This is the first in a new series of profiles of New Englanders who are greening their corner of the world. Frederick Breeden is the founder of Just Soap a Massachusetts-based soap company. Frederick makes soaps using organic ingredients and a pedal-powered machine to stir the soap.
How did you start making soap by bicycle?
I started making soap in 1996 after my mother-in-law gave me a soap making book. I made soap as gifts and then started selling them in stores the next year. Ten years ago, I worked with a bike builder to create a pedal-powered machine to mix the soap. It's not a bike since it has no wheels.
Why did you create the pedal-powered machine?
It allows me to make large batches in less time. It used to take me 12-13 hours to make 400 pounds of soap. Now I can do 440 pounds in six hours, three hours of which is pedaling.
How is your company sustainable?
Other than the human-powered mixer, all of the base oils, herbs and spices are organic, and the essential oils are pure and natural. I don't use synthetic fragrances and the honey is local. My shop's organic certification is pending. I use minimal packaging; the soap sits on open trays. I ship in reused boxes from my co-op and recycle all paper.
Why do you love your job?
I used to work in a factory and the noise of the factory takes over. Here, I keep things on a human scale. The shop is nice and quiet because the mixer is not electric. I can listen to the radio or talk.
What's your favorite thing to do in Massachusetts in the summer?
I go hiking a lot. We live near a 300 acre reservation, so we just go in our backyard. I also garden a lot; we grow a lot of our own foods.
Note: the interview was edited for length.
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