Our Environment

A greener outlook

From the moment our founders and managing directors Andrew and Iain Chaney discovered the orange oil from discarded orange peels in Mildura’s orange farms could be used in sustainable domestic cleaning products through to when we made a stand against unsustainable palm oil production by eliminating palm oil derived ingredients from our entire product range, we’ve always had a green outlook.

Baby Orangutans

Aware Environmental’s vision is to be Australia’s most ethical maker of sustainable household consumer products and to continue producing Australian products that make it simple for people to live a greener lifestyle. Through our work researching and developing better ways to make products people love, we’ve successfully established endorsements by environmental group Planet Ark and approval in the National Asthma Council of Australia’s ‘Sensitive Choice’ program (look for the blue butterfly).

Our mission is to offer all consumers environmentally sustainable alternative household products that really work and by doing so, eliminate the use of unsustainable and environmentally damaging resources.

Palm Oil Free

Being Palm Oil Free is core to everything we do. In fact, we became one of the first manufacturers in Australia to remove palm oil derived ingredients from our products.  Here you can find more of the facts about palm oil and why we choose to avoid it at ALL costs.  We encourage you to do your own research as this is a very complicated issue but unfortunately it’s also an ecological emergency.

What is palm oil?

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Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil, high in saturated fats, produced from the palm fruit of the African oil palm tree.  It is a primary ingredient in many manufactured foods, and its derivatives are used in common cosmetics, cleaning and laundry products.

Highly productive and cheap to produce, it has rapidly become the first choice for manufactures to use in their vast array of consumer products

It is grown throughout Asia, North America, South America and Africa, although over 85% of palm oil traded globally is grown in Indonesia and Malaysia where a tropical environment and nutrient-rich soil forms the perfect combination for palm oil plantations to thrive.

Why is palm oil controversial?

The problem with palm oil is the scale of its production and the impact it has on the environment, wildlife and communities.

  • It is estimated that over 300 football fields of rainforest are destroyed every hour to make way for Palm Oil plantations.

 

As primary forest and vegetation are cleared to accommodate growing global demand for palm oil, endangered species and local communities are being severely compromised.

Orangutan HangingWidespread deforestation has forced many species to the brink of extinction, including endangered and critically endangered species such as elephants, orangutans, rhinos and tigers.

  • The United Nation’s Environmental Program (UNEP) predicts that most of Indonesia’s rainforest could be destroyed by 2022.
  • Extinction in the wild is likely in the next 10 years for Sumatran Orangutans and soon after the Borneo Orangutans – WWF.

 

Indigenous peoples and communities are also deprived of their livelihoods and essential ecosystem services such as water and nutrient-rich soil.

The quick and easy clearing of rainforest and vegetation through slashing and burning has also become a major contributor to climate change.

Sustainable Palm Oil

In 2010 we committed to the use of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) but discovered that the derivatives we were using at the time couldn’t be sourced sustainably with any confidence in Australia.  Much of CSPO was combined with non sustainable palm oil and sold (at best) as ‘containing’ sustainable palm oil.

After thorough investigation we felt we had no choice but to move away from palm oil use completely.

While we fully support the intentions of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – and we are actually a member – in its endeavour to boost awareness of the devastating effects of the palm oil industry, we believe the industry has been very slow to respond. Subsequently, we felt we couldn’t contribute to the problem.

We have taken the lead by being the first brand to completely eliminate palm oil derived ingredients from our products.  Our challenge is now educating consumers about our green credentials, the palm oil issues and how their support is critical in making a stand for environmental sustainability.

Identifying products with palm oil

Current Australian labelling laws don’t require manufacturers of consumer goods to explicitly label palm oil ingredients in their products.  Commonly, palm oil is instead labelled as ‘vegetable oil’ or in the case of household cleaners and laundry products, claims of  “plant based” are made to justify ingredients like Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES).

RSPO logo

It is impossible for Australians to know which products contain palm oil unless they learn about common palm oil ingredients. All products using genuine CSPO ingredients will display the RSPO logo on the pack.

The issue gets more complex when looking at manufacturers using ingredients that are derivatives of palm oil or palm kernel oil – such as those used in cleaning or laundry products.  There are currently very few raw material suppliers offering any of the ingredients that meet the RSPO standard for fully segregated or identity preserved CSPO.

For example, a recent episode (15 july 2014) on ABC’s “The Checkout” showed a leading “earth friendly” Australian dishwashing brand that actually has its two main ingredients listed as Sodium Alkyl Aryl Sulphonate (actually derived from petroleum oil) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) which is undoubtedly derived from uncertified palm oil as there is no supplier in the world offering this product in Australia from CSPO.

Our alternative to palm oil

We mainly use coconut oil based ingredients in our products – even though this costs more – because the harvesting of coconuts has for centuries been a sustainable industry supporting island communities.  These island communities have an excess supply of coconut oil and by using this more environmentally sustainable source, we hope to weaken the demand for palm oil.

“The tropical world has over one billion coconut palms, producing over 50 billion coconuts each year. And yet, because of the low income earned on the world market from coconut products, many coconut groves are run down, with nuts and old trees lying where they fall, encouraging plant disease and insect pests.”
Source: kokonutpacific.com.au

Benefits of using Coconut derived ingredients:

  • Many of the plantations have been in existence for centuries and are now underused as the world has switched to palm oil.  Rather than waste the existing resource, these coconuts are now finding some use  by replacing palm oil.
  • Coconut plantations are generally grown on very poor, sandy coastal soils and don’t need wholesale slashing of virgin rainforests to grow.  A local sustainable industry existed right throughout the Pacific and South East Asian, before the advent of major palm oil plantations.

 

What now?

