Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps are synonymous with Old-World quality and time-honored simplicity, a soap-making tradition that can be traced back to 1858. Renowned for their quality, versatility and eco-friendliness, Dr. Bronner's continues to make our unsurpassed soaps with care and integrity.
My husband knows I’m feeling anxious when I start unloading 20 gallon jugs of water from the back of our SUV. He knows by now that something, maybe an article or a social media post, has triggered my need to be more prepared for a disaster than I was the day before.
For the last eight years I worked as the communications director at a K-8 private school, and attended quarterly disaster preparedness meetings with staff and faculty. The most common concern and potential threat was the possibility of a catastrophic West Coast earthquake. I live in Portland, Oregon, and we’ve been overdue for “the big one” for many years.
That’s why I have a fully prepped disaster kit in my house. Actually, I have several. I have gallons of water and water filters in three locations and a rain barrel outside. I have an emergency backpack in each car and earthquake provisions for our family of eight in a safe location. I give my teenagers pop-quizzes while they’re eating breakfast, “Where are the phone numbers kept? Where is the food? Where is the meeting location? How do you set up the camp stove?” (The last one is a trick question because nobody knows how to set up the camp stove, it’s still in its original box).
It is possible to buy complete emergency kits on-line or even at big-box stores, that are designed to provide a household with the necessary food and supplies for several days or several weeks. These kits are perfectly compact but are mostly filled with an assortment of dried food and cheap products. I prefer to design a kit with my family in mind, using products I know and trust.
Dr. Bronner’s makes three products I have placed in each kit:
Pure-Castile Liquid Soap: this classic soap is must have in your kit, useful for a variety of necessities including handwashing, dish washing, bathing and washing clothes. It’s biodegradable, so even if you’re forced to camp outside for several days, you won’t have to worry about contaminating your water with toxic soap. The water can even be filtered and recycled if necessary.
Organic Coconut Oil: In Sanskrit the coconut palm is known as kalpa virkshah, meaning, “the tree that supplies all that is needed to live.” Dr.Bronner’s Fair Trade & Organic Coconut Oil can be used for cooking, medical emergencies and grooming. Many naturopaths and nutritionists claim coconut oil has anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. This post on Survivial Sherpa lists 39 ways to use coconut oil in your disaster kit. While I wouldn’t necessarily use it for all of those purposes. These are my top ten:
Cooking oil: coconut oil is a more stable oil than olive oil and is a good substitute for butter.
Energy: a spoonful of coconut oil can be used for nutritional and digestive purposes.
Moisturizer: coconut oil can be used to relieve chapped lips and feet.
Apply to cuts and scrapes to provide a protective barrier against foreign matter.
Bug bites: apply coconut oil to bug bites, stings or rashes to relive itching.
Burns: apply coconut oil to burns and sunburns for healing and pain relief.
Candle: use hardened coconut oil as a candle substitute in an emergency.
Shaving: coconut oil can be used for multiple grooming purposes including shaving.
Make-up remover: in our house coconut oil is primarily used to remove make-up—specifically mascara—perhaps not needed in an emergency but helpful to know.
Lubricant: use coconut oil for lubricant on metal or leatherand to clean dirty knives and utensils.
All-One Toothpaste: this toothpaste is a luxury item as both the Coconut Oil and the Pure-Castile Soap can be used to brush teeth. Even so, having good dental hygiene and a sense of normalcy can provide comfort and relief in an emergency.
My hope is that my family will never have to use any of our numerous kits, but if the “big one” does come, we will be stocked and ready with food, water, medical necessities and cleaning supplies—enabling us all to not only survive but help our neighbors as well!
In telling our father’s story , it’s hard to know where to begin— with the inventor, the leader, the storyteller, or the humble servant. At heart, he was a passionate soapmaker who had the kind of mastery and instinct that could never be taught. I remember being at a trade show in the mid ‘90s when a retailer came to our booth with a new soap that everyone was raving about. The retailer asked, “Are you worried?” My dad responded by taking a drop of soap into his mouth, tasting it, and replying, “Nope. Too much alkali, it’s going to irritate people’s skin.” Sure enough, that soap failed within the year.
Underneath the soapmaker, though, was a man who believed in serving humbly, never putting oneself over another, and leading from within—heart rst. Who he was, was completely tied to serving others—not out of a need to feel good and pat himself on the back—but because he was unwilling to turn a blind eye to injustice and suering. He was completely lacking in aectation, incredibly grounded, and allergic to all BS.
Jim Bronner stands by one of his SNOFOAM machines
My father Jim always fought for the underdog, and acted more immediately to address any wrongs done to them than any in-justice he himself may have felt—and he suered his share. As the child of a visionary—Emanuel Bronner, founder of Dr. Bronner’s—our father’s own needs often took a distant second place to those of “Spaceship Earth.” But he always channeled the negative into the positive. Because Jim had been raised by a rotating battery of foster parents, he made sure that he was going to be the best, most attentive dad to me and my siblings, and forge for us a wonderful home space that he never had. He rolled up his sleeves and dove into soccer coaching, scout and school volunteering, anything he could do to improve the lives around him. Even later in life, as the man who brought our company back from bankruptcy in the ‘90s, he remained the quiet hero in the shadow of our grandfather—though it was our father, through his sturdy yet unassuming leadership, who worked to actualize what our grandfather visualized, putting into practice the principles on which our company was founded: peace, unity, and shared prosperity—All-One!
