How green are your ingredients? Going plant-based
LET’S TALK ‘GREEN’ INGREDIENTS
We know there has been an explosion of ‘green’ ingredients in recent years. Broad brush,we think that’s great. More natural ingredients and less synthetic is undoubtedly good for our health and good for our environment.
But...some businesses are doing a better job of this than others. It’s not always easy to differentiate what might be a tokenistic ‘green’ ingredient from those really making a significant difference through more sustainable formulations. So here’s where we think we can offer a helping hand.
WHAT DO WE REALLY MEAN BY ‘GREEN’ INGREDIENTS
- Well, we admit, it’s not easy to navigate! There is very limited consensus within industry on minimum and optimum ‘green’ standards that should be reached. Certifications are voluntary. So we set our own standards to ensure you can be clear exactly what your product does and doesn’t contain.
- We like to visualise it as a ladder. The more plant-based the better so those products sit at the top of the ladder and the more synthetic based products sit at the bottom.
- Visual to be added of a ladder with Plant derived at the top, then plant-based, then bio-based, then synthetic at the bottom. Inside the rungs of the ladder we name each of the 4 categories and hover over each to give a one line explanation. Arrows pointing upwards along the side of the ladder labelled ‘Renewable’ and ‘Non-animal based’ and ‘Plant-based carbon’ – showing that these positive factors increase as you move up the ladder.
- Top of Ladder – Plant-derived: From renewable, non-animal sources. We classify a product or ingredient as ‘plant-derived’ only if it is made of 100% plant-based carbon.
- Next – Plant-based: From renewable, non-animal sources. We classify a product or ingredient as ‘plant-based’ only if more than 50% is made from plant-based carbon.
- 3rd from top – Bio-based: From primarily renewable sources that are not petroleum based. Bio-based ingredients are derived from many different agricultural, marine, and forestry materials, and they can include animal ingredients.
- Bottom of Ladder – Synthetic: Ingredients obtained entirely from non-renewable fossil sources like natural gas, petroleum and oil.
- So, in a nut-shell, synthetic is non-renewable and therefore at the bottom of our list. Bio-based is better because it’s renewable. Plant-based is even better as it’s non-animal based but plant-derived trumps them all because it’s 100% plant-based. Yay!
- A word on Vegan…… It’s worth noting that, given bio-based ingredients can include animal ingredients, bio-based may not be enough if you are looking for a vegan option. However, we can reassure you that the bio-based ingredients in Seventh Generation are exclusively plant-based and contain no animal ingredients. Good news!
MAXING OUT ON PLANT-DERIVED & PLANT-BASED INGREDIENTS
Seventh Generation strives for maximum plant-derived and plant-based ingredients. Hover over this ingredient list on one of our packs to get a sense of how we do. Hopefully you’ll like the fact that we are pretty strong on the plant-derived and plant-based ingredient content.
COMING CLEAN ON SYNTHETIC PRESERVATIVES
We’ve not cracked this one yet but it’s right up there at the top of our priority list. Our goal is to achieve 100% bio-based products by 2020. We currently sit at 97% (Check figures for UK with R&D and whether we can write as plant-based rather than bio-based). So near yet so far! We continue the search for a plant-based preservative that is safe and effective. For now, the benefits of an effective preservative far outweigh the negatives of a synthetic ingredient. Just to reassure you, the synthetic ingredients we do use are at part-per-million levels (so pretty teeny tiny) and they biodegrade so they don’t accumulate in the environment.
HIDDEN CHEMICALS IN FRAGRANCES
Companies have come under flack in recent years (we think rightly so!) for the potentially toxic mix of chemicals hidden in product fragrances with no disclosure of what’s really inside. Product ingredients can simply be listed with a catch-all description of ‘fragrance’. Well, we have long been determined to turn the tide on this dark industry trait.
All Seventh Generation scents are derived from essential oils and botanical ingredients. We detail out on our packs all the ingredients within our fragrances so you can see for yourself.
As you can probably tell, we do have a bit of a bee in our bonnet about this one! We’d like to see more businesses come clean on their real fragrance ingredients.
FOSSIL-FUEL BASED INGREDIENTS ARE THE ENEMY
Yes, we really do feel that strongly about it. We’re grateful for the fantastic inventions and developments fossil-fuels have enabled over decades, we really are. But we have to draw the line. We can’t keep taking at any cost. That’s why we have taken a stand to minimise the fossil-based ingredients in our products and continuously innovate to rely even less on them. We’d like to see more businesses do the same thing. We all need to act now and fast.
CALL US ON OUR TRANSPARENCY
Transparency matters to us. It’s been part of our DNA since we started in business over 30 years ago. We believe you have a right to know what’s in the products you buy and that those products are safe for you, your family, and our environment. We should all have the option of safe and eco-friendly shopping for our household products. That’s what led us to play a leading role in the 2017 passing of the landmark California Cleaning Product Right to Know Act that requires manufacturers to disclose the ingredients their cleaning products contain. If you have more questions about our products or how to navigate the complex but good world of green ingredients, we are here. We’d love to talk.
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WHAT YOU CAN DO
5 things you can do to help make more environmentally conscious choices: (Add small logo with image representing each action)
Check Ingredients List (Image of a laundry bottle silhouette with label showing): Check product labels for more info on what they’re made from and if it doesn’t say, ask. Sustainable purchasing is a powerful force. Manufacturers will only change their ways if they know it’s what their shoppers want. So demand it!
Track down Renewable Ingredients (Image of plants): Remember the ladder? Look for evidence in the ingredients list of bio-based to prove renewability of ingredients or better still plant-based or plant-derived. If it doesn’t say, then turn detective!
Dig deeper on fragrance (Image of fragrance bottle): If your favourite brand just lists fragrance as an ingredient, call them out on it and ask to know what that means and what’s really in your product.
Look for Logos and Certifications (Image of logo): More guidance on this is available here (Link to eco-labelling article). Beware not all certifications are created equal! But once you know what you are looking for this can be a great pointer.
Recommendations (Image representing social media): More and more of us are stepping up to take a greater responsibility for our planet. Keep an eye out for environmentally conscious friends and family who share their recommendations on greener products to try.
Ingredient-checker Apps (Image of an App open on a mobile phone screen): Some very clever and passionate people have invested in building some pretty useful Apps and websites that highlight what’s inside some of your favourite products and make eco-friendly shopping achievable. Unfortunately, at the moment, they are still largely based on the beauty industry. Please give your feedback to these sites to request an expansion of product ranges. What we spray in our homes and put on our clothes matters too. For more guidance on what’s currently available see our article here. (Link to article on Clean & Transparent Apps)
So, the onus remains on us as individuals to turn detective in order to understand how green our products really are. We don’t think this is right or fair but the more of us that use our sustainable purchasing power and ask the difficult and probing questions of brands, the faster we will get the change we want and the greener our products will become. Let’s turn detective together for the sake of the next seven generations.
MORE FROM US
You can find out more about eco-labelling here (click to Eco-labelling article) or our use of sustainable Palm Oil here (click to Palm Oil article)