Springtime in the Forest

On this beautiful Earth Day, I'd like to share with you the wonders of my part of the planet. Subtle scents permeates the air in the Pacific Northwest at this time of the year: Soft tassels of new growth fir and spruce trees - their scent reminiscent of citrus and fresh-cut grass. Fiddleheads emerge from the damp forest floor. They spiral towards the light and their shoots are tender and delicious. Miniature galaxies of elderflowers, with their blackcurrant-like aroma dot the forest like little fragrant stars. And last but not least: the balsamic sweetness of the budding black cottonwood trees, which envelop the forest trails with a promise of sweet, warm sunny days. 

All of these are nature's reminder to steer away from the floral cliches and celebrate spring with other plant-parts. If you are like me, spring is the time of year to rediscover the classic Fougeres in your wardrobe, and discover new plants that are coming to life, as well as discover new wild plants to forage and bring nature home, literally, after our long hibernation.

1. Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads are the budding, coiled “leaves” of ostrich ferns  (Matteuccia struthiopteris). The fiddleheads are present in early spring, and are considered a delicacy. They have a very similar to asparagus in both flavour and texture - but a lot more tart. 

Perhaps it's the fiddleheads - spring to me is the best season to enjoy fragrances from the Fougère (fern in French) family. Namely, l'Herbe Rouge. You might also want to try my idea for an Edible Fougère Recipe: Fiddleheads in Lavender Butter

2. Fir Buds & Violet Leaves

A wonderful way to enjoy the scents of the forest all day long is place a few of these conifer buds in your water bottle. Douglas Fir is the most delicious of all - and the needles can be used that way year-around. You'll stay hydrated and also benefit from the vitamin C that is naturally occurring in these leaves (the only local source of those until the summer berries ripen). They smell like a Christmas tree and have delicious, slightly tart lemon-tangerine aroma.   

Rainforest perfume captures the scent of the temperate Pacific Northwest forests - the largest of the temperate forests in the world, and with the most productive biomass. It combines the fragile, crisp cucumber notes of violet leaf with damp forest floor with sprucejuniper and pine
Rainforest also makes use of my very own wild-harvested elderflowers essence - which is our next topic! 

3. Elderflowers

If you've ever visit my studio in April and May, you'll be served the fragrant and refreshing elderflower"champagne" - effervescent soda infused with wild-foraged elderflowers that I make at home. You can create your own by following my recipe on SmellyBlog. Also, you may enjoy a subtle nuance of elderflowers in Sandal Ale - where it adds a fruity aroma to balance the sweet apricot and funky hops notes.

4. Cottonwood & Balsam Poplar Buds

I'm yet to try this Cottonwood Bud Oil Recipe, an infusion that has healing properties for muscle aches and damaged skin; but I've been inspired to capture this scent in a perfume by tincturing it. 
Etrog Oy de Cologne, however, uses a different part of a tree from the same family: balsam poplar buds absolute. It gives it a unique, honeyed aroma that echoes the sweetness of the rare citron fruit. And speaking of citrus - have you heard about the Citrus & Cologne Week-long Course (May 4-8)? It's perfect for beginner students of perfumery, and there are 2 spots available. 

For more ideas on how to celebrate the beauty and diversity of this planet with local, handcrafted perfumes made with wild-harvested botanicals, visit ayalamoriel.com

Earth Day Thoughts

Earth Day 2010, originally uploaded by sphuri.

There's green glow outside from trees with new foliage on Haro street. Summer has began early in Vancouver this year, before spring has completely finished saying what it has to say with its own language of flowers... While I enjoy this mild weather this year, I can't help but wonder what it has to be do with global warming, and what can we do to make this place a better home for our children and all the other plants and animals that have a right to live on this planet.

There's always something we can do better for Mother Earth. And while it's nice to have days where we can re-arrange our thoughts and weigh our actions in relation to something so big and important and crucial in our lives; this is something that requires actions everyday.

Creating all-natural, paraben and phthalate free perfumes is not enough. Awareness of endangered species and what is ethical or non-ethical to use as an ingredient is only part of the big picture.

My little company, as small as it may be, adds products and more stuff on this planet, which in the end, if I'm not careful, creates more waste. I try to change that and always make my products and my business practices better and more earth-friendly.

