A group of enterprising and environmentally minded local youth have launched the “Rescue Bar,” a soap bar made from landfill-destined tomatoes and other all-natural ingredients.
The seven middle, high school and early college students from Nogales and Rio Rico are part of a startup business called NOGECO, which seeks to address the issue of food waste in the local area, where millions of pounds of imported produce end up in the landfill every year. They formally launched the Rescue Bar via Instagram live on Oct. 17.
After winning a local pitch competition, NOGECO used their $5,000 reward on prototyping and testing a bar of soap made by converting tomatoes from the landfill into organic tomato powder. The group then worked with local soap and beauty product maker Alyssa Cazares of Milagros del Desierto to create the product.
They also used a portion of the $5,000 to create a web store and launch the Rescue Bars.
According to Nicole Cabrera of NOGECO, the soap is created by infusing the tomato powder with red clay. Other ingredients include Himalayan salt, and organic olive, coconuts and almond oils. She also touted the soap’s anti-inflammatory qualities due to the lycopene and zeaxanthin found in tomatoes.
An aspiring finance major at the University of Arizona, Cabrera said the experience of running a small business with NOGECO “has been an invaluable resource to me.”
“I get to practice the skills I learn in my studies and apply them,” she said, adding that “to apply these skills to the business that helps the community I grew up in is wonderful.”
The Tomato Rescue Bar is available for purchase at www.nogeco.com. NOGECO member Sergio Astorga said that “by purchasing our product, you help us support our border community and inspire youth to make a change.”
NOGECO is supported by Startup Unidos and the University of Arizona Office of Sustainability Compost Cats.