Monday, May 26, 2008

Green Guide To Go's Greendex (Environmental Information/Eco calculator)

National Geographic's Green Guide just released its new eco-impact calculator a week or so ago called Greendex which is a survey of sustainability. (I've plugged about another eco-calculator here before). I did my calculation and was very surprised how high I scored (the higher the score, the more 'green' your life style is supposed to be or, in other words, the more your consumption patterns and behaviors are environmental sustainable). I am an environmentalist and I implement many green practices in my life but I know there is always more I can do :) and we (the U.S.) live a very consumption based society so I thought my score would be higher than the U.S. average, but not as high as it was! My score was a 57. The US (out of the 14 countries surveyed) has the lowest score of all: 44.9. The highest scores are Brazil and India (60 points), China (56.1 points), and Mexico (54.3 points). The countries in the survey are the ones that consumed most (75%) of the world's energies in 2007 so of course many countries NOT on the list consume less (and in that sense are probably more sustainable). African countries were not included in the Greendex results (which were based on online surveys), but they did survey some people in face-to-face interviews from Nigeria and Egypt so do have some data collected from Africa. This website also has a knowledge quiz and much other eco-related information on their website. A great new resource, so definitely worth checking out!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Ingredient profile: Vanilla oleoresin (Aromatherapy/crafting information)

I have decided to review different raw natural ingredients (like essential oils, carrier oils, and butters) that I think are fantastic ingredients!

I thought I'd start with vanilla oleoresin.

I love vanilla. To my knowledge, there isn't a vanilla essential oil available, but there is a vanilla absolute, C02 extract, and oleoresin (which are used as 'essential oils' but are extracted differently, and they all have different chemical compositions from each other). And of course there is an herbal tincture aka vanilla extract available (which if I am not mistaken, the vanilla oleoresin is made from) . I've tried vanilla absolute and the extract before, but I've only tried vanilla oleoresin from one supplier (Garden of Wisdom) so far.

First I love the oleoresin because of the smell. It is a very intense, rich smooth vanilla scent, much stronger than many absolutes I've smelled; absolutely divine!

The oleoresin is water soluble (unlike many essential oils and CO2s) so it's easy to add to water based products. Vanilla absolute is soluble in alcohol but you can still add it to a carrier oil, you'll have to shake well before each use since it won't really mix. I have not tried the CO2 yet but I have read on a vendor's site that it is soluble in oil :)

Aromatherapy/skin properties: vanilla has been used and shown in scientific studies to have a calming effect on people. It is also used as an aphrodisiac. Aside from those two uses (and scent) there aren't too many other aromatherapy uses that I am aware of.

How to use the oleoresin: add a couple drops per ounce of water based product to scent. Since the kind I bought is a 20 fold oil (meaning the scent is concentrated 20 times), this vanilla is very strong so you will not need to use that much. I am not sure if all vanilla oleoresin are 20 fold or not (if that is the standard), but the one I tried was.

Notes for uses of all types of vanilla based products: use the oleoresin for water or also alcohol based products, absolute for alcohol based perfumes, CO2 for massage/body/bath oils or other oil based products, and the extract for cooking. Side note: the extract also makes a wonderful perfume or perfume base.

Places to buy:

Oleoresin: I got mine from Garden of Wisdom (GOW). Vanilla oleoresin is very inexpensive compared to the absolute and C02. The one from GOW is a large size (1/4 ounce, which is a pretty large amount for the home crafter since like an essential oil or absolute, you use oleoresins at a very low concentration, diluted). Most vanilla absolutes or C02s cost a lot more.

Absolute: Mountain Rose Herbs (excellent absolute, very sweet). Wonderful in alcohol based perfumes. AV-AT also has vanilla absolute back in stock (I haven't tried it yet, but I am going to receive a sample of this soon, so will know soon how it is. But knowing the quality of Butch Owen's other essential oils and absolutes, I am quite sure it is very high quality). I think Samara Botane has it too. I just recently tried this company and I love their essential oils (related note: I just adore their gallica rose essential oil, I haven't seen this rose species anywhere else, and right now (May 2, 2008) it is super on sale!)

I haven't tried the C02 yet but Nature's Gift carries it (and Marge's other essential oils etc are very high quality). Eden Botanicals also carries it (I haven't tried any of their essential oils yet but their amber essences--amber is a combination of different scented ingredients--are so delicious smelling! Side note: their crystallized amber is vegetarian but not vegan as it contains beeswax)

Extract: a while Edward gave me vanilla extract from somewhere in Latin America and it was excellent. It was alcohol free (so I am assuming in some sort of glycerine base). I think Mountain Rose Herbs sells vanilla extract (I haven't tried theirs yet but all of their products are superior quality and they are the place I buy nearly all of my herbs from). I like the vanilla extract from Simply Organic aka Frontier Co-op. I also just bought vanilla beans a couple months ago and plan to make my own sometime!