These Perfumers Are Reducing Their Environmental Impact

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Today’s fragrance industry offers a variety of ways to give your scent wardrobe an eco makeover.

Once upon a time, a person might approach shopping for a new fragrance by considering a scent’s splashy, celeb-fronted ad campaign or its eye-catching bottle design. But in recent years, shoppers have grown more concerned with another aspect of their olfactory obsession: a fragrance’s environmental impact.

Just like it has revolutionized every other beauty category, sustainability has changed how fragrances are developed — and purchased. Today, perfumers are considering the carbon footprint of their creations as much as the layering of the notes themselves. And it’s not just the new kids on the block who are cleaning up the fragrance industry; heritage houses are also working to reduce their impact on the environment, with refillable bottles and eco-friendly formulations.

Guerlain’s nature-inspired refillable Aqua Allegoria fragrances showcase its commitment to protecting the environment. Cécile Lochard, the brand’s former chief sustainability officer, notes that the switch to using sugar-beet alcohol, which prevents the use of certain pesticides, in all of its Aqua Allegoria scents is a major achievement. “The development of an organic alcohol shows how fast the race to improve sustainable sourcing is now moving,” she says. For the Aqua Allegoria collection’s latest launch, Florabloom, Guerlain partnered with organic-flower growers in Grasse to source a buttery enfleurage of tuberose.

“I think we’re going to see a lot more discussion around not only eco-friendly materials but also fair-trade conditions,” predicts Emma Vernon, the self-proclaimed “perfume-obsessed” host of the Perfume Room podcast. Brands are focusing on more sustainable manufacturing practices, including the working conditions and economic opportunities of those harvesting the ingredients that make up a fragrance, she says. “While sustainability is a huge piece of the puzzle, consumers want to know that they’re supporting something that’s ethical across the board.”

To further reduce waste, some fragrance aficionados are choosing to humbly build out their scent wardrobes with curated discovery sets, subscription-based trial sizes or decanted samples instead of gratuitously filling their shelves with pricey — and often underused — full-size bottles. As a result, services like Scentbird, a subscription brand that offers monthly deliveries of designer scents in eight-millilitre travel sprays (that’s approximately 120 spritzes), are becoming increasingly popular among the #PerfumeTok community. The service provides fragrance lovers with the ability to choose from a wide array of trendy scents, so subscribers can dip their toes into the world of luxury fragrance without any major financial commitment or excess waste.

While relatively simple (but still important) eco swaps, like refillable bottles, have gradually become the norm, fragrance houses — and the perfumers they work with — continue to push forward, enthusiastically doing more and more to give back to the planet. And for an industry that owes Mother Nature so much (what with all the flowers and plants and all), it’s encouraging to see the world of perfume investing in the art of smelling great sans guilt.

From samples to small-batch offerings, there’s no shortage of eco-friendly fragrance options. Here, five of FASHION’s top picks.

Les Vides Anges Pop Extrait de Parfum


Canadian “slow perfume” brand Les Vides Anges is committed to using naturally sourced extracts in its limited-run scents.

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Fenty Eau de Parfum Refillable Travel Set


Featuring three 10-millilitre bottles that can be popped into a sleek purse-friendly case and easily refilled, this set removes the need for excess packaging.

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Etat Libre d’Orange I Am Trash


Etat Libre d’Orange uses “exhausted” rose petals, previously distilled sandalwood chips and apple scraps to create this floral-woody blend.

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Hiram Green Discovery Set


Montreal’s Etiket boutique offers curated sample packs and affordable hand-filled mini vials of its wide library of scents.

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The Perfumed Court A Vintage Aldehydic Sampler Pack


The Perfumed Court is an expansive online source that sells small-yet-precious decants of often hard-to-find scents and offers its customers the option to try original parfums from the late 1800s.

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This article first appeared in FASHION’s April 2024 issue. Find out more here.

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