It was our father who, during his tenure as president, introduced 15% prot-sharing and zero-deductible health care for all em-ployees and their families. When instructed to sell an inherited $1.4 million parcel of land to pay down taxes, it was our father who, with his brother and wife, opted instead to donate the land to the Boys and Girls Club to create a campground for disadvantaged kids. And it was our father who started our annual holiday tradition of handing out a candy cane with a $100 bill attached, and bidding every recipient to spend it on some-thing fun and report back.
The Bronner Family (L to R): Jim, Trudy, Emanuel, Gladys, Ralph
We also have Jim Bronner to thank for Dr. Bronner’s Magic Foam Experience, and can think of no better embodiment of his inventive, loving, and joyful soul— creating magical snowy wonderlands for disadvantaged youth in our community, and at mud-runs, music festivals, pride parades, and other events—with the very SnoFoam he invented, rst as an industry-standard re-ghting foam, and later as snow for use on Hollywood sets and in our own childhood backyard.
Although our father passed 20 years ago today, he laid the groundwork for our company to successfully blossom into the company we are today, and his lessons of love and compassion live on in us: Stand up for the little guy. Speak truthfully. Take a step toward your fears. Learn from everyone. Let your respon-sibility for others ground you. Eat last.
Here is the eulogy that my brother David wrote and sent out soon after our father died:
JIM BRONNER—A EULOGY FROM HIS SON TO OUR FRIENDS & CUSTOMERS
Jim Bronner was a wonderful, sincere man of integrity, warmth, and compassion. Despite a difficult childhood, he worked his way up to head chemist of an L.A. soap manufacturing company. Drawing on three generations of soapmaking excellence in our family, and without any formal college training, he rose to become one of America’s master soapmakers. He oversaw and improved the manufacture of his father’s (Dr. Bronner’s) castile soaps, and developed Sal Suds for Dr. Bronner’s, an all-purpose ecological hard-surface cleaner which cleans and rinses with unmatched power. He invented a fire-fighting foam in widespread use around the world, as well as a modified version of this foam, SNOFOAM®, which is used in the movie industry to simulate snow. He formed his own consulting company 10 years ago, where his mechanical and engineering genius could flower to its fullest; he built a compressed air foam rig on a trailer, and loved to go out spreading joyous energy through the “snow” to inner city day camps, schools for the deaf, convalescent homes, etc.
When Dr. Bronner’s health began to fail along with the corporation 8 years ago, Jim stepped in and brought the company out of bankruptcy onto a sound financial basis. When Jim and his brother Ralph assumed formal control of Dr. Bronner’s All-One! Inc. 5 years ago, they continued his charitable and philanthropic ways, providing every employee of Dr. Bronner’s and their families with a comprehensive health plan which includes full optical and dental coverage and a profit-sharing plan which contributes the maximum 15% each year. Just last week they completed the donation of 1000 acres of “Rainforest” to the Escondido Boys and Girls Club, to which they had already provided several busses for transportation of children to the Club. Jim devoted personal time, money and energy to many worthwhile causes, and brought happiness and warmth to all who encountered the dynamism of his being.
After 11 months of courageous battle with cancer, fluid in his chest stopped his breathing one and a half weeks before his last day, and he was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Within just a few days, he rallied out of the hospital in great pain and disability to escort his daughter Lisa down the aisle in her marriage to her new husband Michael on June 6. This was the goal he had devoted his energies to reaching, from the day we first found out the cancer diagnosis. Although wheelchair bound and forced to breathe oxygen due to lack of breath, he was able to toast Lisa and Michael, and dance with Lisa to “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler On the Roof. This was the most beautiful thing any of us had ever experienced, and we all were lost in tears of joy and bittersweet sadness, as we soaked in the depth of soul, joy and beauty of his last dance in this world. On the morning of his death, we were down at Scripps for his last radiation treatment to control pain in his hip, and to tell them that since we were bringing in hospice that day we would no longer be coming to the hospital. My dad thanked the wonderful nurse oncology coordinator with these words: “The treatment was 100% successful. I have accomplished all that I had wanted to.” He waited for hospice to come into the home and when he saw his family taken care of, he departed this world in his family’s embrace of tears and love. The funeral service on Tuesday was beautiful, and truly honored a spiritual and moral giant of a man, who with his wife Trudy enabled his children to flower and grow into young adults of responsibility, vision, and integrity, inspiring these values in us through his own example and life.
Emanuel Bronner’s mission was not a modest one: he wanted to achieve world peace. The writing on the bottle for which he became famous had a well-defined objective—he wanted to convince everyone he encountered that world peace is possible if we are willing to overcome sectarian divisions and come together under a shared set of moral values that he called the Moral ABC.
He also understood that the machinery of war was antithetical to this mission of peace. As he put it: “On Spaceship Earth, with bomb and gun, we’re All-One or None!” By which he meant that modern weapons, and the incredible destructive forces that they can unleash, make unity and peace a necessity for human survival.
The United States has a problem with gun violence. America’s gun homicide rate is more than 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population.1 On average 34 Americans are murdered with guns every day, and seven children or teens are killed by guns, every day.2
The more vulnerable and marginalized in our society are more at risk. Black men are 13 times more likely than white men to be shot and killed with guns3, and the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of the woman being killed by five times.4
We recognize self-defense and traditional uses of guns are core principals for many Americans. We are not opposed to responsible gun ownership, but believe owners and non-owners alike must work to improve our laws to protect innocent lives caught in the absence of common sense policy.
