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June 2007. CEO of Pangea, Joshua Onysko enjoying his outdoor office
TODAY contributor
updated 3/2/2008 3:05:21 AM ET 2008-03-02T08:05:21

Having trouble keeping up with our increasingly organic, eco-friendly world? Let me be your guide! From all-natural makeup to the best in eco-conscious jeans, I will test and review the products and treatments that are best for you and the planet.

Running a company dedicated to producing body care products made from the finest all-natural and organic products sourced from around the world is a fairly lofty goal. It's hard enough just working to ensure the quality of each ingredient in a simple bar of soap (though is it really “simple” if it’s made from Indian lemongrass and rosemary or Tunisian olive oil and coconut?). But what if the soaps and creams and masks manufactured by this body care company were only the beginning?

In a supreme example of socially conscious multitasking, Josh Onysko, founder of Pangea Organics, has engineered a way to give consumers access to the finest skin care products while also contributing to the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants. A portion of the profits from Pangea Organics is used to fund the Pangea Institute, a nonprofit organization that researches and promotes sustainable living and business practices and also serves as an incubator for small businesses. Josh recently took some time to chat with me about why it’s more important than ever to seek out organic personal care products and what it means to be “ecocentric.”

Josh, you define Pangea’s products as “ecocentric body care.” What, exactly, does that mean?
Ecocentric means that we’re constantly thinking about the future, about how what we’re doing today will affect future generations. It’s a full-cycle analysis. We consider how each bottle is made, who made it and where it came from. We think about how to offset [the environmental effects] of shipping coconut oil to Colorado and about what happens to consumers’ bodies when they use our products and what happens when the products go down the drain.

What is the Pangea Institute up to this year?
This year we’re building a women-owned cooperative in Zambia that will produce our rosemary and lemongrass oils, and by 2012 we want to purchase 20 percent of our ingredients from women who work on farms.

Why should people care about organic/all-natural body care products?
Our skin is the largest organ on our body and 87 percent of what we put on our skin goes into our body. We don’t need chemicals to grow the ingredients we put in our products. They are sinking into ground water and getting into our food supply — we’re finding traces of herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers all over the world. By supporting organic agriculture, we’re supporting a greener future. Go home and start reading the ingredients on your personal care products. If you can pronounce everything on a product’s label, it’s close to natural.

The average American woman uses more than 150 chemicals on her skin a day. A lot of people think that the health and beauty industry is regulated, but of 100,000 ingredients, only 10 percent have been tested for safety and none has been tested for safety when combined with other ingredients. If you want something natural, you should be able to eat every ingredient on the label. If you can’t eat it, why would you put it on your body? Many people are racing to create natural and organic products, but not working to create truly efficacious products (to make an ingredient claim you only need to use 100th percent of an ingredient). There’s a lot of science, technology and experience that goes into making natural products. When nature is used properly, in the right amounts, it can have amazing effects.

Pangea Organics

Do you have any thoughts on big brands buying smaller, eco-friendly body care companies — like Clorox taking over Burt’s Bees and Colgate-Palmolive scooping up Tom’s of Maine?
Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s true that when a larger company buys a small company, bad things happen, but at least they are getting word out there. If you’re worried about the future, take the time to find brands you believe in and support them.

What’s your favorite Pangea product?
Japanese Matcha Tea with Acai & Goji Berry Facial Mask. It’s the only product that has instant results and it has won five editor awards.

Marisa Belger is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience covering health and wellness. She was a founding editor of Lime.com, a multiplatform media company specializing in health, wellness and sustainable living. Marisa also collaborated with Josh Dorfman on “The Lazy Environmentalist” (Stewart, Tabori, and Chang), a comprehensive guide to easy, stylish green living.

Please note: Neither Marisa Belger nor TODAYshow.com have been compensated by the manufacturers or their representatives for her comments or selection of products reviewed in this column.

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