The Stench Behind Your Favourite Fragrance
Image Credit cottonbro

Smell has a way of transporting us to a faraway place, a memory in time, or into a different mood. However, are the scents that you love sustainable? What we're really thinking is, does it still smell sweet if it's made in a way that damages our environment? Let's dive into what sustainable means when it comes to fragrance. Broadly speaking, you can assess a fragrance's sustainability factor in 3 areas: whether it is eco-friendly (produces minimal waste), socially fair or cruelty-free.


What's in a smell?

To reach the level of concentration that humans can experience (because we have weak noses compared to other animals), fragrances need to be created in a way that enhances potency. In ancient times, pleasant smells were made by gathering fragrant plants or crushing them. Think of freshly plucked basil leaves, a squeezed lemon, or a handful of lavender. Sophisticated techniques, including pressing and steaming, extracted the oils within plants that had the desired scent. The word perfume stems from Latin. "Per" means through and "fumare" means to smoke.

Defining eco-friendly

The best way to gauge whether a fragrance is eco-friendly is to look at its production. But it's not as easy as simply deciding between botanical extraction methods, or synthetic lab methods. Both can be highly sustainable, and highly unsustainable. The difference is subtle and lies in the methods of production. 

The creation of synthetic scents can create toxic byproducts that harm the environment. Production can also cause large amounts of unusable waste from packaging, spent ingredients, and manufacturing processes. Finally, production's carbon footprint is also a factor. These factors can apply to any type of production.

Socially Fair Fragrances

A socially fair fragrance is sustainable because the company that produces it, engages in fair trade. You might wonder, then, what the connection between fair trade and sustainability is. 

When workers supplying raw ingredients used in fragrance production are not fairly compensated, farmers and other members in the supply chain experience uncertainty. Amid financial worry, producers are incentivised to find shortcuts, such as using cheaper (and more toxic) chemicals or processes in production, not disposing of production waste ethically, or scaling back on work that may nurture the environment in the long term but does not have immediate benefits to their present income.

Cruelty-Free Fragrance

At one point in time, the scent of musk was obtained by removing glands from a male musk deer to obtain a musk odour. While no longer occurring, the sad truth is that animal testing continues to be in practice.

Its connection to sustainability lies in that this use of animals and their disposal, and the associated use of chemicals and supplies, contributes to pollution. It also has negative impacts on biodiversity, public health, and the use of land and other resources.

Image Credit Marie Hunter Beauty BOURBON VANILLA CANDLE

The Clean Smell of Sustainability

When choosing to be more sustainable in your fragrance choices, you have a few options. Vegan brands are committed to using only plants and other botanicals in their production process. In doing so, they avoid contaminating the environment with chemical byproducts. 

Vegan fragrances that are made from the essential oils of fruits, flowers, and plants have become more available but may be more expensive. Their higher price point reflects characteristics like a more artisanal approach, slower and more intentional production, and higher quality ingredients.

You can also look for biodegradable ingredients. When scenting your home, choose candles over heavily plastic-packaged home scent tools which have to be thrown out as a whole and cannot be reused. Candles contained within the glass, while more expensive, are a great choice as the glass can be reused as a vase. Search also for cruelty-free brands which commit to no animal testing. 

In recent years, the question of whether soy wax is actually sustainable has arisen. The growing of soy plants has been linked to deforestation. An ongoing challenge, in our global trade world, is knowing the ingredient story of everything we buy. 

While not always easy, the search for a sustainable fragrance is possible. On top of that, many sustainable fragrances are created with less irritating ingredients, due to the higher likelihood of natural ingredients (as opposed to synthetic contents). When you love smells but suffer from sensitive skin, you may find that sustainable fragrances are the answer. 

Independent brands are making a difference

Available in 24 sumptuous natural scents, Gilded carries candles that are cruelty-free and hand-poured in small batches. Lasting 40 hours, the candles are contained in natural marble vessels which can be luxuriously reused as home decor. 

Sade Baron seeks to solve the problem of dry skin and irritating perfumes with natural spritzers that contain aloe vera juice, witch hazel, and a small amount of essential oil fragrance. Completely vegan and free of trouble ingredients like silicones, palm oil, parabens and more, the products are packaged in simple and repurposable spray bottles. 

Having suffered from acne and the associated scarring, Vetivert&Co's founder developed the brand to be vegan, as well as free from synthetic fragrance, parabens, and nut oils. Their incredible scented candles are handcrafted with botanical waxes and plant-based essential oils. 

Brûmée fragrances are made with only raw, natural ingredients in a water-based solution. They are alcohol-free to prevent your skin and body from drying out throughout the day— which allows you to simplify your product use. Packaged in elegant recyclable bottles, they are also vegan and cruelty-free.

Vegan, cruelty-free candles from Marie Hunter Beauty last up to 90 hours and are made with green chemistry, pushing the envelope of innovation in the clean beauty industry. Marie Hunter Beauty also gives a portion of its proceeds annually to various mental health organisations, helping support individuals with anxiety, depression and trauma-related disorders. 


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