Now wash your hands: The Irish soapmaker in England during a pandemic

‘We could see how this planet started to recover when humans were shut down. Old ways need to change’

Rosie Casey from Walkinstown in Dublin now lives in Newport, Shropshire, where she makes soap, organic skincare and runs her company Organik Orangutan

What is your day like now?

My days are quiet, but busy. There aren’t as many people coming and going as there used to when they would attend one of my workshops or come to the door to buy soap, but I am still busy making my products for online sales.

What is it like living in Shropshire in England at the moment?

Still very much the same really as Shropshire is a very quiet place and well spread out. It is reportedly one of the safest English counties to be in regarding Covid-19.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed things there?

I suppose it has changed things here, as it has for everyone. People are very respectful of other people’s space and masks are worn in all the shops. One thing in particular changed during lockdown and that was how busy the lane going through our little village got as lots of people from Newport, our nearest town, completed their daily walk. I have never seen the lane so busy with walkers, it was great to see all of these people walking instead of driving.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed your business?

There has been a significant change, mainly concerning my workshops which were a large part of my business. I had to cancel all of my product workshops initially and some were postponed until next year. Also orders for wedding favours were postponed. But the lockdown also gave me time to work on some new products and develop new ideas.

Are you selling more soap now?

My soap sales had a bit of a peak in the latter part of the lockdown as initially people were going a bit mad for hand sanitiser, believing it was better than soap. My wholesale orders improved significantly though.

You ran classes to teach people how to make soap. What changes have you made?

Well after cancelling and postponing the workshops in March, it was obvious by May that Covid-19 was not going away anytime soon, so I set about planning to bring my workshops online. I launched five online workshops towards the end of May using Zoom. People order online, choose their date, I post out the ingredients and we meet up online. It has proven to be extremely popular and great fun. It is something that I intend to keep going.

Washing your hands with soap is recommended to stop the virus spreading? What is it like being on the frontline?

Well science has proven that it is only soap that will kill this virus not sanitiser. I wouldn’t consider myself to be on the frontline, but I did help out where I could and donated as much soap that was needed to our local care home and staff who were having a tough time. I regularly donate soaps to my charity Orangutan Veterinary Aid (OVAID)

You do not use palm oil in your soap why?

My main reason for not using palm oil is the destruction and deforestation caused by its over production. Orangutans and many other animals in the rainforest are critically endangered because of the greed of large corporations. Unsustainable palm oil needs to be eradicated, only allowing sustainable palm oil to be produced. This will save the forest, the animals and allow local farmers to make a decent living without the destruction.

Does change to the environment still bother you or have you been distracted by the pandemic?

It definitely bothers me now more than ever. We could all see how this planet of ours started to recover when us humans were shut down temporarily. We experienced less pollution and saw wild life reemerge. Old habits and ways definitely need to change to allow our children and grandchildren to see a better future.

Is there anything you miss about Ireland at the moment?

The people and the language for sure and the beauty. I suppose everyone says the Guinness, but honestly there is nothing like it anywhere.

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