We cannot pretend this problem has no solutions. And we cannot stand by in silence as people die preventable deaths. For this reason we stand with organizations like the Brady Campaign and March For Our Lives in advocating for common-sense gun reforms, including universal background checks and a comprehensive assault weapons ban that takes weapons of war off our streets.
— David and Michael Bronner on behalf of Dr. Bronner’s
1 Richardson, Erin G., and David Hemenway, “Homicide, Suicide, and Unintentional Firearm Fatality: Comparing the United States With Other High-Income Countries, 2003,” Journal of Trauma, Injury, Infection, and Critical Care, published online ahead of print, June 2010
2 The Brady Campaign averaged the most recent five years of complete data (2009-2013) from death certificates and estimates of emergency room admissions available via CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System, www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars/. Data retrieved 1.22.15.
3 “Fatal Injury Reports,” Injury Prevention & Control: Data & Statistics (WISQARS), accessed December 23, 2017, http://1.usa.gov/1plXBux.
4 Jacqueline C. Campbell, Daniel Webster, and Jane Koziol-McLain, “Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results from a Multisite Case Control Study,” American Journal of Public Health 93, no. 7 (June 2003): http://1.usa.gov/1osjCet.
Dr. Bronner’s “All-One Activist” series profiles influential activists who are advancing the core causes that Dr. Bronner’s supports through its philanthropy and advocacy work including animal advocacy, regenerative agriculture, drug policy reform, and community betterment.
As a Dr. Bronner’s employee, I learned that the company is a philanthropic supporter of Compassion Over Killing (COK), a non-profit farm animal protection organization. As a lifelong vegetarian and animal lover, I was curious to learn more about the work they do. I recently had the honor of interviewing Erica Meier, Executive Director of Compassion Over Killing and a tenacious leader in the animal rights movement.
So, tell me, what is Compassion Over Killing? How did it get started?
COK started out as an all volunteer high school club in 1995 and we’ve come a long way in those 23 years! We are now a national force for animals, with staff all over the country working day in and day out to expose the cruelties forced upon farm animals. We also promote vegan eating as a way to build a kinder world for all.
That is our mission—to build a kinder world for all—and it’s driven forward by four core values:
Justice: Our proactive legal advocacy challenges the status quo of animal agribusiness and aims to dismantle the systemic cruelties and exploitation upon which factory farming is built. Most people are surprised to learn that farm animals are routinely treated in ways that would result in criminal prosecution if those same abuses were inflicted on the dogs and cats with whom we share our homes.
Truth: Our brave investigators go behind the closed doors of Big Ag to shine a bright light on the hidden horrors forced upon billions of farm animals, who are treated as little more than meat-, milk-, or egg-producing machines.
Innovation: To make vegan eating as easy and accessible as possible, we reach out to national companies highlighting the growing demand for plant-based foods. With the help of consumers, we’ve successfully persuaded BOCA to go 100% egg-free, Lightlife is now 100% vegan, and chains such as Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and Subway have been rolling out vegan options. So our work is paying off!
Compassion: We connect with individuals and communities to open a dialogue about the far-reaching impact our food choices have on animals, our health, and the planet. By providing information (leaflets, videos, etc) as well as tools for change (recipes, meal ideas, and lots of free food), we’re introducing people to the joys of plant-based eating. Our DC VegFest in the nation’s capital is one of the highlights of our compassion in action.
Can you tell us more about the investigative work that you do?
COK is perhaps best known for our investigative work, giving consumers what could be their first and only glimpse of the dark, hidden world where their milk, eggs, and meat come from. Investigations are the strongest pillar in the advocacy movement, revealing what the industry doesn’t want the public to see.
In grocery stores, consumers are surrounded by marketing and packaging that depicts idyllic images: cows roaming in green pastures, or chickens happily sitting on a nest of eggs. Sadly, little could be further from the truth: each year, billions of birds, pigs, and cows are intensively confined inside cages or crammed into dark filthy sheds, just so we can cheaply eat their meat, milk, and eggs. Most of these smart and social animals will never even set foot on grass, and the first time they’ll feel the warmth of the sun or breathe fresh air will likely be their last day of life—on a truck bound for the slaughterhouse.
Many of these factory farms and slaughterhouses are tucked away in rural areas, unseen by the public yet wreaking havoc in their communities. They take a toll on the environment, exploiting everything and everyone in their path.
Our investigators get jobs at the facilities and wear hidden cameras to document the day-to-day miseries, exposing cruel yet routine practices on factory farms. With few state laws and no federal laws whatsoever that protect farm animals while they are on the farm, factory farmers can essentially mistreat and abuse these animals any way they see fit.
That’s why COK has made it our mission to pull back the curtains and shine a light on these hidden horrors. Consumers deserve to know the truth.
Is there anything you’re focusing on to address the lack of federal regulations?
Right now, COK is opposing the USDA’s proposal to deregulate pig slaughterhouse inspections. In a nutshell, it’s a program that would allow pig slaughterhouses to operate with fewer government-trained inspectors and place many of those food safety inspection powers into the hands of slaughterhouse employees. At the same time, it would allow slaughterhouses to speed up the kill line. These lines already run at dangerously fast speeds that often result in animal abuse and worker injuries. This USDA proposal will put animals, workers, and consumers at risk.
