Blog / Social entrepreneurship
He asked me why I would write an article about mass incarceration on my skincare website. Organic skincare products are part of my mission but, if I’m doing it right, they are the smallest part.
My organic skincare products are not equally accessible to all. I preach about our oneness and caring for our one, collective planet and for our bodies—but I’m thinking of all the bodies of women and men in prison across the country that need nourishment and can’t afford—or, more realistically, are denied access—to the kind of nourishment that comes in the form of my skincare oils.
And I’m thinking too small if I’m just thinking of them. They are only a small portion of the disenfranchised when it comes to being able to purchase a $45 bottle of organic beauty oils.
My mission, consequentially, must be bigger than that. I must imagine the impact of my work beyond those who can afford it.
What I am, then, is an advocate for beauty—which means I am an advocate for social justice because human rights and equality and fairness are beauty. Which means I am an advocate for our earth because a sustainable, life-giving planet is beauty. Which means I am an advocate for intuition because beautiful things arise when we listen to our instincts. Which means I am an advocate for kindness and community and peace because that is beauty, too.
I believe articles about mass incarceration can exist alongside bottles of organic creams and, more importantly, that they should. Our products do not exist in a vacuum—they have impacts beyond themselves, impacts on the earth, on those who buy them, on those who can’t or don’t, on those who work to create them.
To deny this is to highlight our nearsightedness.
I am so grateful that I get to grace my skin with organic oils from the earth and that I get to share them with some of you, but I will not be so singularly focussed to believe that skincare products are my only responsibility.
Legacy is not just what they’ll write about us in books, but how we leave our communities and our planet. I hope that, together, we can leave it better.
*Image: A drawing sent to me from one of my "adopted" pen pals, Alicia, who is my age, a mother of two, and is incarcerated in Texas.
I discovered Adopt an Inmate on a whim that brought with it the weight of synchronicity and alignment. I had been led here—to wanting to converse with prison inmates—by reading. One book led into the other, from Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy to Shaka Senghor’s Writing My Wrongs and even Piper Kerman’s Orange Is the New Black. Slowly, as I read, I began to be moved by the injustice of the prison system, by the humanness of those who commit crimes and find themselves digging deep to survive behind bars, and by the urgency of change: we need to heal.
I am a healer by trade but I discovered, in these strangers navigating and narrating the prison system, a deep unsettling in the midst of us, of dis-ease. It is the core of our beings that needs to heal and the core of our society that needs to change, to find its way back to the way as many Native Peoples call the path of peace, balance, and belonging. We all have created this mess and we all must be part of its healing.
I also wanted to connect to inmates, particularly women in prison, because I believe they deserve to be heard. Because I believe they deserve to feel like they belong, to know they have support, community; to know they are loved. To know someone, many someones, believes in them. Regardless of who we are or what we’ve done, we all need and deserve this.
To achieve a peaceful world, we must create and communicate peacefully. We must extend peace to see it returned. We must exist out of love, communion; the spirit of oneness.
I am so grateful Adopt an Inmate has created a space for us to commune and heal. That they bring us, in our individuality, together as equals. That they allow humanity to transcend prison bars and prison walls. And that they are shining light on a system that is unjust, imbalanced; diseased. I’m honored that their work and the letters I share with my adoptees will not only, with any luck, give them hope and maybe even some joy, but that they will heal and teach me.
For every Face Oil sold, I donate $1 to Adopt an Inmate.
BY ASHLEY ASTI
My products are at the forefront of my work and I want to ensure that they're rooted in wellness and healing. That they nourish your body and support you in living well—healthy, vibrantly.
But I also believe that when you buy a product, you don't just buy the product; you buy everything that company stands for. So, when you buy ASHLEY ASTI products, I want you to know that you're also buying a commitment to sustainability.
And you're buying a commitment to compassion and oneness. Giving back is an inextinguishable part of our mission and we have a handful of nonprofit partners who are rooted in serving with gentleness and kindness and peace. This is inseparable from our mission and I cannot imagine offering you a product that doesn't also serve our planet and our two-legged, four-legged, or winged communities.
