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Experimenting with numbers – counting chemicals when you go organic.

May 26, 2013

So yesterday I worked out roughly how many unique chemicals I am putting onto my body every day based on my current personal care regimen and the total was a rather astonishing 368 including perfume.  Excluding perfume (Assuming that I’d been able to get each product in a ‘nude’ version) the total would have been closer to 118 as for the purpose of this exercise we are counting ‘perfume’ as having 250 unique ingredients.

I’ve been thinking about this on and off today and came up with the idea that I should run through the experiment again but pretend that I’d gone out and replaced my items with Australian Made organics wherever possible.  I chose organic products that are the type of thing that I would buy and that would most closely replace what I already use in terms of performance, key features and style.

The chemical count came in much lower (as you would probably expect) but I still have questions.

These horses were eager to see how this day in  ‘greener’ skin care stacked  up so let’s get started.

Horses

1) Mukti Organics Shampoo

Certified Organic Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice; Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate; Cocobetaine; Certified Organic Aqueous Extracts of Bladderwrack (Fucus Vesiculosus), Calendula (Calendula Officinalis), Chamomile (Chamomilla Recutita), Ginkgo Biloba Leaf, Horsetail (Equisetum Arvense), Nettle (Urtica Dioica), Red Clover (Trifolium Pratense), Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis), Sage (Salvia Officinalis) & Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium); Vitamin B5 (Panthenol); Vitamin E (Tocopherol); Certified Organic Essential Oil of Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia); Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia) blend preservative; Salt (Sodium Chloride); Citric Acid.

20 Ingredients.

2) Mukti Organics Conditioner:

Certified Organic Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice; Certified Organic Aqueous Extracts of Chamomile (Chamomilla Recutita), Calendula (Calendula Officinalis) & Lime flower (Tilia Cordata); Certified Organic Glycerin (Vegetarian); Behentrimonium Methosulfate; Cetearyl Alcohol; Hydrolysed Soy Protein (non GMO); Argan (Argania Spinosa) Kernal Oil; Glyceryl Stearate; Certified Organic Honey (Mel); Certified Organic Essential Oils of Lavender Oil (Lavandula Angustifolia) & Mandarin (Citrus Nobilis); Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia) blend preservative.

9 unique ingredients

3) Mukti tinted moisturiser SPF 15 to replace foundation.

Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice*; Zinc Oxide; Green Tea (Camellia Sinensis) Extract*; Shea Butter (Butyrospermum Parkii)*; Glycerin (Vegetarian); Macadamia (Macadamia Ternifolia) & Jojoba (Simmondsia Chinensis) Oils*, Cetearyl Glucoside; Rosehip (Rosa Canina) & Calendula (Calendula Officinalis) Oils*; Vitamin E (Tocopherol); Essential Oils of Mandarin (Citrus Madurensis), Ylang Ylang (Cananga Odorata), Patchouli (Pogestemon Cablin), Tagetes (Tagetes Minuta)*; Benzyl Alcohol, Salicylic Acid & Sorbic Acid; Tint – Mica; Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499).

17 Unique Ingredients

4) Pure and Green Organics Toothpaste:

Aloe Vera Juice, Sodium Cocoate,  Potassium Olivate, Peppermint Oil, Radish Root Extract, Sclerotium Gum, Sodium Bicarbonate, Guar Gum, Citric Acid, Stevia Leaf, Clove Bud Oil.

7 Unique Ingredients

5) Pure and green hand soap

Sodium Olivate, Sodium Cocoate, Shea Butter, Lavender Flower Buds, Lavender Essential Oil.

2 Unique Ingredients 

6) Moo Goo Fresh Cream Deodorant:

Ingredients: Water (Purified), Magnesium Hydroxide (Milk Of Magnesia), Xantham Gum (Food Grade Thickener), Backhousia Citriodora Leaf Oil (Aussie Lemon Mytrle), Zea Mays (Corn) Seed Flour, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Extract.

6 Unique Ingredients.

7) Pure and Green Basic Moisturiser.

Aloe Vera Juice, Jojoba Oil, Macadamia Nut Oil, Rosehip Oil, Australian Native Daisy Extract, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Shea Nut Butter, Alcohol, Vanilla Extract, Almond Extract, Sclerocium Gum.