How do you as an organization, balance improving animal welfare at factory farms for meat consumption and promoting a plant-based diet?
Without a doubt, the most impactful step we can take to protect animals, the planet, and our own health is to simply leave animals off our plates. Every time we choose a plant-based meal, we’re making a difference. And we don’t have to give up the flavors we love—we can instead enjoy the cruelty-free version of our favorite foods.
We also recognize that problems posed by factory farms are deeply systemic, and they aren’t going to go away overnight. There’s a huge gap between how people believe farm animals should be treated and what these animals’ lives are actually like. By exposing these painful realities, we can help take steps to ban some of the most egregious practices while also empowering compassionate consumers to make choices that better align with their values.
How did you become an advocate for animals? Why do you do this work and what inspires you?
Like most kids, I always felt a strong connection to animals. At a young age, while eating dinner, I suddenly became aware that the meat on my plate was from an animal. But I felt alone in this discomfort and didn’t know what I could do. My dad’s family owned a small meat-packing company, so we ate a lot of meat growing up—it was part of our family. As a freshman in high school, I thought more about my discomfort eating animals but also started reading more about how a meat-based diet is harmful for the planet—and that’s when I discovered the idea that I could become a vegetarian! A few years later, I learned more about what really happens on factory farms, specifically to dairy cows and egg-laying hens, and I immediately became vegan. That’s also when I switched my career path from environmental protection to animal protection. That was 25 years ago and I haven’t looked back.
I interned with PETA while in college and worked there for about 3 years after graduating. Becoming more interested in humane law enforcement, I moved to DC to work as an animal control officer for the Washington Humane Society. While that job was incredibly challenging from a physical and emotional standpoint, it was also deeply rewarding and educational. When a position opened up at COK, I decided to take a leap into farm animal advocacy, where I have been ever since.
This work has been my passion. I envision myself advocating for compassion for the rest of my life. I’m really drawn towards making the world a better place.
Compassion Over Killing is one of the few national farmed animal advocacy organizations in the US led by women. Why is this significant and how does this position you as an effective advocate?
The animal protection movement as a whole is overwhelmingly fueled by women, we represent upwards of around 75%. And specifically in the farm animal advocacy section of our movement, leadership and key decision-making positions are largely in the hands of men. This doesn’t reflect the diversity of our movement or our society in general.
If women comprise 75% of the animal protection movement, then our leadership should reflect that. We’d like to see more women elevated into key positions, and our voices amplified to reflect our contributions.
As a movement, we are not immune to many of the same injustices we’re struggling with societally. We need to address gender inequities, sexual harassment, toxic workplace culture, and any other forms of discrimination that exist.
COK comes to the table willing to stand up for our values of truth, justice, compassion and innovation. We’re comfortable with initiating or engaging in uncomfortable conversations if it helps to challenge our movement to grow. We also recognize the vital importance of listening and learning from others. If we don’t open up the dialogue to include more voices and perspectives, our movement will stagnate. We believe the moral integrity of our movement is reflected not just in how we treat animals but also in how we treat each other.
How do animal exploitation and other forms of social injustice intersect?
Animal agribusiness as a whole is a profit-driven system that relies on exploitation. It exploits female animals, like dairy cows and egg-laying hens, for their reproductive capabilities. It exploits a low-paid labor force and takes advantage of undocumented workers. They are put in dangerous roles and sustain injuries, then discouraged from reporting these injuries. It’s exploiting and destroying rural communities, including the land—raising animals for food is a leading cause of environmental destruction and resource depletion.
If we want to create a better world for all animals, including people, we need to fight for justice on all fronts. It’s important for our movement to examine our shared values and interests to effectively connect and build bridges with other social justice movements. This needs to be intentional and thoughtful—and it’s a learning process.
What have vegetarians, vegans, and other anti-factory farming advocates achieved in the last three to four decades?
Most noticeable is definitely the food—taste, variety, and accessibility! Vegan eating has shifted from the margins to the mainstream thanks to consumer interest driving the widespread availability of innovative vegan foods. As someone who has been vegan for 25 years, I’ve seen this shift, and can also attest to how far the flavors have come—from “meaty” veggie burgers to decadent dairy-free ice cream to vegan cheese that melts on pizza!
Finding vegan food is getting easier and easier. Dunkin’ Donuts now has almond milk, White Castle offers several veggie burger options, Ben & Jerry’s is dishing out dairy-free flavors, and even several kinds of Girl Scout cookies are vegan! Grocery stores nationwide are stocking up on vegan products to meet the growing consumer demand. You can find animal-free options wherever you go. Vegan food is becoming convenient. Animal-free food is becoming the new norm.
What advancements have we seen in popular culture in favor of animal rights?
The idea that vegan eating and animal rights are part of pop culture is in and of itself incredibly significant! Many celebrities are using their platforms to tout the power of plants—Beyoncé, Natalie Portman, Joaquin Phoenix, Kristen Bell, Miley Cyrus, Stevie Wonder and countless others.
Even professional athletes are getting in the game, proving that vegan diets can enhance athletic performance: Formula One’s Lewis Hamilton, tennis pro Venus Williams, Olympians Dotsie Bausch and Seba Johnson, and boxing legend David Haye to name a few.
And here in DC, vegan eating is even gaining steam on the political map, thanks to Sen. Cory Booker as well as Rep. Jamie Raskin!