Ashley had the honor of being interviewed by St. Joseph's College's radio station manager Brian Gully recently. He sat down with Ashley to talk organic living and entrepreneurship. The interview is fun, thoughtfully done, and curated entirely by students. Check it out:
To create a peaceful world, we must create with pure and peaceful intentions. At ASHLEY ASTI, we want to be part of the solution.
KP, thank you for reaching out to me—I'm always grateful for these kinds of conversations. They inspire me to continue focussing on what matters: ethical creation, sustainability, and your wellness. At ASHLEY ASTI, we promise to continue making strides in this direction as we learn and discover more and gain the resources to grow. Here’s what we know and do so far to shift our production—and our world—toward stewardship.
First, all of our ingredients are certified organic. That's a must for us and we will not compromise. Our bodies and our planet do not deserve to be poisoned by toxic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. We are in tune with the earth and deserve to find agricultural techniques that honor the earth’s natural rhythms.
Second, as of now, our organic shea butter and organic coconut oil are also certified Fair Trade, meaning farmers earn fair wages to help them build sustainable businesses and, therefore, thriving communities. The Fair Trade certification also requires strict environmental stewardship, with standards that include:
- Banning the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
- Protecting water resources and natural vegetation areas
- Promoting agricultural diversification, erosion control, and no slash and burn
- Restricting the use of pesticides and fertilizers
- Requiring proper management of waste, water, and energy
Finally, at ASHLEY ASTI, we also hold our essential oils to a high standard to ensure your wellness and the enduring vitality of the earth: all of our essential oils are certified organic and many come from Mountain Rose Herbs, a company that has Fair for Life standards. This means they treat their workers fairly, pay them living wages, and ensure a safe working environment. Mountain Rose Herbs has also developed a Good Trade Program where farmers have full negotiation rights, meaning farmers set the prices, and not the other way around. This allows the farmers and their communities to flourish and continue following sustainable agricultural practices. In fact, one of the Fair Trade principles is community development: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers invest Fair Trade premiums in social and business development projects like scholarships, schools, quality improvement and leadership training, and organic certification.
As a company, we’re growing more and more into our purpose and our mission and, over this next year, we want to look scrupulously at our creations, from where they begin in the earth to where they end up, to make sure what we’re doing is promoting a sustainable earth, fair and healthy labor conditions, sustainable and blooming communities, and mind-body-soul wellness.
We know that transformation requires commitment. We’re committed to clean, ethical development because we each deserve to thrive.
*article written by Katherine Martinko
From its line of organic, vegan, non-toxic products to its glass packaging, ASHLEY ASTI is on a mission to change the world through wellness.
Whenever I receive a new order of organic skin care products, I pay close attention to the packaging. That says a lot about a company’s true commitment to the environment. So when a parcel recently arrived from ASHLEY ASTI, I was thrilled to see it come in a tiny cardboard box, with each glass bottle wrapped snugly in shredded brown paper. Clearly this is a company that cares.
The line of ASHLEY ASTI skin care products is just as impressive as its packaging. Made from 100% organic, vegan, and non-toxic ingredients, the products are designed to support, rather than interfere, with the skin’s natural processes.
“Your skin knows how to heal itself,” Ashley wrote to TreeHugger. “All we have to do it honor it.”
Read the full review here.
“Whenever we try to pick out anything by itself,” John Muir wrote, “we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
This should be our first commandment: we are connected to all that is.
In other words, whether you realize it or not, we are all creators. If anything I do is hitched to everything else in the universe, then every thought, every action of mine has global implications.
We are powerful. And we are powerfully interconnected.
It is our responsibility, then, to consciously participate in the world.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Natalie Kay Smith, the creator of Sustainably Chic, a blog, boutique, and community for the conscious consumer. “We all can make a difference by what we decide to purchase (& NOT purchase),” she writes. “Shop positive, shop small, and shop sustainably.” Natalie knows the law of interconnection—and she’s determined to live by it.
