Ethical Pricing is a Triple Bottom Line

Logic: we need to establish parameters for sustainable success for the environment, community and our businesses.  Pricing is complicated, and incoming and outgoing costs may vary, requiring constant research.  Cultural negligence is an opportunity loss for all of us. 

If after reading this, it also resonates with you, I want to know you exist.  If you have additional thoughts of your own after reading this, I would listen.

Many years before I started my business, I worked as a buyer for retail shops.  Later on, I would create a tool to measure the viability of square footage throughout a retail storefront, based on customer trends, seasons and goals for growth.  These things sound like something a recent college grad wouldn’t be interested in, especially an avid cyclist who had never owned a car, worked in the outdoor industry advocated for shared use access for youth and minorities.  Exclusion was prevalent in the industry and I struggled to feel safe in my work environment and most open space, but I needed them so I developed a knack for tolerating discomfort. I knew this wasn’t right and I saw my discomfort reflected in untapped markets and unspoken stakeholders in the environment.  I sought to give a voice to NEW customers and meet them where their needs lay was like permaculture, cultivating active and responsible users in the outdoors, while addressing existing barriers.  It would be inappropriate to push performance brands on folks not acquainted with the outdoor industry’s marketing tendencies, and when I consulted a local, multi-store chain to create unique merchandising plans for each store to accommodate each niche culture, and it was never more apparent to me that supporting diversity could bring success for everyone.  Marketing is advocacy.

Money is gross, smells weird and generations of people have been exploited for the benefit of the privileged few. Yet, we live in a culture that quantifies everything with it: products, equipment, labor, natural resources.  How do we reconcile ourselves with this historical loss?

We listen. We pay fair prices in order to charge fair prices. We reevaluate regularly.  For Apothecary Muse, this means accepting no labor that is unpaid, including friends.  Establishing a trend of unpaid labor is a privilege that not everyone has, undermines competitors, devalues the laborer’s time, and falsely inflates your profit margin.  Once you bite that apple, it is difficult to pay someone else and face the person you accepted free labor from.  You might lose friends, or if they are your family, lifelong trust.  Not to mention that there are actual labor laws preventing a business from accepting unpaid labor if it could be payable.

When it comes to raw materials, packaging and equipment; this can be difficult unless everything is affordable and accessible.  I’m appalled at how much of my bottom line goes to shipping costs, incoming and outgoing – and the devastating environmental impact that has because of the shipping travel itself.  This is an area I am constantly trying to improve while meeting the needs of a growing economy that, like me, doesn’t have access to quality goods within travel distance.  When my business was tiny, just selling to a few folks and shops locally, I was purchasing at retail prices and selling for close to what it “cost” me to make it.  I wasn’t making a profit, but I was also working full time with a paycheck and healthcare elsewhere so it didn’t seem like a priority.  I started noticing lots of other shops offering free shipping yet a retailer even told me that they thought my products were overpriced.  I checked my privilege.  My job paid only enough to keep me fed, not enough to save money or take a loss with my sales from my tiny “business”.  I was so excited about all the things that I could make, that I tried to make everything that I could possibly make to replace household items I would purchase.  If I didn’t know it then, I know now that the quality of my products wasn’t great because I was caught up in the romance of creative expression, and perpetuated underserving the community.  

I lost my job.  I was suddenly forced to reevaluate my – everything.  Newfound free time spent outside helped me to problem-solve and on a weeklong backpacking trip I decided to take my business more expertly and intertwine it with my advocacy.  I brainstormed ways to improve, tackling better ingredient sourcing, sustainable packaging (including shipping materials), and more streamlined production methods for overall quality control.  I made some difficult decisions about which products to drop from my line (including some good ones) so I could focus on quality for a more reasonable few products, purchased raw materials in bulk, rebranded and relaunched my business with the support of a small, community-backed loan.  I picked up some part-time work as prep cook in a local restaurant to maintain some finances (not all), while the rebranding was underway.  Finding a way to valuate other household contributions became necessary, more than comfortable. My tolerance to discomfort has waned over the years and I’m aiming for something that doesn’t conflict with my ability to fulfill production demand, knowing much of the work is mine along the way.

Yet, I chose this path and many do not have this choice.  This drives my research in sourcing through sustainable suppliers, from permaculture practices to reduced carbon footprint on freight.  The community backed loan endowed me with this privilege – which I’d never had, and fear I could lose at any moment – and I am acutely aware that others do not have.  This affects my competitors, because having a little breathing room in my finances changed my perspective.  I haven’t forgotten where “I came from” though, I just unlocked some new level in the game of business where I had more opportunities and I was able to have conversations with new people about environmental issues. After being used to being ignored in a male biased industry, I was able to increase my availability to advocate for the environment, meet with legislators and mobilize administration to change a law.  My business had empowered me to envision success and it was a new flavor. I wanted my competitors to have some breathing room, too.  If all my competitors were able to have these conversations, sustainable advocacy could have such powerful momentum.