Can you tell us about Compassion Over Killing’s partnership with Dr. Bronner’s?
We love working with Dr. Bronner’s because, on a corporate level, they are one of the few companies that put their values front and center. It is so refreshing to find a company that sincerely wants to help build a better world, and is actively working to make this happen. Partnering with Dr. Bronner’s has been encouraging, enlightening, and empowering for us.
Our values align and connect with Dr. Bronner’s, and the company’s incredibly generous financial support has allowed us to expand our staff, conduct more undercover investigations, and launch new initiatives to empower people to choose vegan foods.
Dr. Bronner’s support also allows us to expand our successful annual VegWeek campaign which encourages people to explore benefits of vegan eating by taking a 7-Day VegPledge.
How can readers support your work and the fight for a more compassionate world?
We are always looking for volunteers to help at various events or with different campaigns, which can be in your community or sometimes it might involve getting active by sending out some emails, signing and sharing a petition, etc. We also have an active internship program in Washington D.C, and legal externships in Los Angeles or remotely.
And of course, as a nonprofit organization, all the work we do is only made possible through the generosity of our supporters—readers can become a member making a tax-deductible donation to our organization. Every gift helps us help animals.
At last but not least, what is your favorite Dr. Bronner scent?
Oh, I love so many scents—but if I have to choose one, it’s almond, hands down!
My Review of “How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence”
The counterculture’s fantasy of introducing psychedelics into the nation’s water supply was never a good idea. But if I could I’d buy a million copies of Michael Pollan’s new book “How to Change Your Mind” to distribute widely across the country, starting with making it mandatory reading for the politicians in DC. Instead, my family’s company, Dr. Bronner’s, has purchased one thousand copies, that we are offering for free to people who sign up to Dr. Bronner’s and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) newsletters. See below for more info on how to get your copy.
We are living through a great cultural inflection point related to psychedelics and their reintegration into American and global culture. These powerful medicines have historically been used in diverse cultures to treat maladies of body, mind and soul, and hold great promise to elucidate and cure depression, anxiety, addiction, PTSD and other modern psychiatric disorders. But their history in America is convoluted and bound up in the hysteria of the culture wars of the 1960’s, when the “moral panic” that ensued shut down the incredibly promising and widespread research of the preceding decade.
Now as hysteria fades and recent well-controlled FDA studies demonstrate their remarkable healing potential, psychedelics will revolutionize psychiatric medicine for the ill as well as for “the betterment of well people.” Pollan chronicles their story and the diverse cast of characters devoted to their cultural integration, and explains how “ego transcendent” awareness and experience have therapeutic as well as spiritual value. In a truly ripping and gripping read, he shows how medicines like psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) can help us live in a more connected way to each other and the miraculous world we are part of, and die with greater peace and ease.
Chicago for two years when I was a baby. We moved to Mexico because of my mom, and then California, first to Modesto and then to San Diego.
Which was your favorite place of all those?
Mexico was great. I got to play with little farm animals and do all kinds of weird stuff that you never get to do around here. We had a big yard and avocado trees and all kinds of stuff to play around. And in Modesto, we had this huge yard with a walnut tree and a pecan tree, and the almond tree, and all these cactuses and toads to do weird stuff.
What were your hobbies?
I used to play a lot with RC cars, those little radio-controlled cars. You buy this thing and it comes in a million pieces. And I remember when I bought mine, when I started putting it together and I thought, man, this thing is tough, but I got it all assembled.
How did you get to be so good with machines?
I always used to see what my brother was doing, I think that’s what would always push me to be so handy. He’d get a go-kart and I was like, how did he put that thing together? So then, I’m trying to figure that out. And same thing—he’s over there building a go-kart and then he gets a real car and then he’s doing audio systems by hand and I’m helping him. So I’ve learned all that stuff through him.
What was your typical day in high school?
High school was very short for me. In ninth grade I got kicked out. One of my childhood friends, he dropped out after junior high. And then next thing I know, you see him show up in a brand-new car that he had worked for. So then I got a construction job. I was getting paid 20 bucks an hour, when I was 17 years old. I thought I had it made: I thought I figured out the recipe for life at that point.
Where did you get your work ethic?
I think I’ve always been a hard worker, except when I was irresponsible. I just always pushed myself to get things done. It’s just integrity: if you say you’re gonna do it, you should do it well. If nobody’s telling you what to do, you look for something to do. Try to read the boss’ mind, or ask if you can help.
Let’s talk about you being irresponsible. When did you join a gang?
I never joined a gang. If anything, my friends joined a gang, and I continued to be friends with them. Some of the older gang members, they’d actually tell me not to join a gang because they regret not having a normal childhood. They couldn’t go to certain areas, because that’s where the rival gang’s at.
So, what did you do that got you sent to jail?
Well I guess the first time we were just doing dumb stuff. Stealing cars. I was in jail for three days and it scared me pretty good. But not enough. Later on I got arrested for assault, even though I was like twenty feet away from where everything was happening. It’s that same thing where we were all hanging out and I’m thinking I’m not gonna get in trouble, and all of a sudden, the cops just arrest three of us. The three people that they arrested, me and two other guys, none of us did anything that day.
The detective shows up and he’s like what are you guys charging these guys with? With assault, they say. “Assault? Charge him with attempted murder,” and he laughed. And they did, they charged us with attempted murder. Attempted murder has no bail so we couldn’t even bail out.