6 unique ingredients

8) Mineral Powdered make up by Inika to replace my pressed powder.

Mica (CI 77019) May contain (+/-) Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891); Zinc Oxide (CI 77947); Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499); Ultramarines (CI 77007).

2 unique ingredients.

TOTAL COUNT:  69.

——————————————————

So I asked myself ‘what does a chemical count of 69 a day feel like’?

I have to be honest that if I didn’t know the figures for the ‘normal’ skin care I would have probably thought wow, that sounds like quite a few!  This wold have been because I am in the lab every week making this stuff and I know what it feels like to sort out, weight out and put away 69 ingredients.  I would have thought the total would have been closer to 30-40 rather than 69 but anyhow…..

Thinking about this number knowing that my ‘normal’ count was 118 minus fragrance makes this look much more favourable – not quite half but getting their.  I would immediately jump to the conclusion that this would make my new personal care regimen less impactful on the environment and therefore more attractive.  Because of my background and personal experience I still wouldn’t worry too much at this stage about the health benefits/ costs of this change.  For me it is all about resources.

Based on the above what should be done next?

I still have a lot of questions with regards to sustainability and the footprint of our cosmetic choices and would like to explore those a little more to enable me to better quantify the benefits/ costs of making a change, not least because this little lot of every day cosmetics is going to set me back a whopping $205.30 vs the $55 for my standard purchases.

Are essential oils better for the environment than regular perfumes?

Are these organic products any more biodegradable/ water friendly than my traditional items?

What are the air miles flown for these organics vs my ‘normal’ range and how would that transport impact on sustainability?

and finally.

Do these products remain functional and ‘safe’ during their shelf life as that also impacts sustainability.

Clearly there is more work to be done but so far you would have to say that on a pure numbers game then Organic brands look to have an advantage over the ‘normal’ (and I only say normal because it was my normal/ usual purchase) brands.   However, as that is more emotion driven than science I’m refraining from giving out any gold stars or smiley face just yet.

Have fun, I’m off to spend $205.30……….

 

 

 

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 17, 2013 1:18 am

    I guess it depends on what works for you. I prefer natural oils vs. synthetic, but that’s because a lot of synthetically-scented products irritate my skin. ‘Scentless’ ones don’t, and I’ve used enough relatively skin-safe EOs to know that I don’t react poorly. However, someone with allergies might choose synthetics for the same reason. Whether or not either is better for our environment doesn’t really enter into the scenario for me because on a large scale, people will not choose ‘better for environment’ more than they choose immediate pleasure. A few thousand or even a few million don’t matter all that much stacked against 7.11 billion others and growing on a daily basis.

    Then we have to look at what it takes to farm and harvest all that’s required for those oils and materials. It takes thousands of roses to make a few drops of rose oil. Do we have those resources? Do we have the water to grow them? Because roses and nuts take up a LOT of water, and they’re very prone to plant disease. We run into the same problem with veganism on a large scale: literally not enough nutrition per pound of food raised compared to land used for livestock. It takes way more land to grow the food required by a vegan diet, and we don’t have a lot of viable resources in water-dense areas. The cost of bringing water steadily into regions like the Midwest are just too high for farming to be viable. In essence, the farmers here are already too poor to eat their own crops half the time! To spend more money on production is a disaster, environmentally and financially.

    Then as you said, uniformity in a major product is key. That means flying these materials from all over to one factory before shipping it all back out. And you can’t use bulk-size bottles because they go rancid before they’re used! So there’s the packaging production involved too, usually petrol-based plastics that can’t be recycled. Most of my major city doesn’t have recycling, even in apartment complexes. You have to store it up for a month and then take it yourself to some far away facility. I don’t even know where one is. Then, there’s the question of storage in transit: does that stuff need refrigeration? It sure as hell won’t get it in a warehouse, or on the shelves of a Wal-mart.

    So while I love the idea of organics, the fact is that I’d probably have to source locally and make them myself in small batches for it to be truly sustainable, affordable, and usable. Organic grapeseed oil from the store makes a great massage oil, but I’ll probably also stick with my regular shampoo, synthetics be damned.

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