I've had The Soapmaker's Companion book for years and finally have a spare moment to consider making soap for the homestead and maybe to peddle at our farmer's market if I like the craft.
I'm looking at the recipes with their lists of oils that soap-makers use and I'm a bit daunted by the idea of making wise choices in terms of sustainably grown and acquired. It hardly makes sense to use canola oil, what's the likelihood that's a GMO? Etc. Sunflower oil sounds like something that didn't come half-way around the world. Coconuts? On the surface, that sounds better than palm oil, but how would I know? My great-uncle was a jojoba ranching pioneer when I was a kid, that might be an eco-warrior choice.
My wife wrestled with this for her soap business, plus vegan vs. tallow/lard (which are more sustainable and make a better soap than many oils but have a stigma).
There isn't one easy answer. She crossed off the " no, never" oils for us and then formulated the best soap based on performance with what was left. Once she got that where she wanted it, we sourced the best of each oil we could find. A few revisions based on experience and I think we have a really good product that is as sustainable as we know how to make it. We crossed off the list any GMO's and sourced things like palm oil from certified sustainable sources. We could easily cut our raw materials cost in half or less if we went with the normal oils, but we can charge a premium that more than makes up for the input cost.
"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi.
"Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days