So were all three of you who were caught given the same sentence?
It was kind of eye-opening there. You kinda see the whole favoritism thing where people that got money get out of jail. One of my friends had a lot of money, hired this supreme lawyer, and got out. I hired some cheeseball lawyer who would just kinda sit on the coattails of the other lawyer: any time he spoke my lawyer would speak for me. My other friend had a public defender so he got the worst of it.
So yeah, I really saw that, I was like, wow, this is not the game you wanna play if you don’t have money. That’s kinda when I took a hard look at everything.
Was jail tough this time around?
It was not super bad. I already had some experience, like when I got arrested for that car stuff. There were some scary times. Often jail stuff happens but you kinda just man up and just get through it and whatever. But I knew that it wasn’t gonna be forever and you can’t be whining about your situation when there’s other people around you that are in there forever.
They mix everybody in there. You meet people that got life for a third DUI, or for killing a wife that was cheating. Other people get caught in a wide net of people but who didn’t do anything but they can’t say anything and they’re charged with a way more serious crime than I was.
Were there any tools that you could use in prison to get back on your feet or move forward?
I went to a fire camp program when I was in there. I learned a bunch of stuff in there, like how to use a chainsaw to cut trees. When you finally graduate, you get to go fight wildfires. And they took two months off because I went to that program.
So you clear brush, and make fire breaks and stuff?
Yeah you work hard alongside the official firefighters except you’re getting paid a dollar an hour. It gives you a bit more liberty though and you’re not shackled.
You’ve got people there to keep an eye on you so you can’t run?
No, nobody cares. You can run if you want, but it’s stupid. I remember one time at a fire there was a car, turned on, key in the ignition and a group of us, 50 inmate firefighters, pass by next to it and everybody is just laughing. But nobody dared to jump in that car.
Did you ever think of being a firefighter when you got out?
Yes. But then I get out and I find out that of course, they have some silly rules that if you were an inmate firefighter, you can’t be a real firefighter.
When you got out of jail, what was difficult about readjusting to regular society?
I was kind of acclimated at the fire camp pretty much, but I would find myself at concerts and it was just weird because in jail, nobody bumps into you at all. Because then you would have a problem. Everyone’s just weaving through each other in there, and out here people are so rude, and you’re like okay, whatever.
What was your first job out of jail?
I worked at a bakery right here in Escondido where the parole officers send you, where they didn’t really treat their employees too well. I was working from 11 at night until 6 in the morning for a year. They have this giant oven and the trays are coming out of there scorching hot and they put somebody at the end, which was me, to catch these things coming at you super-fast and put them on a baking rack. And then you take them and put them in the refrigerator, and all that’s done manually. I actually earned my way up to being a batch maker, I would make these giant batches of icing, and cookie dough.
When did you start at Dr. Bronner’s?
2004. There was no interview [Edwin laughs]. That was probably my favorite part.I was so used to going into all of these places for an interview just to get shot down. So when there was no interview, I was like, this is perfect. I love this.
So, yeah, I showed up expecting an interview, I kinda got a little dressed up. DJ talked to me for five minutes, and he’s like, you’re welcome to work today if you want. That’s fine I said. I had a dress shirt on but I didn’t care. I just went to work and I think he liked that—that I didn’t care if I got dirty that day cuz I had my nice shoes on and my nice shirt on.
I was like, you want me to go to work, I’ll go to work. And he saw the willingness and he gave me the opportunity. He was a tough boss—he really challenged me. He definitely wanted a hard worker, somebody that could keep up with the fast growth of the company. I wasn’t knowledgeable about stuff. I didn’t know anything about plumbing. I didn’t know anything about electrical, construction. So I learned all of that stuff. He would teach a lot of it to me, especially the construction part. And he enjoyed it too. You could tell he would go out of his way for me. To this day, I’m super grateful to DJ and you guys for giving me this opportunity.
What was your advancement at Dr. Bronner’s?
I started on one of the production lines at the end of it, packaging the soap bottles as they come out. And then I would be the helper, the floater. I’d then go do jobs that were a little bit more technical. Instead of just packaging soap I’d go use pumps and hoses, and repair little things around the facility, do a little maintenance. Then I started being the machine operator. I was really good at that so DJ started letting me order my own repair parts and install them, and repair the machine and do other general repair maintenance.
And that’s when we started getting into production planning. I would coordinate the whole day-to-day stuff for Dr. Bronner’s back in the days. I’d go look at the inventory of the soap, and I’d go look at the inventory of the finished goods. I’d go compile the orders on my desk, and I’d go back and give the production schedule to the people on the machines.
DJ knew I had some leadership capability. So he started giving me very slight supervisory stuff, like observing people and how they’re doing, then he’d come and ask me. So I used to have to do evaluations. That’s where I stayed for the longest time, is being the supervisor for production.
And then I moved out of production planning and went into machinery, operations, and installation of equipment.
How many titles have you had?
Production Associate, Production Coordinator, Production Supervisor, Operations Supervisor, Operations Manager, General Manager, and Director of Operations now.
What inspires you to get out of bed every morning?
I like where my life is at today, and it’s easy to just get up and go to work, especially when there’s something that you like to do. It’s pretty gratifying to mentor all these people that have been underneath my wing like what DJ did to me.
