Q: Is Aveda a decent green option?
A: Does time really heal all wounds? Not sure about that one, but I do know that time has certainly improved Aveda.
I remember when pre-Estée Lauder-buyout Aveda had the reputation of a hair saint. I brought my virginal unprocessed locks to an Aveda concept salon and thought I'd died and gone to hippy heaven. Of course, I wasn't actually a label decoder then, just enamoured of the brand's natural aura.
Fast-forward to the 2000s, when ingredient-cracking became my full-time job, and sadly, pre-2010 Aveda products contained way too much crap to get green-lit.
Yes, the company had decent sustainability policies, but when you actually peered inside the products, the ingredient lists were too much like those of synth-drenched conventional brands, with a few more botanicals tossed in.
The bouncy good news is that some high-profile ingredients of concern, like phthalates, EDTA, parabens, formaldehyde-releasing ingredients and most silicones have since been phased out. And Aveda keeps greening its ingredients. The company has asked makers of ethoxylated ingredients (often contaminated with carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane) to clean up their processing, which is great to see.
Note: it can take a while for new products to make it to shelves. For instance, Aveda ceased making products that contained parabens in 2008, but only stopped shipping stock that contained parabens in 2010. And who knows how long that stock stays on shelves. Always read ingredient lists to make sure you have new stuff.
Like other image-conscious companies, Aveda now says it's 100 per cent wind-powered. To clarify, that doesn't mean it's got turbines behind its factory, but it does offset the energy consumption of its headquarters and manufacturing facility with wind energy credits .
Not bad at all for an Estée Lauder-owned corporation. But don't confuse Aveda with a genuinely organic or all-natural brand. Yes, 90 per cent of its essential oils are now certified organic, and their All Sensitive Body Formula is 100 percent organic, but otherwise you won't see official organic seals here.
The company says its products are at least 50 per cent plant-based by weight, but that's way lower than brands that are certified 95 per cent or more naturally derived by Ecocert or the Natural ProductsAssociation.
Aveda packaging is definitely high in recycled content (up to 100 per cent), and while you can't yet refill your bottles at the store, a pilot program in the U.S. allows Aveda customers to return pumps, tubes and jars that aren't commonly accepted by municipalities.
It's all part of amping up the company's cradle-to-cradle credibility. Cradle To Cradle is the pioneering book and the green-certification system founded by the kings of upcycling, William McDonough and Michael Braungart. Aveda actually has a half-dozen products that meet the org's gold standard (meaning they include no red-listed chemicals, among other things), including their Smooth Infusion line, Dry Remedy Moisturizing line and Aveda Men Pure-Formance line and Green Science Firming Face Cream.
Does this mean Aveda regains its saintly natural aura? Let's not get carried away, though there's no denying it's on the right track.
If you want to take home truly natural/organic bodycare, look for a certified organic line - one with an organic seal on the front - and not one that deceptively weaves the word "organic'' into its brand name, like Avalon Organics.