Decoding What It Means to Be a Sustainable Fragrance

When you're trying to save the world, some things are obvious. 

Plastic bag for those books you got at the thrift shop? Nah, you'll carry 'em. Straw for your iced mocha? No thank you, kind barista! Fast fashion over handmade or recycled apparel? Pshhh.

Despite these easy answers, some categories in life take a little more digging to determine the solution. Take fragrance, for instance. How do perfume makers even make their scents, let alone do so in an environmentally conscious fashion? 

However confusing it may be, eco-friendly fragrance for any gender (or lack thereof) is just as important as any ballgown or stiletto. Moreover, the concept is gaining traction, giving us tree huggers something to work with.

Read on for sustainable fragrance, decoded for your eco-friendly soul.


Sniff This: The Primary Elements of an Eco-Friendly Scent

If you're trying to figure out whether your existing scent and beauty regimen is environmentally and socially just, you'll first need to determine what elements make up a sustainable product. We're keepin' it simple for you; here are four elements that define a good-hearted perfume.

  • The production process takes the environment and social justice into consideration. When determining the sustainability of any product, you need to consider the social and environmental implications of both the unit and the brand who manufactured it. It goes without saying that child labour and major pollution are both horrible, and you wouldn't want to support a company that imposes these practices!
  • The scent's entire manufacturing and distribution process is rooted in a low-waste mentality. The global waste crisis is a real thing. If we don't act now and prioritize low-waste consumerism, we might just witness a future where more than 3.4 billion tons of garbage dons our globular landscape. This future could come sooner than you think too, with experts predicting it within the next 30 years if we don't make major changes.
  • The company minimizes their carbon footprint and emissions. A sustainable fragrance goes way deeper than the bottle itself. According to the Climate & Clean Air Coalition (CCA), "methane emissions caused by human activities are one of the most significant drivers of climate change." And that's just one type of emissions we have to worry about!

Climate & Clean Air Coalition Infographic

  • Any collaborators involved in the production process are also sustainable. As an individual, your friends and acquaintances make a difference in how the public views you. Basically, who you choose to have on your team reflects back on you. The same goes for products and the companies that make them. If your favourite perfume company associates themselves with big oil or other immoral enterprises, it may be time to rethink your signature scent.


Ask These 5 Questions to Determine Fragrance Sustainability

When you're ready to start shopping for a sustainable scent that strikes your fancy, keep these 5 questions in mind. Remaining inquisitive and considering the source is a sure-fire route to forward-thinking fragrance (and trust us when we say you don't have to sacrifice that jaw-dropping response to the olfactory senses—in fact, we urge you not to).


1. Who Makes the Scent?

Knowing the face behind the fragrance is key! Who are you representing with your curated pheromones? Not just anyone, we hope—because you deserve a fragrance that screams kindness. 

Do a little research on the brand that sells the bottle and see what information (if any) pops up about their sustainability efforts. Sure, it's an extra step on your end, but you can hold onto that know-how and choose a signature that's worth the spray.

Eco Scent Guide: Balenciaga Paris Eau de Perfume is to die for. What's more is the brand is owned by Kering, a company that's actually joined the environmental coalition called The Fashion Pact.

Balenciaga Paris Perfume


2. What Are the Ingredients?

As it turns out, the perfume industry is notorious for overharvesting, deforestation and river pollution (to name a few). So how do you know which ingredients are worth investing in?

The perfume industry is actually exempt from having to list their ingredients on packaging in many countries. This may have something to do with luxury competition, but it also means some fogginess from the consumer's end.

“A rose may be a rose, but that rose-like fragrance in your perfume may be something else entirely, concocted from any number of the fragrances industry’s 3,100 stock chemical ingredients, the blend of which is almost always kept hidden from the consumer.” - The Environmental Working Group, via Public Goods

If you go the natural route, be sure you're doing so with a brand that focuses on sustainable raw materials. Basically, you want to support companies that give back what they take in proper ratios. Otherwise, you're leaving remote villages and once-beautiful regions vulnerable to so-called development. You might even find some fragrance labels that make regenerative efforts, going behind the net-zero call of duty and providing reparations for the land from whence their product came.

Like we said, you probably will have to do a little digging since you may not be able to find ingredients directly on the bottle. Fortunately, more and more natural luxury perfume companies are popping up each year. You don't have to look hard to find one that smells as good as it treats others.

Eco Scent Guide: Estée Lauder Pleasures for Men cologne is more than just a tasty essence. The label ensures sustainable sourcing for all their products. In fact, they work with a business called Dutjahn Sandalwood Oils (DSO), which is a "50% aboriginal-owned sandalwood oil-processing venture with a 100% aboriginal controlled nonprofit foundation." All harvesting is done fairly and equitably for both the indigenous peoples and the flora's environment. At the end of the day, we're left with a woodsy, citrusy and spicy conglomerate of mature, rare fragrance.

Estee Lauder Pleasures for Men Cologne



3. How Is the Product Tested?

Let's talk testing on animals. Vegheads and carnivores alike agree that testing on animals is cruel and unusual punishment for a species that can't speak for themselves. Despite this popular notion, some companies continue the practice—but cruelty-free labelling is more commonplace than ever. 

