Pioneering Sustainability in Essential Oils

03/12/2024
Pioneering Sustainability in Essential Oils

One of the main options for replacing nonrenewable resources is natural products. Since they are typically cited as sustainable, they have been demonstrated to be an effective renewable source of raw materials with very promising potential for improving the environmental performance of various sectors. 

Since natural products are the main source for the development of new medicines, the pharmaceutical industry can provide notable examples of sectoral approaches that capitalize on the potential of natural products.

Sustainable essential oils (EOs), which are natural products, have also been found to be a significant source of renewable raw materials for the chemical industry, which uses them to make fine chemicals. Advances in EOs have a major impact on the food industry sector as well, as compounds that are beneficial to diet and health or as preservatives and agents that prevent food from spoiling. 

An excellent example can be found in the agrochemicals sector, where EOs in the form of biopesticides comply with numerous regulatory and best practice documents, making them a sensible and preferred substitute for conventional pesticides.

Understanding Sustainability in the Essential Oil Sector

To use aromatic plants' Eco-friendly essential oils without further exacerbating their decline, how can we start to mend our relationship with them? 

We can try our best to make sure that the oils derived from endangered plant species are managed sustainably by implementing strategies like sustainable agriculture, which combines three key objectives:

  1. Health
  2. Profitability
  3. Economic and Social Equity.

Sustainable agriculture helps to guarantee that plants, including those that produce Sustainable essential oils and carrier oils, will continue to meet the needs of current and future generations by achieving these three goals.

How are Essential oils sustainably sourced?

The market for aromatic herbs, which are used to enhance the flavor of food preparation and cooking, is expanding significantly in terms of investments, technological advancements, and consumption. 

This is because products with unique flavors, aromas, and functional food value are given particular attention. Indeed, these vegetables are high in fiber, minerals, and bioactive substances like flavonoids, phenolic acids, and essential oils.

Indeed, green waste has a lot of potential for use in the food industry as a source of secondary metabolites for additives, nutraceuticals, and other ingredients and products that promote health. 

This recovery increases the entire supply chain's environmental sustainability. Because of their advantageous biological characteristics, Sustainable essential oils are currently one of the derivable products from aromatic biomasses widely acknowledged for maintaining human health.

1. Limited Harvesting

Eco-friendly essential oils make up between 1 and 5% of a plant's overall composition on average, meaning that large amounts of the plant are needed to produce highly concentrated essential oils. 

This can cause issues if resources are not properly managed; in the past, the essential oil industry's overharvesting of sandalwood and frankincense trees has put both species in jeopardy. In light of this, clear information regarding the origin of ingredients, the health of the soil, and an emphasis on organics can aid in understanding the sustainability of each essential oil.

2. Fair Practices

As with all agricultural products, a more socially just and sustainable world depends on guaranteeing that workers' rights are upheld and protected. With certifications like Fairtrade, Co-Impact Sourcing, and Fair For Life, consumers can easily limit their brand support to companies that have demonstrated their commitment to fair working conditions. 

This is particularly significant in terms of the country of origin since a large portion of the farming needed to generate essential oils takes place in less developed nations where labor laws are often not strict. 

Role of Sustainable Essential Oils in Various Industries

Crop Protection

Interest in using Eco-friendly essential oils (EOs) as biopesticides to protect crops is growing. Essential oils (EOs) are acknowledged as crucial components of plant protection products, such as fungicidal, insecticidal, acaricidal, and nematicidal agents. 

The domestication and cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) to produce chemically stable EOs contributes to species conservation, provides production sustainability, and reduces variations in the active ingredients, all of which are important given the increasing importance of EOs as active ingredients. 

EOs can directly affect plant pests and diseases, but they can also trigger plant defenses, or priming effects, which improves protection. This aspect is significant because, starting in 2020, the use of contaminant plant protection products (PPPs) has been prohibited under the EU framework, which aims to achieve the sustainable use of new PPPs.

1. Aquaculture

The main threats to aquaculture sustainability are the use of synthetic antibiotics and chemicals to control parasitic diseases and infectious bacterial pathogens. These practices also produce multi-drug resistant pathogens and residual antibiotic effects in humans, as well as beneficial microbial killing. 

Herbal product applications to treat parasitic and microbial illnesses are regarded as alternate strategies for aquaculture that are sustainable. Terpenes, terpenoids, phenylpropenes, and isothiocyanates are among the bioactive compounds found in essential oils (EOs), which are the secondary metabolites of medicinal plants that exhibit synergistic relationships among themselves. 

EOs' hydrophobic compounds can enter the cells of bacteria and parasites, resulting in cell morphologies and organelle dysfunctions. In aquatic organisms, dietary supplements of essential oils (EOs) also influence growth, immunity, and resistance to infectious diseases.

2. Biopesticides

The "Green Revolution's" introduction proved to be very successful in greatly raising crop productivity. It did, however, come with significant ecological costs due to the overuse of synthetic agrochemicals, which raised questions regarding the sustainability of agriculture. 

The use of synthetic pesticides without proper control has led to the deterioration of the environment, the emergence of pest resistance, and potential risks to a range of non-target species, such as humans, animals, and plants. 

