be aware of.

“And by making their own soap, we also want to highlight the importance of knowing the ingredients of the thing we use daily, and what impact they have not only on ourselves but on the surrounding environment,” said Aliza Uddin.