Of course, many labels that read "not tested on animals" and "cruelty-free" are not backed by any real set of standards. Certain certifications can mean that the final product wasn't tested on animals, but a particular ingredient was. A new certification system from Leaping Bunny does require adherence to certain standards, but it's still small—for now.  

Eco Scent Guide: Splash of Scent is a premium, artisanal and all-natural perfume from Leaping Bunny themselves. Considering their parent company, it makes sense they perform absolutely no animal testing and hold themselves to rigorous eco-friendly standards. Snag a bottle of Mai, Rose or Prim, the latter of which harbours both fruity and floral aromas.

Leaping Bunny Perfume


4. What Kind of Packaging Does It Come In?

This one's about moving beyond the scent. It's about how the brand delivers that scent to you. Is the perfume's packaging recyclable, and does the brand itself take any measures to recycle used bottles and boxes for utmost circularity

Glass bottles are better than plastic, and that cardboard box doesn't really need cellophane wrapping. Plastic inserts aren't totally necessary, and many luxury labels opt out of this practice anyway because it isn't as clean and classy.

Eco Scent Guide: Chanel No. 5 is a classic, but the company itself is really ramping up their sustainability game. In 2018, they invested in a Finnish start-up packaging material company called Sulapac, which makes biodegradable microplastics out of wood chips. Best described as a complex amalgam of floral aldehyde, this fragrance always has and will continue to be a force to be reckoned with. Support Chanel's efforts through the most classic of scents? Say no more, fam.

Chanel No. 5 Perfume


5. What Else Does the Label Say?

Read the label, fine print included (it's a perfume bottle, so it's not an overwhelming amount of surface area). What kind of intricacies can you spot? 

If you're shopping for perfume online, you have the web at your disposal. If you're sifting through the scent aisle at the store, you can whip out the Think Dirty app, which allows you to scan barcodes and see first-hand whether a fragrance is green verified. Their list of verified brands is growing, and it's only a matter of time until global luxe labels join the platform.

Eco Scent Guide: Sana Jardin Paris Tiger By Her Side was crafted by Carlos Benaim, who also played a role in leading scents from YSL and Prada. Defined by vanilla, cinnamon and coriander seed, the fragrance's amber aura really puts us at a standstill, if only for a moment. On the sustainability front, Sana Jardin makes sure that their floral waste from harvesting gets upcycled, an effort that tremendously cuts down on garbage and helps provide year-round income for women in Morocco. At its core, this line is socially and environmentally conscious—and utterly luxurious to boot.  


Sana Jardin Perfume


More of Our Fave Sustainable Luxury Fragrances (& What Makes Them So Great)

CK Everyone

Just last month, Calvin Klein and Calvin Klein Fragrances collaboratively launched the all-new CK Everyone. They unveiled the fragrance at a live pop-up at the Singapore Changi Airport in conjunction with the Shilla Duty Free. So what's so special about the latest CK instalment?

CK Everyone Perfume

Just look on the label and you'll see "I am a clean fragrance" typed boldly on the top of the perfume box. This declaration is talking about a few eco-friendly nuances that really push the envelope. Both the bottle and the packaging are totally recyclable. Moreover, 10% of the bottle and 30% of the packaging is made from post-consumer recycled materials. They used soy-based ink to get the message across. It's totally vegan and free from any animal testing, so you don't have to feel guilty about your purchase.

“As the demand for clean beauty continues to grow, the eco-responsible CK Everyone fragrance and unique retail concept will appeal to travellers who are increasingly more socially-conscious” — Changi Airport Group Airside Concessions Group Senior Vice President Teo Chew Hoon via The Moodie Davitt Report

Sustainability isn't the only contemporary aspect of CK Everyone. It's an outwardly gender-neutral scent, using citrus tones to appeal to anyone, regardless of their representation. This unisex touch really reinforces the notion that sustainability is for everyone (hence the name!).


Clean Reserve Rain

Clean Beauty Collective's Clean Reserve perfume is on the up and up, and we're here to witness the rise. Their most popular scent, Rain (Reserve Blend), really embodies the refreshing nature of a soft and supple weathering. From the label's watery musk family, you can imagine how amazing this fragrance is for everyday wear.

Clean Reserve Rain Perfume

As far as sustainability goes, Clean Reserve perfume has got it going on. The bottle itself is made from recycled materials, and it's recyclable for when you're done with it. The cellophane it's packaged in is actually industrially compostable, which is really somethin'. As for the manufacturing process, the warehouse where they make Clean Reserve perfume and other Clean Beauty Collective products is powered by renewable solar energy. Talk about a triple threat!


Fragrance: The Next Phase in Sustainability

As our globalized community learns more and more of what it means to be sustainable, we're finally delving into the minutiae. Designer perfumes and premium fragrances are products we know and love; they've been around for centuries (maybe longer) and a simple scent often brings back treasured memories long since passed.

Implementing environmentalism and sustainability into your fragrance collection is the next step in leading a thoroughly eco-friendly life. You won't ever be perfectly zero waste or impact free—and that's okay. As long as you're trying, you're doing your part. Pair your favourite luxury scent with secondhand clothes or eco-friendly apparel and you're well on your way to a walk-in closet that oozes kindness.


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