I love to drill down on something and try to analyze it in different ways to make sure it’s the most efficient. When I used to pack boxes, in my head, I used to think, what is the way for me to make the least amount of motion? And to get it done the fastest way possible. And I’ve always done that whether it’s me packing boxes or me trying to design and engineer something that fills liquid soap. And so I’ve always looked at everything like that. It definitely keeps my attention, and it’s challenging, but it’s a good challenge.
What was your experience going back to prison to mentor inmates?
It was gratifying to be able to go back and talk to all of those people and give them a glimpse of light and tell them there are good people out there that will give you an opportunity if you work for it.
Would you bring some of them here?
Yeah of course. Because I would be a total hypocrite if not. You gotta pick the right person to give the opportunity to. But once you find that right person, like me, you’ll find someone totally loyal to you guys. And not just in a work way but like a friendly human way—I look at you guys like my friends and my boss at the same time. So, if there’s anything that I can help you guys with, I’d totally be there for you. Maybe somebody that doesn’t feel that gratitude would not reciprocate that way. So yeah I’m looking forward to bring in some of those people, and help them through their tough spot in life.
Ideal for a simple and healthy dinner, stir-frys cook up exceptionally quickly, and are brimming with beneficial vegetables and balanced nutrition. Here, coconut oil is used as a complimentary base for the exciting spices of green curry, lime juice, and fresh cilantro, which combine to make this medley of tender-crisp greens and plant-based protein absolutely irresistible. Serve with a side of your favorite steamed rice or cooked grain, and call it a meal.
Green Vegetable Stir-Fry with Tofu
14 ounces extra firm organic tofu
5 green onions
3 tablespoons green curry paste
Sea salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons Dr. Bronner’s Coconut Oil, divided
2 cups broccoli florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small savoy cabbage, quartered, cored, and cut into 1½-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Line a large plate with a couple paper towels. Slice the tofu in half width-wise, creating two inch-thick large pieces, and lay them flat, side by side, on the plate.
Place another double layer of paper towels over the tofu, and use a heavy plate or pot to weigh down the tofu on top. Let rest for 15 minutes, then remove the wet paper towels, slice the tofu into 1-inch cubes, and toss the cubes with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper in a bowl.
Thinly slice one of the green onions on a diagonal, and set aside for garnish. Thinly slice the remaining four green onions, white and light green parts only, and set aside separately for cooking.
In a small bowl, whisk together the curry paste with ¼ cup water. Set aside for cooking.
In a wok or large pan, heat the coconut oil over high heat until shimmering. Add the tofu, and cook for a few minutes, without moving, until golden brown.
Flip the tofu and repeat on remaining sides. Transfer the tofu to a plate.
Wipe any residue from the pan, then add the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut oil over high heat. Add the green onions, and cook for 30 seconds. Add the broccoli, and cook for 2 minutes, until bright green.
Add the cabbage, and stir in the curry mixture. Cook for 2-3 minutes longer, until the cabbage begins to wilt. Add the tofu and fold in gently.
Remove the mixture from the heat and add the cilantro and lime juice, tossing to blend. Transfer the stir fry to a platter, and garnish with sesame seeds, remaining green onion, and extra cilantro leaves.
Gero Leson, Dr. Bronner’s Director of Special Operations, tells the story of Serendicoco Samoa, and an island’s reach for agricultural, economic, and cultural abundance
I grew up in Cologne, Germany, part of the post-war generation. We didn’t have much, but we did have books.
When I was just 11 or 12, my dad let me read “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” a frightening account of the Nazi regime. My generation later realized that many Nazis were still in power, so from a very young age, I was aware of shit being swept under the carpet. Beyond political deception, I had an awareness that something was deeply wrong with our culture. Social justice, environmental justice, global development—these became my issues.
After receiving my Masters in Physics, I moved to the United States for a broader view, and got a PhD in environmental science and engineering from UCLA. I was consulting with the hemp industry in the late ‘90s when I met David Bronner. He impressed me with his curiosity, his openness—his vision—and in 2005 we saw an opportunity to cooperate on building a fair and sustainable supply chain. Working with a company that tackled, in a strategic, undogmatic and human way, the same global problems I felt so strongly about—for me it was a dream.
Over the last 12 years, our team—with committed partners in Sri Lanka, Ghana, India, Kenya, and Samoa—have built and grown five fair trade and organic projects around the globe, producing over 4,000 metric tons a year. These are integrated farming and processing projects, providing support and training to local farmers and staff. Beyond the production of a product, our work is an investment in the health of the soil, the farmers, their families, and communities.
In Samoa, where we will eventually source most of the coconut oil for Dr. Bronner’s soaps, we have an opportunity that is even more radical: to leverage regenerative organic agriculture in a way that can heal the land, enrich the community, and preserve a culture.
Since the late ‘90s, the Samoan coconut oil industry has been in decline. Unable to compete with larger producers, coconuts were left to rot on the ground. Some 3,000 farmers who had farmed for generations not only lost a market, they lost meaning and self-value.
By forming a joint venture with an experienced conventional producer and converting to organic and fair trade, we are able to raise nut prices by 50%—a massive incentive to Samoan farmers, with potential to rejuvenate the backbone of their economy. And, by replanting aging coconut trees in mixed permacultures through a practice called dynamic agroforestry, we can diversify island agriculture and improve its resilience to climate change—all while helping to preserve the culture and traditions of its people.