In summary, I am sharing my personal story because it is no simple thing to calculate the price of an item, because that is unique from the cost.  If you came to this website looking for advice, it would be a disservice for me to generalize your situation because it will be different from mine.  I can say that it won’t hurt you to start by looking at where you can pay fairly – according to the seller – for everything, It may take years of continuous research (I’m still going 6 years after initial launch), but you may find you appreciate your products, your time and your self more as well.  Others may see the value in these as well.  I am so grateful for these 6 years where I have had the opportunity to learn more about myself, the community and environment needs and it is my hope that I may be able to continue to learn and contribute in all these ways for many more years to come with a growing team. I hope there are other folks as interested in cooperative industry leadership as I am.

Artisan Code of Conduct


ALWAYS Wear protective clothing when handling raw materials:

  • Pants, Long Sleeves, Gloves, apron, closed toe shoes, goggles (and mask when handling lye).
  • Hat or hair tie helps prevent touching face.

PREVENT contamination

  • Please notify the instructor upon registration if there are any allergies or sensitivities. 
    • Use dedicated tools for each raw material.
    • NO food or drink beyond the lobby desk.
    • Do NOT touch hair, face or clothing with contaminated gloves.
    • Exposure will be mitigated as best possible; however, cross contamination can not be guaranteed especially in the classroom setting.

Code of Conduct

Diversity and Inclusion

By proceeding with programs in this studio, you agree to support efforts to make this classroom and other spaces safe for all people regardless of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, livelihood, culture, race, religion, or ethnicity.

Cooperation and Kindness

We’re all in this together to create a welcoming, educational environment. Keep all comments on-topic and respectful. Dialogue is encouraged, but unsolicited advice should be avoided. When in doubt, report safety concerns to the teacher.

No Promotions or Poaching

Give more than you take in this shared educational experience. Curriculum is designed by and property of Apothecary Muse to provide basic crafting skills for hobby-level makers. Self-promotion or outside referrals must be pre-approved by teacher. Spam, multi-level marketing or poaching student or other proprietary information is prohibited and will be grounds for dismissal without refund.

Respect Everyone’s Privacy

Being present in this classroom means open minds and mutual trust. Authentic, expressive discussions make groups great, but may also be sensitive and private. What’s shared in the group should stay in the group.

March Adventure Challenge


What are we doing? 

Using people power, we are working together to share outdoor experiences with others, improve photography skills, enhance environmental awareness and grow our community along the way.

Kinds of images

Use the DAILY THEMES below for inspiration when you are outside and share on Instagram. Your images can be anything outdoors, sports, nature or travel related, taken at ANY point by YOU in March 2018.  Try to tell a story with your image, not just words. Bonus: avoid post-editing, cropping or filtering

Are there rules?

Nah, how about suggestions instead? Have fun! There are no prizes other than enjoying the fresh air, making new friends and learning some new skills. One request: please do not use branding or sales information for the sake of hashtag integrity. Don’t forget! Use hashtag #marchadventurechallenge for your INSTAGRAM posts. Follow @apothecarymuse for tips, ideas and to see what other folks are posting.

Download INSTAGRAM here: follow @apothecarymuse

You can click here or the image below for a printable calendar which you can take with you on your adventures or post on your wall.  It includes lunar cycles and some important dates for quick reference.  You can click here for just the list or the second image below:

Download MarchAdventureChallenge_Calendar2018

Download MarchAdventureChallenge_LIST_2018

#MarchAdventureChallenge – 2018


1 Horizon

2 Miniature or Micro Landscape

3 Lifecycle: Plant, Trees, and/or Fungi

4 Reference scale (temp. installation)

5 Diversity in Outdoors (people)

6 Distant Landscape or Lookout

7 Favorite Tool for Outdoors

8 Climate Extremes

9 Natural Frame

10 Action Shot (still or Boomerang)

11 Sunrise (Daylight Savings)

12 Parts of a plant (arrange a collage)

13 Secret or Hidden location

14 Color

15 Wild edible (unharvested)

16 Water or reflection

17 Wildlife

18 Sunshine

19 Stewardship

20 Something new learned today (Spring Begins)

21 Goals

22 First time

23 Favorite Sport or Activity

24 Your “3rd Place” (outside work and home)

25 Bringing the inside, outside (books, knitting, etc.)

26 Old, abandoned  or historical

27 Shadows

28 Picnic

29 Next generation

30 Weather

31 Dusk/Sunset Silhouette


DIY – Herbal Vegan Lip Balm Recipe

These are so quick and easy to make, but require patience and some planning.  This simple recipe can be modified with different herbs, oils, butters and wax if these aren’t available to you locally. But, I prefer solar-infusing* wildharvested herbs into organic oils and butters, based on the season and their supporting properties.

