Even Green Products have Shades of Brown
Sometimes as consumers we have to make sacrifices in the pursuit of green
The greenest products are naturally occurring certified (NOSG) then organic certified, next 100% vegetable, made entirely of renewable wild crafted botanicals and pure essential oils, including palm oil grown without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, and from seeds that are not chemically or GM modified. Less green are those that include minerals or inorganic materials. The least green of the products use petrochemicals or animal substances.
There is no federal definition of what constitutes a natural product. No regulations or industry standards govern use of the words 'natural' or 'organic' in cleaning products, cosmetics or bath products. Many contain traces of synthetic and even toxic (by California Prop. 65 standards) substances. In personal care, the Natural Products Association has created its own standard and seal for the use of the word natural, which prohibits the use of many common synthetic skin care ingredients.
The USDA is considering proposals for a natural seal similar to, though even less stringent than, its organic seal which allows for organic compliant synthetic ingredients.
As the natural resources are used up in the world, chemists and biochemists are being asked to come up with innovative ways in which renewable resources can be used to replace non-renewable ones. But there will always continue to be a demand from some non-renewable resources.
Even very large companies like Avalon Organics and Aveda, who have a lot of money, are learning that manufacturing a shampoo or shower gel without toxic substances isn’t easy. Synthetic chemicals called phthalates add fragrance, parabens kill germs, and sulfuric acid and petrochemicals create a thick lather. Such substances have long been considered key ingredients in cosmetics and bath products. But they have been linked with cancer, skewed hormones and other threats to people and the environment. Avalon got rid of parabens but uses glycol ethers as preservatives. The Shaklee cleaner contains a small amount of a germ-killing biocide used as a preservative. Shaklee Corp.’s dishwashing detergent, for example, contains sodium carbonate. Shaklee products are not disinfectants, because antibacterial substances are toxic and not naturally derived.
"You can always say, I can do this greener," said Koester, Cognis’ marketing director, a company who early on supplied us with vegetable palm stearine for our dripless palm wax tapers said "you don’t want to go back to washing your hair with bar soap, do you? That would be the consequence of going too green."
But more and more of even the world’s largest chemical companies are looking for substitutes for some of the old petrochemicals that made them global powerhouses.
- BASF, which has $90 billion in annual sales, invented a plasticizer with no phthalates, which are estrogen-mimicking compounds used to make vinyl. It is marketed in China, where 80% of toys are produced.
- DuPont is using cornstarch as a key building block to make polyester.
- Dow Chemical Co. is turning soybeans into a compound for polyurethane foam and is building a plant in Brazil that will use sugar cane to make plastic for use in grocery bags and other products.
Green chemistry is "not just a niche anymore." said Neil Hawkins, Dow’s vice president of sustainability. "When you have retailers like Wal-Mart setting environmental goals," he said, "it creates a demand and a ripple effect for new, innovative products. I see some real changes right now, driven by the market."
For all of us serving in the natural foods industry it really comes down to what do 'green buyers' really want. At Aloha Bay we now have the leading edge technology, sustainable green chemistry and naturally occurring and certified organic raw materials to create the purest palm wax candle on the planet. However, to be sustainable, which for us means making sufficient sales to stay in business, enough of our customers have to be willing to pay a little extra to create a healthier environment for themselves and the planet.