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Green Promises for Grey Realities: the Green Brothers Exposed

The understanding of terms like "natural," "sustainable," and "organic" can vary significantly between individuals and businesses. Some define "natural ingredients" as those originating from purely natural sources, but this definition doesn't consider potential chemical alterations. A more precise description might be "derived from natural ingredients." However, the extent to which a product can be altered and still be considered natural remains uncertain. It's also unclear whether terms like "sustainable" or "green" have any real significance in this context.

To accurately assess a product's sustainability, it's essential to conduct a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and make the findings publicly available. LCA evaluates the environmental and human health impacts of a product throughout its entire life cycle, including production, use, and disposal. It encompasses more than 15 environmental factors, such as carbon footprint, water usage, and land use.

LCA offers in-depth insights into the sources of these impacts, bolstering sustainability claims and enhancing overall environmental performance. Currently, many sustainability claims are vague and rely on arbitrary standards, often resulting in a phenomenon known as "greenwashing." The industry is moving towards adopting a requirement for a clear definition and supporting evidence through LCA analysis, a shift that is already being discussed in Europe.

In the realm of cosmetics, Europe defines the term "organic" based on the proportion of organic materials in the final product. The primary organic cosmetic certification mandates that at least 20% of the formula consists of organic components, and 95% of the plants used must be organic. However, a limitation of this definition is that it includes water and minerals, making it possible to label a product as organic even if it primarily contains water.

To eliminate confusion and enhance transparency, it is crucial to implement stricter criteria. Labels such as "100% organic" (as used in the US) or "predominantly organic" could be introduced. Consumers often feel let down by unclear labels and expect certifying organizations to uphold higher standards.

Two potential models for labeling systems can be drawn from the European textile and American food industries:

a. European textile standard This system allows clothing to be labeled as "organic" if over 95% of the fibers used are organic. Alternatively, there is a second option where the label states "Made with xx% organic materials" when at least 70% of the fibers used are organic. Such a system brings transparency to consumers.

b. American food standard The American food regulation should serves as an inspiration model for European cosmetics, offering clarity with the use of four different levels of classification :

  • 100% organic: when all ingredients are organic

  • organic: when at least 95% of ingredients can be effective considered as such

  • made with organic ingredients: when it is at least 70%

  • Less Than 70% organic ingredients: Three of the organic ingredients must be listed under the "ingredients" heading

In the realm of sustainable, organic, and natural cosmetics, safety varies depending on components, manufacturing processes, and dosages. The safest approach is to scrutinize the ingredient list to find a product that aligns with your specific requirements.

In the context of sustainable, organic, and natural cosmetics, product safety hinges on factors like components, manufacturing processes, and dosages. To find a product that aligns with your specific needs, a prudent approach is to carefully examine the ingredient list.

For a comprehensive understanding of sustainability, it is imperative that Life Cycle Analyses (LCAs) become a mandatory part of any sustainability claim. Unfortunately, in today's world, most businesses only provide a carbon footprint analysis for their products. Conducting a full LCA is intricate and data-intensive. A carbon footprint analysis is a step in the right direction, but it represents just one facet of an LCA, which encompasses 15 different environmental factors.

It's crucial to acknowledge that most modern activities have some level of environmental impact, often negative. True sustainability is achieved when the rate of extinction is lower than the rate of regeneration. Since the Industrial Revolution, we have faced significant environmental challenges driven by advances in health and comfort. However, we can remain hopeful that innovations will effectively address these issues.

In summary, the core objective of LCA is to assess products and processes to identify those with the least environmental impact. While full transparency remains a distant goal, we are making progress in our efforts to understand and enhance sustainability.



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