THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF ESSENTIAL OILS

 

As people are turning to natural alternatives to chemical-laden products, essential oils have become increasingly popular over the last decade. This high demand raises the question of their environmental impact. And how can we use natural essences from essential oils to enhance our well-being, without harming the planet? Since essential oils are a product of nature, it is vital that we employ sustainable and ethical practices to respect the environment, global economies, and our health. If we want to keep on enjoying essential oils for the years to come, we must make more conscious choices. Brands must commit to following regulations, implementing sustainable farming practices and producing essential oils in their country of origin, utilizing sustainable farming practices following regulations. On the other hand, it is the customers' responsibility to be informed and vigilant about harmful practices. Customers must commit to recycling and disposing bottles in a mindful manner. 

Less is more

First of all, enormous quantities of plant material are required to yield a small amount of essential oil. One of the reasons for this is the extraction process, and some essential oils are more difficult to extract than others. Some produce a very small yield during their distillation process, which is the percentage of oil obtained by the plant material. Another factor that affects the amount of essential oil produced by a plant is the weather.  When you realize all the plants, harvesting, and distillation that go into the production of an essential oil, you will not want to waste a single drop. The result of this resource-intensive process is a  bottled oil that is highly potent and extremely concentrated; a precious resource that must be used sensibly. Love and Lemons recommends diluting essential oils with a carrier oil. Diluting essential oils with carriers is not only safer; it also reduces the amount you use, which helps yield therapeutic effects and prevent complications.

Organically grown or organic essential oils

Love and Lemons employs organic farming practices to protect the planet and its people. We extract our essential oils from fresh plants that are grown and harvested in their country of origin, as to avoid using artificial techniques to control the climate, soil and weather and use plants where they naturally thrive. Unfortunately, corporate farms commonly use pesticides to meet the demand, which can be hazardous to the ecosystem. Unless a company provides you with all the relevant information to prove their certification, you cannot determine where pesticides were used on the crops. Keep in mind that organic certification does not exist in some countries, and companies sourcing from those locations often do not have labels on their bottles.

Endangered species

An alternative to corporate farming is wild harvesting. However, we must stick to the rule of not harvesting more than 10% of any wild crop for the production of an essential oil. Furthermore, no large quantities of essential oils should be harvested from endangered species. Using less of the plant or searching for alternatives will limit the negative impact on the ecosystem before these vulnerable species disappear completely. The main species of concern include frankincense, rosewood, sandalwood, cedarwood and spikenard. Essential oils from these species are often adulterated to meet the demand. Following the harvesting guidelines as a producer ensures honest production and increases the chances of the species' survival.  If you would like to learn more about endangered plants, look up the IUCN Red list.

Disposing of essential oils

As some essential oils are toxic or flammable, the disposing of essential oil bottles must be done with care. Some cities recycle the bottles, whilst others don't unless the containers are empty.  When an essential oil has expired, or only a small amount remains in the bottle, there are several ways to use it completely. For relaxing scents, you could simply soak the bottle in a jar of Epsom salt for the substance to be fully absorbed. 'Expired' essential oils can be used in natural cleaning products or a passive diffuser. When the oil is oxidized, dispose of the bottle responsibly by contacting your local municipality waste management’s hazardous-waste program or if your municipality doesn’t provide such a service, by reaching out to your regional district for guidance. 

Every essential oil is contained by a glass bottle, topped with a cap and dropper. Whilst most municipalities recycle the glass bottles, the caps, attachments and droppers often end up in the trash.  As for the ring, make sure to cut it. Find out if your city will take them, as some companies have special recycling programs for such needs. Once you have used that last drop of precious oil, you can reuse the bottles by refilling them with your own mixtures. They also make great travel containers! But make sure to soak them first for a few hours in a bucket of warm water and dish soap. Then peel off the labels and run the bottles through the wash cycle of your dishwasher, along with the caps and droppers. 

Eco-friendly packaging and mindful business practice

As an e-commerce company, Love and Lemons is dedicated to finding sustainable ways to do business and positively contributing to our environment.  Another way essential oil companies can make a difference by their choice of packaging. Our packaging is made from 100% recycled materials, including recycled plastic.

 

Here are some questions about sustainability to ask yourself when purchasing essential oils: 

  • Are the Latin name and origins listed?

  • Is it a reputable source? What is the relationship with the distillers?

  • What is their level of production? What methods or extraction are they using? Do they respect timelines? Are they producing oils from the freshly harvested plants or from dried materials? How is the plant cultivated? Is it commercially grown? Does it grow wild? It is grown organically? 

  • Does their distiller follow sustainable practices?

  • What are they doing to ensure the future of endangered species such as frankincense, rosewood, sandalwood, and spikenard?

  • What practices do they employ to reduce their environmental footprint?

  • Can you access information about the Ecocert or organic certification? 

  • Can you access the GC/MS reports on their website or can the company provide you with them? GC/MS reports provide a chemical breakdown of essential oil components, helping ensure purity and quality.

  • Can you access the MSDS? An MSDS is a Material Safety Data Sheet that states health hazards, flammability and first aid procedures. The MSDS also states guidelines on use, handling, storage, disposal, and spill clean up. 

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