Here’s what she had to say about the ways the every day choices we make as consumers can impact the world. We have the power to experience a new planet. All we have to do is change our perspective.
Q: When you talk about sustainable or ethical production, what do you mean?
A: Sustainable production is where quality, economics and the environment play a large role. You want to create a product that lasts, sustains your business financially, and has little impact on the earth. Ethical production is how the immediate environment is treated during the process. People must be paid a fair wage, and there must be respect for the planet and its inhabitants.
Q: Can you give us some examples of harmful practices in the mainstream fashion industry?
A: Wow . . . where to begin?! Fast fashion (which includes places like Forever 21, and, yes, GAP/JCrew/Etc are part of it) is responsible for mistreatment of employees, waste and destruction of the environment and people. Workers in third world countries make extremely low wages in terrible working conditions where they are constantly struggling to feed their children and put them in school. Cotton farmers are taken advantage of, and tons of towns are affected with disease because of cleaning processes and its chemicals. Clothes we discard (because let’s face it, the stuff is cheap and unwearable after 7 wears—that’s the point of it all) are thrown by the waste side back into these countries where they sit and discard harmful chemicals back into the atmosphere. T-shirts aren’t meant to be $5. If it is $5, then something is obviously wrong, and someone is being taken advantage of.
Q: On your blog, you describe the unethical, unsustainable side of fashion as “fast fashion.” Instead, you call on each of us to “shop small,” essentially to choose companies that are part of the slow fashion landscape, companies that are mindful of human rights, wellness, and earth’s longevity. How can such small, local actions on our part as consumers create such a big, universal impact?
A: I blog a lot about how strongly I believe in the community and change beginning on a personal level. So many people are quick to wanting to change things at the top by getting rid of these bad guys, but I don’t believe things work well this way. We put a lot of our power into something big, and it takes away from what we can do in our own environment. Why spend time fighting greed, when you can spread compassion and awareness so easily around you? Our voice is heard so much better in a small area.
Q: In my work as an entrepreneur, creating consciously—in tune with the earth and the health of all humans and creatures that walk the planet—feels like an expression of gratitude to the cosmos for this land I live on and this body I have. What has embarking on this mission to create sustainably and create a community around ethical production taught you about your own connection to the earth, the cosmos, your body?
A: Creating this community has taught me a lot about individual impact. This earth has over 7 billion people, and I never thought my existence would ever mean anything. The more I dive into the subject of sustainability, the more I feel connected to the people and environment around me. It would be difficult to be an advocate for a sustainable society, and not feel a great connection to yourself, the earth, and the cosmos. Sustainability is about the future, and we have to understand the present in order to pave a brighter path for generations to come.
Q: You’ve intentionally created Sustainably Chic as not just a blog, but a community. Why does joining together with others on a similar mission matter?
A: There is so much power in the community. When it is strong and passionate, it can accomplish anything. Especially, when sustainability has a small voice, we need a few others to help make it a little louder!
Q: Alice Walker believes activism is her rent for living on the planet. Do you, too, feel a responsibility to be an advocate—to leave a legacy of peace by raising awareness about our daily choices? In other words, do you feel a responsibility or call to do what you’re doing?
A: Of course! I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Nothing else fulfills me. Once you know the horrors of the fashion & beauty industry, I don’t know how you couldn’t stop talking about it. The conversation won’t end until things change.
Please, finish the sentence:
Sustainable production is peaceful production because . . . it shows compassion for people and the planet.
When I wake up in the morning and think about my work, I feel . . . excited. I have never been so happy about having to ‘work’. I can’t wait to wake up every morning (makes me an early riser!).
I am grateful for . . . being able to eat, sleep and work in a comfortable environment. Being in this business, you really see how fortunate you are to have those everyday things.
When I think about the future, I . . . see a conscious planet.