What is Ursa Major all about?
Ursa Major makes clean, forest-infused face & body care essentials to power your everyday adventures. Our mission is to help people look, feel, and do their best by infusing their skincare - and their lives - with a healthy dose of the great outdoors. We're headquartered in Waterbury, Vermont.
How did the company start?
Ten years ago, Ursa Major cofounders, Oliver and Emily, moved from New York City to the mountains of Vermont to simplify their lives and be closer to the great outdoors. It didn't take long to notice the effects of their new, healthier lifestyle: mind, body, spirit, and skin - all changed for the better. Inspired by adventurous days on the trail, they created Ursa Major to help others - no matter where they live - get that "healthy mountain glow".
Why Redwoods, Zion, and Acadia for the bars?
We loved the idea of making this collection feel like a true adventure, and aimed to capture a coast-to-coast experience. Starting with Acadia on the east coast ( where U/M is also located), traveling west through Zion and all the way through to Redwood in California (where Parks Project is based!). The natural lands in America have so much beautiful variety, and we wanted to capture that in this collection with three parks that have such special, unique landscapes.
How did you match scent profiles to soap?
We aimed to capture the experience of being in Acadia, Redwood, and Zion as much as possible through their scents. We started by researching the native flora of the parks to understand the scents that naturally occur in the park. Then, we thought about the sensorial experience of the park - the crisp air of the rocky coast of Acadia, the dry desert setting of Zion, and the cool forest air of Redwood - and translated those sensorial experiences into various fragrance notes. We combined the scents of the native flora with scents that evoke the sensorial experience of the parks and arrived at the fragrances in the soap.
This falls hand in hand with our design for the bars as well. They are inspired by the iconic vistas at each park. Acadia is inspired by the adventurous shoreline of coastal Maine as it meets miles of Atlantic. Redwood is inspired by the Earthy reds and verdant greens of the park, and the grounding feeling of being enveloped in the lush, wild forest groves. And Zion is inspired by the ombre tones of the park's burnt sienna canyons.
How does a bar come to be?
These bars are made in Vermont using energy offset by solar farms. They are formulated with an ethically and sustainably sourced coconut oil base to create a creamy lather that doesn't strip the skin, and are triple-milled for a richer lather, extra smoothness and longer-lasting soap.
The process goes a little something like this:
1. Batching Stage
Soap pellets and other ingredients are added into a large mixer.
2. Refining and Extrusion Stage
The mixture is then refined by triple-milling/ french-milling. The first refiner extrudes the soap through a mesh screen to break it down into soap ribbons. The second refiner pushes the ribbons through a second mesh screen. The soap passes through a vacuum chamber, which pulls out any air to ensure that it is free of air pockets or streaks. In the final extrusion stage, a nose cone heats the outside of the soap slug to make it smooth and more pliable for pressing.
3. Cutting Stage
Soap slugs are cut into a shape that will fit the selected dye. Cut slugs are moved along on a conveyor belt as they prepare for the pressing stage.
4. STU Pressing Stage
Soap slugs are cut to just under the length of the final bar and pressed into the final shape.
Any type of scraps we have are repurposed into new soaps for folks in need: any remaining scraps that would usually wind up in a landfill are collected and donated to 'Clean the World', an organization that provides resources and education focused on water, sanitation, and hygiene for millions of people across the globe. They transform these scraps into new bars of soap and distribute them to communities in need.
What does "leave it better than you found it" mean to Ursa Major?
As passionate advocates for the outdoors, we adhere to the "leave it better than you found it" philosophy. We use only safe, clean, naturally-derived ingredients while avoiding all irritating and unhealthy conventional chemicals, which is important because ingredients don't just affect human health, they also impact the world around us. Our packaging is certified plastic negative (meaning that we remove two plastic bottles from the environment for every bottle we sell) and we also try to max out on post-consumer recycled content and use renewable energy to manufacture and source from within the United States to lower our carbon footprint.
We're also very proud to be a certified B corporation, redefining success and beyond financial goals and using business to make a positive impact on people and the planet. How we treat our employees, customers, community, and environment is just as important as how we treat our skin, so this is a big part of how we think about raising the bar for what it means to be a sustainable skincare company.