In addition to having the right herbs and containers on hand, adequate measuring tools are essential. I use a small postage-style scale to weigh ingredients and fill compostable or reusable containers whenever possible to prevent further waste.

Here’s a rather unglorious picture of my kitchen with some various projects happening at the same time (window, stove, counters, etc.):

Gentle and Unscented Lip Balm­ makes 5.2 oz product (to fill lip balm tubes or tins)

1 oz candellila wax or double beeswax

1.5 oz shea butter, organic

1.5 oz coconut oil infused with calendula flowers (solar process), organic

0.3 fl. oz olive oil infused with st. johns wort flowers (hot process), organic

0.3 fl oz Jojoba Oil infused with yarrow, organic

0.2 fl. oz Vitamin E, organic


Tips: Melt waxes and butters in a double boiler, adding oils at the end.  Temper the waxes at 140* F for at least 20 minutes and check consistency by dipping a frozen spoon in your balm quickly and seeing it set after one or two drops.  Pour by hand allowing layers to cool to prevent a dry hole in the middle, keeping a couple extra containers on hand for overstock.

DIY – Vegan Skin Salve Recipe – NO Beeswax!

Here’s a moisturizing recipe that I’ve come up with as the base for a number of salves to meet everyday needs.  One can modify the moisturizing or breathability quality with a slight adjustment in the ratio of waxes.  A lot of skin salves and balms use beeswax because it has a very long shelf life, antiviral and antibacterial properties; however, it also can add a stickiness to a product where it may not be desired over time, where breathability and slip are key.  Having 100% plant-based products is important to me, so I’ve done a lot of formulation testing to come up a similar properties using Candelilla Wax instead of beeswax that I can use in deodorants, lip balms and massaging salves alike.

For added benefits, the solid or liquid oils can be infused with herbs, with advance preparation (2 hours to 6 weeks in advance – there’s a whole ‘nother DIY article on this topic).  With coconut oil, since it is solid at room temperature, I use the heat method of infusing, bringing the coconut oil just barely to the melting point with the herbs for up to 4 hours on the lowest heat possible.  If managing heat over a stove is difficult, you can melt the oil and pour over the herbs and place in a sunny warm place or hold in a 200degree over, wrapped in foil.  If time permits and I’m using a liquid oil, the solar infusion is always preferred, as it produces a higher quality, more potent extract.  For skin salves, I find myself drawn to calendula, jewelweed, lavender, lemon balm, st. john’s wort, arnica and sassafras.  Since I have included infused oils in my soapmaking from scratch, I have noticed that combining oils in the infusing stage, produces inconsistent results – I recommend infusing oils with herbs in separate containers, and only combining your infusions after they have processed, if you must (Example: one herb per jar).  If you can’t harvest and dry your own herbs, you can buy some high quality ones here.

double boiler glass measuring cup stove cooking pot boil water

I recommend to weigh out and start melting your candelilla wax and shea butter in a double boiler (jar or glass measuring cup in pot of water 1.5″ full), since it takes about 45 minutes for 2 oz to melt completely, and might need some stirring to finish the job.  While this is happening, you can weigh out each of your remaining ingredients into separate dishes and cover your work surface with a couple of paper towels or newsprint.  Place containers about an inch apart on this surface in a row or two.  Unlid each one and set lids aside.  Also , put a few stainless steel spoons in the freezer.

Next, you’ll add the coconut oil.  I’ve found the raw stuff smells a bit nutty/fruity and varies in consistency, so I prefer the organic, refined – but don’t let my preferences stop you if you have some of the other kind on hand.


 As the coconut oil finishes melting, you can remove from heat and gradually stir in your liquid wax or oil to the melted wax/butter combination.  Sesame, Sweet Almond Oil, Jojoba Wax, Olive Oil, are all good options with high absorption that also add slip.

I recommend tempering your base after it is completely melted, measuring 140* F for 20 minutes.  You can use one of the frozen spoons to check the consistency with a quick dip-test.  If you have 1 drop fall off the spoon after pulling it out before it rehardens, it may be too firm to spread over skin without a built-in applicator (like a lip balm tube) – so you’ll want to add more liquid oil.  If you get more than 4 drips, it may melt in its container on a warm day – so you’ll want to add more wax or butter.  These micro adjustments can make all the difference in if your product can be used on the lips or skin and how it is applied.


materials tins salve herbs essential oils infusionOnce you have the consistency you like, you can stir in your essential oils, immediately pour into your containers and gently top with their lids.  Allow your containers to cool completely before moving them.  Label each with the ingredients and store in a cool, dark place using completely within a couple of years.

