Earth Mama Organics is as natural and environmentally sustainable as the name sounds. While I specifically examined their sunscreen range, I also found that their high level of environmental consciousness extends far beyond just these products. This is not always the case for companies with an ‘environmental’ range. Indeed, the very idea behind Earth Mama Organics is to produce the most natural products to help pregnant women with core focus on being as organic as possible and avoiding toxic chemicals. Aiming to be as much in touch with ‘Mother Nature’ as possible, entrepreneur Melina Olson established the company in 2002 with her extensive herbology background, and the company quickly expanded due to the demand for organic and non-toxic pregnancy personal care products. However, while their sunscreen products are extremely environmentally friendly with care for both the environment and their consumers, their packaging is questionable. Moreover, the limited information available on their manufacturing facilities shows a lack of transparency regarding who makes their products. It is for these reasons that Earth Mama Organics scores 1.5 planets out of 3.
Earth Mama Organic products focus on nurturing bodies using only natural materials, meaning that none of their products are made of toxic or synthetic substances, their sunscreen range included. In addition, the company focuses on avoiding unsustainable materials as well as what is included in their products. Harmful chemicals are not used, including chemicals that harm people or the environment, meaning no artificial fragrances or synthetic preservatives are added. These chemicals are extremely damaging to the environment, including the usage of Nano Zinc Oxide. This chemical can be absorbed into the bloodstream, thus impacting human health but also bleaching coral reefs and causing significant environmental damage. Many sunscreens contain this nano form of zinc oxide, but Earth Mama Organics has made it a point of only including the non-nano version of chemicals in their sunscreens, thereby limiting the environmental impact of their products. This is reinforced by their certifications; like the majority of their products, the sunscreens are all USDA Certified Organic. This means that 95-99.9% of the ingredients used are organic as non-organic ingredient would not be considered since they are on the National Allowed List. This list does not allow GMOs nor synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, which can have horrendous environmental ramifications to wildlife and water sources if leached into the environment. In addition, the organic claims are verified by Oregon Tilth, an independent third party certifier.
However, one reason that I did not give Earth Mama Organics 3 planets for this category is because of their packaging: they use plastic bottles and jars. Although they are BPA free and recyclable, their bottles and jars are composed of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Significantly, in the presence of heat, toxic metalloids in the plastic packaging such as antimony are released, a clear safety hazard for people’s health and the environment due to the chemicals released. It has been shown that there can be 100 times higher amount of antimony in bottled water compared to clean groundwater, increasing with duration and exposure to sunlight. As some of their products are sunscreens so its packaging will be in heat on sunny days, it begs the question why Earth Mama Organics are using this material in their packaging. Earth Mama Organics cites the fact that one of their customers has cut themselves on broken glass as a reason to stop using glass as packaging. I understand that glass may not be a viable alternative in this sense, but other sunscreen companies such as ‘Raw Materials’ are entirely plastic free and use aluminium packaging for their sunscreens. This means that aluminium is an adequate material for sunscreen storage, also shown by the fact that many companies such as the Body Shop have made a switch to this material for packaging. Earth Mama organics should therefore consider alternative forms of packaging which is both safe and environmentally friendly.
While there is extensive information on what their products contain and the organic nature of the company, there is relatively little on how the sunscreen products are manufactured. The only data available on Earth Mama Organics’ website is the fact that manufacturing originally began inside the founder’s home, and then expanded from there to a facility in Oregon. However, the fact that there is only one facility doesn’t tell us much as how much is manufactured as it could be an expansive plant, meaning there isn’t necessarily less processing if there is only one facility. Nevertheless, the fact that all of their materials are all natural means that synthetic production does not occur. The company’s definition of organic also encompasses the fact that “the plant was grown with respect for the earth, the soil, the farmer and you, the consumer. Certified organic farms adhere to strict standards, growing crops without the use of harmful pesticides or the usual dose of toxic chemical fertilisers,” shown in their USDA organic certifications. Therefore, the usage of pesticides and fertilisers are not involved in the production process, however further information needs to be provided on how the plants are grown (if they are grown in monocultures then this can cause soil infertility).
In general, sunscreen production requires water purification through reverse osmosis, whereby pure water obtained by putting water through pressure system and through a semipermeable membrane, thus separating pure water molecules and impurities such as salt. This water then mixed with the other ingredients. On their website, it is stated that lotions are preserved through ‘emulsifying (blending) oils and water,’ as well as their organic certified alcohol extract. This suggests that processing is still required for the company’s natural products, yet there is no mention of how energy consumptive the process is. Moreover, the production of PET, the plastic used in the packaging of the sunscreen and other Earth Mama Organics products is environmentally questionable. PET bottle production can generate more than 100 times the toxic emissions than producing the same bottle out of glass. It is clear that while the company advocates for recycling (they even have a blog for alternative product uses), Earth Mama Organics needs to hold themselves accountable and be more transparent in their manufacturing processes, including what energy source they use.
As previously mentioned, there is not a lot of information available on the manufacturing aspect of Earth Mama Organics. Despite having reached out via email to question the company on this and gain more information, there was no response. The reference to a facility in Clackamas, Oregon yields no information on the working conditions of the employees, nor how much they are paid. Although there hasn’t been any scandals associated with their manufacturing, this does not equate to evidence for fair working conditions by any means. Promisingly, their products are certified by the ‘Leaping Bunny Standard,’ which means that there is no animal testing in any stage of product development. This needs to be renewed on an annual basis. Nevertheless, the lack of transparency on their workers compared to how much information is available for other aspects of the company means further investigation is needed on who makes their products and their ethics as a company.