Therefore, investigating workable environmentally friendly alternatives is essential to a sustainable approach. Because of their safety for humans and other living forms, as well as their target specificity, eco-friendliness, and biodegradability, plant-based biopesticides are garnering a lot of attention in this context. Plant essential oils (PEOs) or their active ingredients are being investigated extensively as biopesticides against microorganisms, weeds, and pests among all other relevant biopesticides.

3. Disease control in Fruits

To ensure sustainable food security, a strong emphasis should be placed on avoiding the use of botanical pesticides (ginger essential oils), crop rotation, biological control, and resistant varieties. 

Consequently, research on the ecology of phytopathogens is required to supply the baseline data that supports the creation of innovative disease management strategies and may be incorporated into integrated pest management (IPM) initiatives. 

Determining the growth and behavior mode of plant pathogens is crucial for comprehending their ecology, as it confers greater pathogenic variability and survival advantages upon microorganisms. 

One promising method for controlling plant diseases is to use natural materials derived from plants, such as the essential oils (EOs) of ginger. Plant-based natural materials have been used recently due to their low toxicity and economic benefits.

Challenges to Sustainability in the Essential Oil Industry

  • In addition to the environmental effects linked to their production, essential oils themselves may have an effect. Every pure oil has a unique set of possible environmental and disposal problems. A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that includes instructions for disposal, flammability warnings, and toxicity information should be included with every essential oil.
  • Wild harvesting is a viable alternative to large-scale corporate farming, but it is not without its drawbacks. Several plants used to make essential oils are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, including rosewood (Dalbergia abrahamii), atlas cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica), sandalwood (Santalum album), and rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora), all of which are classified as endangered. 
  • Gathering communities, along with the San Juan National Forest Service and the Living Earth School of Herbalism, generally agree that no wild crop should be taken more than ten percent out of the ground in a single harvesting session. Having said that, care must be taken when extracting essential oils from a previously used container.
  • Recycling containers can present difficulties as well. Since pure essential oils can deteriorate plastic, all high-quality essential oil products are packaged in glass containers. Most cities allow glass bottles to be recycled, but some, like New York, mandate that any glass that once contained combustible or dangerous materials be disposed of with regular trash. Consumer-sold essential oils are packaged with a plastic lid and a rollerball or drop dispenser; because of recycling restrictions, these also usually wind up in landfills.

The Future of Sustainability in the Essential Oil Industry

Over time, there has been a growing interest in the use of eco-friendly essential oils as spice-derived active ingredients, and for food preservation. 

A Techno-economic approach

Solar energy is a renewable energy source that is widely available, non-polluting, and has a total solar radiation of about 3400,000 EJ that reaches Earth. Coal can be directly replaced by solar energy through thermal storage as a base-load renewable energy source.

The process of extracting essential oils uses steam, and the production of steam requires a lot of energy. Therefore, "green chemistry" and "eco-extraction" are being heavily promoted for the extraction of natural volatiles and essential oils. The development of greener and cleaner processes that minimize waste, use less water or solvent and use energy more effectively is becoming more popular and is giving rise to green living essential oils.

Survival and Livelihood of Rural Commodities

According to estimates, the amount of EO produced worldwide in 2017 exceeded 150,000 tonnes, nearly doubling that of 1990. The market for essential oils was expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.7% from 2016 to 2022, with a projected value of USD 11,188 million.

Since many businesses use sustainable essential oils to make large quantities of herbal and cosmetic goods, the market for essential oils is growing rapidly. Consequently, there is a great deal of opportunity for rural businesses to be established in the essential oil sector. 

Studies indicate that essential oil extraction can be carried out on any scale that is needed. Economic studies demonstrate that the production of rural income is enhanced by essential oil extraction. Lives in rural areas are significantly impacted by small-scale agro-processing businesses that depend on regional labor and agricultural resources.

Where to Buy Sustainable Essential Oils?

With the bulk cart, every decision counts. With each business transaction you conduct in conjunction with The Bulk Cart, you are actively making the world a more sustainable place. The Bulk Cart prioritizes ethical sourcing methods. Ethically sourced essential oils make sure that the environment is not harmed during the extraction of essential oils.

The bulk cart's essential oil cultivation method is ecologically gentle and promotes a robust ecosystem. To support the circular economy, it minimizes excess packaging and employs sustainable packaging techniques.

Consumers can expect openness in the manufacturing process. The bulk cart's genuine information also enables customers to make well-informed decisions. Customers can choose products that benefit ecosystems as an indirect way to support environmental initiatives. Additionally, the USDA certification of the essential oils attests to the business's dedication to moral business conduct. 

FAQs

Q) Which essential oils are the most sustainable?

a)Any essential oil that is extracted from plants undergoing limited harvest and maintains the resources properly can be considered sustainable.

Q) Can the oil industry be sustainable?

a) Maintaining resources, applying fair trade practices, and utilizing limited harvesting are some of the key factors the oil industry must consider to perform sustainable practices.

Q) Can essential oils be recycled?

a) Yes, essentials can be recycled or reused as cleaning supplies, pest repellency, gardening, etc.

Q) What are some examples of sustainable practices in essential oil production?

a) Ethical sourcing and fair trade practices are the fundamentals for the sustainable growth of the oil industry. Moreover, the cultivation process should be ecologically benign.

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