I often recommend lavender since it has so many calming and cleansing properties, but you might also use Helichrysum, Carrot Seed Oil, Roman Chamomile, Geranium and/or Clary Sage for this particular type of moisturizing and skin calming salve.  Sometimes, I also save a little room for a few drops of Rosemary, for its antioxidant properties.  Thoroughly review the properties and safety of any essential oil(s) you plan to use.*



VEGAN SKIN SALVE RECIPE – makes approx 12 ouncechamois lube tattoo aftercare diaper rash creme skin salves.

  • 2 oz Candelilla Wax
  • 6.5 oz Shea or Mango Butter, Refined
  • 2 oz Coconut Oil, Refined
  • 2 oz Oil or liquid wax
  • 0.1 oz Vitamin E
  • Up to 100 drops of essential oils*
  • 12 x 1 oz tin or glass containers





*This is the total, combined limit for a 12.6 oz batch, and there are approximately 600 drops in an ounce of liquid, so < 2% Essential Oil Safe Dilution Rate for most essential oils is about 10 drops per ounce of finished product. Research those marked as potentially phototoxic (many citrus) or sensitizing (peppermint, cassia, etc.) in which the amounts should be reduced further.  Exercise caution and research each essential oil as skin contact can cause dermatitis and irritation, or respiratory problems in children and pets.  To learn more about the safety of use with essential oils, check out Tisserand’s book or take a course in aromatherapy.



DIY Tip: Vinegar Hair Rinse

Why might this be a good project for you?

A vinegar hair rinse offers clarifying and conditioning qualities to distressed locks, useful in dry weather or overworked conditions.  It is especially useful for removing product buildup (like shampoo/conditioner residue). Pomade, gel and mousse also tends to buildup and can attract airborne pollutants while having a drying effect on the cuticles of the hair shaft, so the user is inclined to wash and condition their hair more frequently.  The hair’s natural pH can be relatively quickly restored with this vinegar.

Why does your scalp pH matter?

Imbalanced pH can result in dullness, dryness, breakage, dandruff or even hair loss.  As a soapmaker, I’m often wearing gloves and eye protection to use sodium hydroxide/lye, which has a base pH value of 14 at the most caustic end of the spectrum.  I always have white vinegar on hand, which has an acid 2.4 pH value, to balance the pH in the event of a spill or skin contact.  For perspective, a neutral pH value, like water, ranges from 6.5 to 8.5.  Hard water (high mineral content) is usually high in pH. Soft water (low mineral) is usually low in pH.  While a range between 8-10 is considered ideal for the cleansing action of soap, human hair and scalp oil, sebum, has a pH balance of between 4.5 and 5.5. This natural hair acidity prevents fungi and bacteria in the hair and scalp, and keeps the cuticle closed and healthy.  This is closest to Apple Cider Vinegar’s range from 4.25 to 5.0 pH.  It is essentially, your scalp health we’re talking about here.  Many hair products on the market are reacting to scalp condition, without responding to the pH.  It can be a quick fix, but once your scalp health is restored, you may find using less products to be an even quicker, inexpensive and satisfying routine.


I have fine, thick and wavy hair that is prone to getting oily.  Here’s my basic recipe, which you can adjust and scale to meet your weekly* needs:

1/4 cup (2 fl oz) Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (I like Bragg’s)

1 cup (8 fl. oz) Distilled or Filtered Tap Water

Combine ingredients and put in plastic, reusable, pourable container.

Optional: you can customize this for your hair type, increasing ACV up to 50% for dry or coarse hair.  I also like to Solar-infuse my vinegar with herbs and/or add up to 20 drops of essential oils for the 10 oz recipe above, which supports hair health.  These plants provide different, desirable qualities:

For shine and elasticity: Rosemary, Nettle (my favorite!)

For brightening or highlights: Lemon, Chamomile

For grey coverage: Sage, Thyme, Lavender, Sandalwood, Cedarwood


How to use it: Shampoo and rinse as usual and then slowly pour about 1/4-1/2 cup of the mixture on your scalp with eyes closed and massage your scalp. You should notice your scalp start to release sebum and along with it residue, so you can start rinsing at that time.  Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm or even cool water if tolerable, to close the hair follicles. Let air dry and see how it moves and feels before adding product. Your scalp sebum may be all the product you need!

*It is recommended to use the mixed batch on a weekly basis since there aren’t any preservatives in it.  Store in a pourable, reusable plastic bottle so that is safe to use in your shower.

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