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July 14, 2022 5 min read

As sustainability becomes more important to consumers, “greenwashing” is becoming more and more prevalent in how brands market and present their products. Many brands recognize the need to meet their customers with better, more sustainable practices, but some are more honest than others about whether these changes are actually happening. When brands falsely-advertise their sustainable efforts and practices, greenwashing occurs. A common greenwashing example is when clothing brands create sustainable collections that are actually no more sustainable than their other clothing products. In order to be a smart consumer, it is important to know how to spot brands that are not being transparent about their efforts to be more eco-friendly. For us, Made OLIKA Clean isour commitment to both human and environmental safety and ingredient transparency for our sanitizers. When you purchase one of our hand sanitizers, you can expect full transparency when it comes to the sustainability of our formula and packaging. 

Natural vs. Synthetic

One of the most common ways that brands may be greenwashing their products is by using terms like “All-Natural” or “Naturally derived.” Labeling products with these terms helps drive sales by making consumers believe that they are making positive change by purchasing these products. Plus, buyers are usually willing to pay more for these “higher quality” products which they believe to be natural. In reality, no information about how sustainably produced these products are can be derived from these phrases. To say that something is ‘“All-Natural” simply means that it is derived from nature, rather than being man-made or chemically produced. When something is labeled “Natural” it may go through a variety of processes that are not safe for the Earth, while the product still remains “Natural.” We often assume that when something is “Natural” it must be better for ourselves and therefore, better for the environment. 

So, how do you know when you are purchasing a naturally produced or synthetic product and whether or not that purchase is a sustainable one? What is the difference between natural and synthetic? A good place to start is with understanding what qualifies an item as “synthetic” or “natural,” so that when you see one of these labels, you can verify the validity of these labels for yourself.  

What does “Natural” really mean?

Natural produced ingredients must be naturally existing in the environment and being utilized in the same naturally-occuring way. If an ingredient is naturally occurring, but then man-made dyes or additives are chemically added to the ingredient, then the ingredient is no longer “natural.” This distinction is important because if one ingredient in a product is labeled as “natural,” this does not mean that the entire product is truly “natural.” 

Furthermore, the term “Natural” carries positive connotations for consumers which may not always be true. Natural products have no connection to being more healthy or more sustainable, they just often tend to overlap. Products are oftentimes still labeled as natural because they contain one or two truly natural ingredients, but may also contain many harmful toxins. Natural products do not have to be produced using sustainable methods or processes. Many animal and plant products are technically naturally existing in the environment, but the process of acquiring these ingredients is extremely wasteful, resulting in excessive use of energy or water and large amounts of dangerous run-off into surrounding environments. 

The alternative: “Synthetic” ingredients. 

In the same way that “Natural” labels can make customers believe that they are making a better purchase, seeing a “Synthetic” label may make you think that you should avoid a product. However, when it comes to making sustainable choices, products made from synthetic ingredients can often be a better alternative than one made from natural ingredients. Synthetically produced ingredients allow brands to create virtually identical products, but minimize the negative environmental effects. 

What does “Synthetic” mean? 

Synthetic products and ingredients are man-made, meaning that they are produced from different processes than the ones that create similar ingredients in nature. Synthetically produced products can be made to be identical to natural products or they may not exist only as man-made products and cannot be found anywhere in nature. 

Hyaluronic acid, for example, is found naturally in our eyes and joints. However, it is also synthetically produced in labs to replace the older practices of deriving this ingredient from animals to be used in skincare products. Here, synthetic production has allowed us to minimize environmental harm, while still reaping the benefits of this powerful ingredient. Hyaluronic acid is one of the ingredients in our hydrating hand sanitizer’s Core Formula to help prevent dry, cracked hands. 

What does this mean for OLIKA? 

When it comes to our hydrating hand sanitizer core formula, we use a blend of synthetic and natural ingredients to help us match our sustainability goals. We are proud to be Leaping-Bunny Certified, meaning that our products and ingredients are cruelty free andnevertested on animals. 

We use a clean fragrance blend to give our sanitizers their scents, while also minimizing the negative environmental effects of natural essential oils. Many of the plants that are used to make popular essential oils are grown and harvested using unsustainable practices because there is a focus on producing enough quantity of the plant to extract essential oils. It requires large quantities of fresh plants to create a small amount of essential oil; to produce 15 ml of lavender essential oil, it takes three pounds of lavender flower! Our synthetic versions of these essential oils don't require unsustainable farming practices and allow us to create non-toxic, longer lasting, and skin-enhancing versions of your favorite scents. 

Squalene, a natural oil that is used in many skincare products and vaccines, is an important ingredient in our core formula that moisturizes and repairs dry or damaged skin. Prior to developing synthetic alternatives of this ingredient, squalene was harvested from the livers of deep-sea sharks, causing long-term damage to shark populations. OLIKA’s parent company, Amyris, developed a pharmaceutical grade alternative to shark-derived squalane that is molecularly identical to natural squalene, but does not have the same environmental consequences. With higher purity and the same skincare benefits, opting for synthetic squalene in our sanitizer helps us meet our sustainability goals while still producing high-performing products.   

In a time that is plagued with green-washing and false advertising, it is more important than ever to be an informed consumer; double checking ingredients and learning more about brands before your purchase from them. The first step is knowing what greenwashing is and how to keep an eye out for it. At OLIKA, we are proud of our sustainable efforts and value transparency, so we keep this information readily available to consumers like yourself.

You can find more information about our ingredients on our website and learn more about our different sustainable ingredient choices on our blog O, Darling

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