Business practices don't stop at the final product alone. They also pertains to how I ship and handle paperwork, waste, etc. I don't want to cover this up for you: as hard as I try, there is still lots of room for improvement.

In my business and personal practice, I try to go by the rule of reduce, reuse and recycle. That particular order is most important!

Reducing products we consume is the first and most important step in healing the planet. That means watching what we buy AND what we produce. Before I buy anything I ask myself: Do I really need this product or thing? Will it actually improve my life?
When it comes to business choices and purchases, I try to keep the shipping to minimum, by ordering supplies all at once if possible. This reduces shipping costs, and ultimately, the amount of energy and materials that go to waste to get these supplies imported to me.

However, by creating new products I'm obviously not helping in the matter, so I'm just as guilty as anyone else. But what I do differently is creating a product that is very high quality, from within and without. And I try to make my packaging durable and reusable as well. But I'll talk about this in a minute. I try to keep my output to the minimum needed, which is a challenge and always requires improvement. Essentially, there is no way of sugar coating it: as long as we make stuff, there will be more stuff. Let's just try not to make it clutter!

Now, reusing is a little easier, and in my business this is relevant to my packaging: I do my best to make sure that all of my products are refillable. This is party why I don't have spray bottles yet (these are very rare to find non-leaky unless they are crimped; which means that you will have to toss them out when you are finished with the perfume). My flacons, roll-ons and pendents are all refillable. Which is especially neat for local customers, but a little problematic for my online customers, who will have to ship the empty containers back and forth and leave another trail of packing supplies behind, not to mention the gas used for transporting those packages. But nevertheless, I insist on having that option with the design of my packaging. The same goes for the boxes - which are relatively durable and can be reused for quite sometime to protect bottles and samples and jewelry. I find them particularly great when traveling!

And as for shipping: I try to re-use shipping materials as much as possible, form all the packages I receive I always keep flattened boxes, envelopes and packing supplies to use again for my orders that I ship out. But sometimes I get stuff that is just not reusable, such as a mixture of packing popcorn and a bunch of messy shredded paper and crunched up plastic bags. Whoever sends me packages like that is obviously doing a good job of reusing their stuff, but they are making it very unpleasant for me to reuse it. I prefer to keep the packaging stuff separated by materials type. It's not only easier to pack that way, but it's also nice to at least have the option to throw the stuff to recycling. Plus, when the packing stuff is so messy that it will contaminate the product (i.e.: leave specs of paper all over the place), it's just not cool!

Recycling is, believe it or not, the last resort of being earth-friendly and considerate. The amount of energy and waste that goes into recycling any material is tremendous. In some cases it is even more wasteful than just making something new. So we really need to treat it as the last resort (although better than just throwing things into the trash!). I don't recycle much in the way of actual perfume materials, but I do have a project on the go for all the blotter strips and paper towels that are used on an ongoing basis in the studio and in classes: I'm going to turn them into fragrant paper. Very soon. I just need to collect enough stuff and build a special frame for paper-making first!

Recycling relates the most to my shipping and receiving practices. Thankfully, there are now 100% recyclable cushioned envelopes and other packing supplies that are fully recycled and can be re-recycled again. The "only" downside to those materials is that they are heavier! Which means more carbon footprint... Which is not so good. So you see: there is always something to think about. Things are not as simple as we'd like them to be, which should make us come up with better solutions, and better products to replace all the messy solutions we've created for years.

Atlas, it's time for your bath

Happy Earth Day to all the citizens of this planet!

Some plant a tree on Earth Day, or participate in eco-activism. I belive Earth Day should be all year around. We really should take care of this planet we live on. But just like we ten to neglect our bodies, we do so to the Earth that is our nourishing home.

For Earth Day, I’d like to bring to your attention a environmental/perfume issue which I was procrastinating to bring up, simply because I don’t’ take bad news well when I’m jet lagged. This is the possible ban on all citrus oils by the EU Cosmetics Regulatory Board. I will elaborate on that tomorrow, but for now, I would like to refer you to Cropwatch’s latest newsletter on the topic.

What can we do? Take matters into consumers' hands! Emailing Cropwatch to take part in the Campaign for Real Perfume.

I am now off to catch up with 5 nights of no sleep. Good night!

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