Samoa is a great example of the benefit of purchasing organic and fair trade products: you enrich the lives of the people who produce them, and the soil that grows them.
Full disclosure: I didn’t write this post from personal experience.
However, I’ve been married to a beard for most of the past 20 years. And I had input from several proud beardsmen. My thanks go out to Aaron, Marty, Benny, and Tyler.
Aaron Bravo, Dr. Bronner’s Assistant Regional Sales Manager
The Big Picture
Personal care products that stay on the body for extended periods of time warrant extra scrutiny. I’m talking things like moisturizers, deodorants, hair products – and facial hair products. We keep these on all day – even all night – and the body has maximum exposure to them. If any of it can soak through our skin, it will. This is why it is so, so important to know what’s in them. What’s in them will get in us.
Vague terms like “fragrance” can conceal thousands of possible ingredients, commonly hormone disrupting phthalates. Any scent should come from pure essential oils.
Preservatives can also be a mudpit. Here are some big bad guys to avoid, with links to the Environmental Working Group’s analyses:
You’ll see these everywhere. And this is not all the red-flags, but enough to get you started.
These ingredients you’ll find far down the ingredient lists, hoping to escape notice, I guess. And the concentrations are so low, it is hard to make a direct trace should a problem arise.
However, think about using these ingredients all day. Every day. In multiple products. Layer upon layer. How much exposure does that add up to?
Let’s focus in on beard care. If you are caring for some luxurious facial locks, you’ve upped the ante a bit. Not only can your beard products penetrate your skin, but because of the proximity to your mouth, you might even inadvertently swallow them. Dr. Bronner’s can help you avoid all these nasties.
Dr. Bronner’s serves up some versatile options here with the Castile Soaps, Sugar Soaps, and Shaving Soaps.
It all depends on how much moisture your beard needs. This is a personal issue, and the folks I spoke with gave me a range of answers.
If you’re tending to be on the dryer side, check out Dr. Bronner’s Organic Sugar Soaps – the one in the pump. The Shikakai extract, which gives the unexpected dark brown color, is a ground tree bark, long used in traditional hair care in India. Further, the sugar is a natural humectant, drawing moisture into the skin. This is a great soap for both skin and hair.
The maximum nourishment comes from Dr. Bronner’s Organic Shaving Soap which not only lathers beautifully for shaving around the edges, but also is a great beard wash. It will leave your beard soft and your skin soothed.
One of the best perks here is that these don’t add yet another bottle to your overcrowded shower ledge. You can wash with any of these from head to toe.
When it comes to smoothing and styling, Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Organic Magic Balmmakes for a fantastic beard balm. It moisturizes the skin, eliminates itchiness, softens coarse beards, tames unruly beards, styles limp beards. And because it’s unscented, it won’t interfere with any other scent you might want to wear.
Rub the Balm on your hands and work it through your beard. Brush with a wide-toothed comb if desired.
Whether you’ve just graduated from the stubble or you’re at full on lumberjack, give your beard products a couple extra minutes of thought. Keep it simple. Keep it close to nature. Your 80 year old self will thank you.
The most technically sophisticated form of agriculture, designed to solve our future food and climate challenges? Or the most ancient, wise, and timeless way of growing? Regenerative organic agriculture is both.
At its heart is an idea—not an ideology or political belief, but a universal truth of the natural world: All things are connected. The seed, the plant, the soil, the animal on the land and the sky above, the person who raises the food and the person who eats it—one interlocking system, and a single piece cannot be treated as separate, cannot be mistreated, without affecting the others.
Industrial agriculture suffers from a sickness that sees this miraculously complex system as a linear production line. Industrial ag is about “maximizing yields” while ignoring consequences—to our soil, to our health, to the well-being of workers, animals, atmosphere, and planet. To industrial ag, soil is just dirt, a lifeless medium to plow through and soak with fertilizers and poisons. But soil is alive! A single tablespoon holds more living organisms than there are people on the planet. To sicken the soil is to sicken ourselves and our planet.
The health of soil is one of the three principles of regenerative organic agriculture that guides the way we grow: no chemical poisons, diverse and smart rotation of crops to minimize pest and weed pressure, conservation tillage, and using fertility-building cover crops to protect and nurture soil life.
Animal welfare is the second principle of regenerative organic agriculture. Industrial animal ag is one of the cruelest, most destructive human behaviors on the planet, leading to disastrous outcomes for the environment as well as the lives of living, feeling, aware creatures. CAFOs—Confined Animal Feeding Operations—are cruel not only to animals, but to the land, the atmosphere, to our own souls. Regenerative organic agriculture guides how we treat animals: as sentient beings deserving of our care and respect. And, managed carefully, ruminants grazing pasture can be a key practice for building soil health.
The third principle of regenerative organic agriculture is human welfare: fair wages and conditions for farmers, ranchers, and workers. In regenerative organic ag, social justice and fair pay are not separate issues, but enmeshed in the principles of a healthy, vibrant, sustainable food system.
And the sweetest, most profound outcome of regenerative organic agriculture: its potential to reverse climate change. Rodale Institute research estimates that if current global crop acreage and pastureland shifted to RO practices, a huge amount of excess atmospheric carbon could be sequestered in the soil.
Every day, in the food choices you make, you have the opportunity to join us in supporting regenerative organic agriculture. Eating is a political act! Every choice, every bite, is a vote for the kind of Earth we want to grow.