We understand coconut production wouldn’t be sustainable if everyone switched to coconut oil.  However, if we cannot slow the demand for palm oil soon there may not be rainforests left by 2022, as predicted by the United Nations.  Therefore we’re working actively with primary producers in Australia on ways to source our ingredients from easily renewable vegetable oils such as canola and sugar.  We are even in discussions with a company who have developed a method of making a similar oil from sustainable algae production.

We believe we’re steering the best possible environmental and ethical course on these issues and we are extremely committed to leading the way for Australia.

While it may not be practical for all manufacturers to adopt alternatives to palm oil derived ingredients, we would hope consumers concerned about the future of our rainforests and subsequent loss of habitat will support our efforts and start to question their current suppliers about their policy and efforts in this area.  Do your bit by asking your brand supplier where they source their raw materials.

Independent accreditation

It’s one thing to say you’re green, and another to prove you are! We put all of our products to the ultimate test by undergoing strict scrutiny by independent organisations to ensure our claims are true. As a result over the years we’ve received various endorsements and approvals by some of Australia’s most recognised independent labels.

Planet Ark

15omc-planet-ark-logo-220x124Environmental group Planet Ark reviews and assesses products based on their impact on the environment in terms of biodegradability, ecotoxicity and bioaccumulation. Due to our choice of quality, more natural ingredients and low probability of human health or environmental impact, Planet Ark endorses the majority of our Aware and Orange Power ranges. You can identify these products on supermarkets by looking for the Planet Ark logo.

Did you know…every time you buy Orange Power or Aware products you are also supporting Planet Ark? This financial support helps Planet Ark in their annual environmental awareness campaigns.

www.planetark.org

National Asthma Council of Australia (NACA) Sensitive Choice®

1342434234708_oz_sensitive_choice-938x704With low allergy, sensitive formulas that avoid ingredients like fragrances, optical brighteners and enzymes that can trigger skin irritants, allergy triggers and breathing conditions in adults and children, our entire Aware Sensitive range is approved by the Sensitive Choice® program.

If you are one of the 7 million Australians with allergy and 2 million with asthma, the Sensitive Choice® ‘blue butterfly’ symbol makes it easier for you to identify products and services that support asthma and allergy care. The blue butterfly adorns all of our Aware Sensitive range, so keep an eye out for it in supermarkets to ensure you’re making a good choice for your family’s health.

www.sensitivechoice.com.au

Avoiding chemicals

When trying to remove tough stains, the most heavy duty cleaning products can become an attractive option. However, there are far more natural products that clean just as effectively without exposing yourself or your family to health risks. Here are some of the common areas where you can eliminate the use of chemical laden products.

Bathroom: Some of the harshest chemical cleaners are found in the bathroom. Hydrochloric and sulphuric acids, or bleach, are strong corrosives that can irritate or burn the skin, eyes and respiratory tract.These products are often used when it’s too late, when mould attaches itself to soap scum or calcium build-up. Regular use of our eco responsible cleaners will avoid this issue.

Laundry: The ingredients in common washing powders can trigger allergic reactions among adult and child allergy sufferers, as well as cause environmental damage. Skin irritation is often provoked by optical brighteners, which attach to clothes to make them appear ‘cleaner and brighter’, and synthetic fragrances, particularly those derived from petrochemicals. Phosphorus chemicals in common washing powders also feed blue-green algae in our waterways.

Drains: People don’t realise they have a drain problem until it’s too late and blockages cause unflattering odours. Then they go and buy chemical laden products to blast them clear. These products use sodium hydroxide, or caustic soda, and have in some cases caused serious alkaline skin burns. It’s better to use a more natural enzyme based drain cleaner as they are quite safe to use. Drain cleaning is something that should be done periodically throughout the year relying on the natural abilities of natural enzymes to break down organic build up.

Air Freshening: Did you know that many aerosol air freshening products are about 2/3 aerosol propellant and typically include formaldehyde or other aldehydic compounds, a known carcinogen linked to allergic reaction, that can trigger asthma symptoms? To avoid bringing these intoxicating air fresheners into homes, look out for pump-spray bottles that contain natural essential oils rather than ‘fake’ synthetic fragrances.

Dishwashing: examples of dangerous and/or unsustainable chemicals found in “earth friendly” dish wash detergent products are:
1. Sodium Alkyl Sulfonate, or also and more correctly referred to as Sodium Dodecyl Benzene Sulfonate, as you can understand by the reference to “benzene” is made from unsustainable petrochemicals (although it is therefore palm oil free).
2. Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES); a very common ingredient in most dishwashing liquids, which is derived from palm oil (or palm kernel oil). It  contains 1,4  Dioxane (a very toxic chemical) as a consequence of the sulphonation and reaction with ethylene oxide (yes another petrochemical).
3. DEA, which is sometimes combined with coconut or palm oil to form “Cocamide DEA”. This ingredient requires a cancer warning in some jurisdictions because of the potential to form cancer-causing nitrosamines.

The 'Save Gutan' Campaign

‘Save Gutan’ is our annual campaign to raise awareness of the disasterous effect that the palm oil crisis is currently having on the environment, specifically on the world’s orangutan population.

  • It is estimated that over 300 football fields of rainforest are destroyed every hour to make way for Palm Oil plantations
  • The United Nation’s Environmental Program (UNEP) predicts that most of Indonesia’s rainforest could be destroyed by 2022.
  • Deforestation kills over 1000 orangutans every year.
  • Extinction in the wild is likely in the next 10 years for Sumatran Orangutans and soon after the Borneo Orangutans – WWF.

 

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You can find out about Gutan’s story here: http://www.savegutan.com.au/gutans-story

Or learn more about the palm oil crisis here: http://www.savegutan.com.au/