You might have learned to think of synthetic as evil. But sometimes, natural ingredients aren’t the most sustainable ones.
If you haven’t joined the eco-friendly movement, you should. But it might sometimes be a challenge to assess what’s sustainable and what’s not. We’ve been told over and over that natural, organic products are better for the environment than synthetic ones. But it might not always be so.
Science has proved that some natural extracts do more harm than good –think of palm oil, vanilla, and some floral extracts. But let’s first start by analyzing what sustainable means.
Sustainability is a difficult concept to define, it can actually mean many things –it could be supporting local communities creating materials, or using renewable energies, protecting the environment –this is why it is difficult to determine which products are sustainable and which aren’t.
While nature is wonderful, its resources are finite –imagine the large amounts of plants you need to produce beauty products on an industrial scale. For example, if you wanted to use a natural scent for a laundry detergent, there would not be enough land in the world to grow enough perfume. This is why we opt for synthetic alternatives to save natural resources for food, for example.
It is actually better to select either synthetic or natural fragrances depending on their environmental impact, for example: Producing a single pound of lavender essential oil can take roughly 250 pounds of lavender while producing the same amount of rose can take roughly 10,000 pounds of rose petals.
Palm oil is natural and safe, but it is grown on plantations where the rainforest has been clear cut –so they end up displacing thousands of species. The same goes for products that are taken from animals.
A lot of synthetic products have been created inspired by nature and biomimicry. Organic chemistry is in fact, based on nature –we can create the same molecules that occurred in nature, but were made in a laboratory.
How to make better choices
There is not unfortunately a label that you can read that lets you know whether the product is sustainable or not, the best choice is to actually ask questions to the brands you buy from.
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