Are Essential Oils Unsustainable?
There has been alot of talk about essential oils being unsustainable (and bashing in general) that we have seen lately, so we are here to set the record straight about these precious substances!
Essential oils just like anything else, can be sustainably or unsustainably sourced depending on the supplier. Let's take our palo santo sticks for example: they can be sourced directly from the tree itself by cutting it down, or sourced from fallen trees or branches. The same goes for many essential oils.
Oils like sandalwood are thought to be ONLY sourced from live trees when in fact, much of the harvest coming out of countries like Australia is from fallen trees. The tree can retain it's precious oils for many years after falling. There are strict regulations in many countries which explicitly prohibit the unsustainable sourcing of particular oils like sandalwood. This is why we must stay vigilant about sourcing and ask the companies providing your essential oils the right questions. A couple of questions we would ask a supplier:
In what country was this essential oil sourced?
This alone can tell you what you need to know often enough if you know the current laws within that country.
Are your essential oils sustainably sourced? What methods are your farmers using to ensure they are?
Replanting, harvesting from fallen trees/branches, etc. are all wonderful methods for ensuring the Earth isn't being harmed in the harvesting process.
A company should always happily answer your questions. Choosing an ethical company is KEY to ensuring your oils are in fact earth friendly. Choosing the cheapest option is great for your budget, but isn't the sustainable choice.
We as a company ALWAYS choose the option that keeps the Earth happy. A little story about us: we once found a supplier for some of our jars that was 10 cents less than our current supplier. That is A LOT when you talking about hundreds/thousands of jars a year. We ordered from that supplier and recieved our shipment with packing peanuts: AKA styrofoam, which is not recyclable. We immediately sent them an email to express our concerns and were met with a rude response. What did we do? We ate the 10 cents per jar and went back to our original company who ships to us plastic free RECYCLABLE packaging. The sad reality is that the majority of companies out there would have chosen to save the 10 cents at the Earth's expense.
The same goes for essential oils. There are cheaper suppliers we could purchase from that are not doing the right thing, but we choose to pay a little more to ensure our entire process is in tune with nature. We choose ethical suppliers who fairly trade, who are cruelty free, and who sustainably source ingredients ONLY.
Another thing that is very important to keep in mind with essential oils is appropriate dilution. We make our apothecary goodies with health in mind, not necessarily scent. While we love a good scent, we won't use higher dilutions simply to achieve a certain smell. This can not only cause a sensitivity, but it is also not sustainable. We use appropriate dilutions for each use depending on a number of factors:
Will a product be used short term or long term? Is the product something a client may use daily? Will this product be safe and effective at a particular dilution? So many factors go into the dilutions we choose. We strive to make our products sustainable, effective, and safe over anything else!
Can using TOO MUCH essential oil be unsustainable? Yes. It absolutely can be. Many companies selling essential oils promote the frivolous use of them. This is not only dangerous, but also unsustainable. You must only take what you need from the Earth, always leave room for nature, and give back to mother nature in return. The importance of remaining in harmony with nature runs deep in our veins. It is the very essence of our company. We encourage you to use our products when you need them, and never abuse the gifts bestowed upon us from nature.
Essential oils are potent medicine, it's true. That is why they must be treated with the utmost respect and reverence. They are in fact highly concentrated substances that must be treated as such. While this can make them dangerous in certain situations, it also makes them even more effective than simply an herbal infusion. Don't get me wrong, we love a good infusion and use them in many of our products, but often even just a few drops of essential oil can greatly enhance a product's effectiveness.
We hope this post clarifies claims that essential oils are unsustainable in general and reassures you that they are truly amazing. We encourage you to use them with the respect they deserve.
About The Author: Alicia is a NAHA certified level 2 aromatherapist, skin care guru, organic product formulator, avid gardener, writer, wife, and mother to two boys. She is an organic living advocate on a mission to spread the word about living a natural lifestyle.
You can purchase her organic aromatherapy goods at www.apothepurity.com