Youth Border Startup Launches Sustainable Soap Product
Students from Ambos Nogales (Nogales, AZ, and Nogales, Sonora), launched their highly anticipated “Rescue Bar” on October 17th via Instagram live. The Rescue Bar is a soap bar made of tomatoes and other all-natural ingredients. This was all created by students’ border startup, NOGECO, a startup originally developed through WASTE NOT: Borderlands Innovations in Food Waste Management, a project funded by the Agnese Nelms Haury Program.
NOGECO is a team of seven middle, high school, and early college students coming from Nogales and Rio Rico. Their collaboration was fostered by Startup Unidos, a regionally recognized organization promoting innovation without borders, and the University of Arizona Office of Sustainability Compost Cats, who guided the NOGECO team through workshops, focusing on economic, environmental, and social sustainability as-well-as providing student mentorship throughout the developmental process, exploring different approaches to mitigating food waste at the border.
NOGECO is addressing a serious issue in Nogales — food waste. With 60% of America’s fresh fruits and vegetables passing through Nogales from Mexico, there is a reported 60 million pounds of food waste every year that ends up in the local landfill. NOGECO’s solution? Converting tomatoes into organic and eco-friendly soap bars, and this is just the start. Their long-term goal is supporting the creation of a composting center, ultimately diverting more food waste, creating jobs, and helping alleviate poverty.
After winning a local pitch competition, NOGECO used its $5,000 reward on prototyping and testing a bar of soap made with organic tomato powder (all with tomatoes from the landfill of course). The group worked directly with local soap and beauty product makers, Alyssa Cazares of Milagros del Desierto to create the perfect product. Additionally, they allocated a portion of the $5,000 to build their web store and launch their product. The group refers to themselves as co-founders “who are all passionate about creating innovative solutions to outdated problems.” Their passion and innovation is infused throughout their website and online store. Telling their story behind their new product, and making the site navigable for all visitors.
Operations Director, Nicole Cabrera says, "As an aspiring finance major at the University of Arizona, running a small business has been an invaluable resource to me. I get to practice the skills I learn in my studies and apply them. However, to apply these skills to the business that helps the community I grew up in is wonderful.”
During the product launch on Instagram, Nicole explained the product in detail:
“The Rescue Bar’s earthy tomato and red clay soap embody our vision of creating an eco-friendly product made with rescued tomatoes that are nourishing to our planet, skin, and soul. Powdered tomato is the foundation of our soap, and we infuse the powder with red clay to enhance and bring balance with a gentle and fresh scent of tomato leaf essential oil to elevate the cleansing experience with notes of fresh lemon, basil, and thyme. NOGECO bars are jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, and anti-inflammatory qualities due to the lycopene and zeaxanthin found in tomatoes. We use Himalayan salt, organic olive oil (olive oil is the oil that is closest to our bodies’ natural oil production making it an excellent choice), organic coconut oil, and the luxurious almond oil to add a luscious healing moisturizer to our eco bars.”
After hosting a focus group discussion, the team learned that the Tomato Rescue Bar is suitable for all skin types. Users reported the soap to have the following benefits: detoxify and exfoliate by removing dead skin cells - healing and clarifying skin, tighten pores by increasing firmness, hydrate and moisturize skin, soften dry and rough areas, and more. NOGECO also reports that the rescue bars can help eliminate skin-aging free radicals caused by sun damage, a huge plus for Arizonans who enjoy an average of 300 days of sun a year.
The Tomato Rescue Bar is available for purchase now at https://www.nogeco.com . The process is fast, easy, and secure, and you can have the soap bar delivered to your door and support the NOGECO team and their border community.
NOGECO Legal Consultant, Sergio Astorga, says,
“We have the chance to take control of the narrative of our town… by purchasing our product you help us support our border community and inspire youth to make a change.”
NOGECO is a startup based in Nogales, Arizona originally developed as a project of WASTE NOT: Borderlands Innovations in Food Waste Management that engages young people in exploring the issues surrounding that surplus through ethnographic research, hands-on workshops, and entrepreneurial education. WASTE NOT is a collaboration between VozFrontera ( Southwest Folklife Alliance, an affiliate of the University of Arizona, Startup Unidos (SU), and the UArizona Office of Sustainability. The program creates opportunities for youth to see themselves as problem-solvers in their own community.
About Startup Unidos:
Since 2017, Startup Unidos cultivates collaboration, innovation, and entrepreneurship in border communities throughout the Arizona-Sonora region through ground-level programming that nurtures emerging companies, assists growing firms, builds the workforce of the future, and supports partner organizations in reaching underserved pockets of the community.