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Will The Real “Green” Please Stand Up?

Often when you decide to abandon traditional products, made mainly of chemical ingredients, to go for something more “clean” or “green”, you are confused by the variety of labels. Whether it’s cosmetics, personal care or cleaning products, you often come across these terms: vegan, plant-based, natural and organic. What are their differences and how should you choose?

Vegan: Certifies that products do not contain any ingredients of animal origin or animal by-products (such as milk or honey). Also, the products and ingredients have never been tested on animals. However, it does not automatically imply that these products are of natural origin. Vegan products can contain or even comprise entirely of artificial, synthesised ingredients made in a laboratory. If you are vegan and you don’t want in any way to use products of animal origin, do look for vegan certification logos. A sub-category of vegan products is the cruelty free one that is not tested on animals.

Plant-based: Products contain a percentage of ingredients that are of plant origin, for example extracts, oils or highly processed substances obtained from raw plant materials. Oftentimes, these ingredients are brought to the forefront to display the product as being "green". However, only a portion of the ingredients stem from plants. The remaining list of ingredients often stem from those used in conventional cosmetics. This is also known as "green washing". 

Natural: Often the most overused description and similar to plant-based, a product can be described as natural even if it has just 1% naturally-sourced, plant-based or mineral ingredients. This does not exclude chemical or synthetic derivatives in its composition. These products and its manufacturing process are not regulated or certified by any entity. The best way to know what you are buying is to check the ingredients listing. In a natural product, usually the botanicals are indicated at the top and any synthetic ingredients nearer the bottom. 

Organic: This label must be regulated by an institution in each country where it is produced. Across the USA, UK and Australia, certified “organic” has a very similar definition. If you’re buying certified organic products, they come from a farming system which uses:

  • No manufactured herbicides or artificial fertilizers
  • No artificial or synthetic colours, preservatives, fragrances or chemicals (including parabens and sulphates)
  • No routine use of antibiotics
  • No GMOs (genetically modified organisms) or growth regulators
  • No synthetic pesticides allowed
  • More sustainable land management

Organic products are the “gold standard” for anyone choosing “clean” and “green” home cleaning, personal wellness or baby care products which are good for health and does not cause harm to the environment.

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