For the series Good Folk on this blog I have sent interview questions to some really wonderful people who are either making things, running shops, or generally promoting sustainability. I think you will enjoy reading their answers as much as I have, and I hope they inspire us all with the knowledge that there are people doing good in the world!
This interview is with Lu from Avenoir Perfumery, a gender-neutral perfume brand which is handmade in the UK. Lu only uses ethical, sustainable, vegan & cruelty-free ingredients, so you wont find any synthetics in her products.
Tell me about yourself and the work that you do
Hello! I'm Lu, a perfumer and a mum of one, living in Birmingham, UK. I started Avenoir Perfumery in September 2020 after a lifetime passion for amazing scents and finding it hard to find a vegan, ethical, sustainable yet modern alternative to mass-produced fragrances.
How has working sustainably impacted your non-business life?
I think the major impact has been seeing how sustainability works from the manufacturers perspective. There's a huge emphasis on the consumer to make changes - not all of which are practical, affordable or sustainable in terms of life commitments, health issues or income. Whereas, small choices made by a manufacturer, when scaled up can have a huge impact. It also taught me that sustainability and ethical choices go hand in hand. I really don't believe that a business can truly call themselves sustainable unless they choose to make ethical decisions as well - and I feel that in terms of being a consumer, it's made me look more at how the businesses I choose to buy from, and how ethical they are, towards those they work with, their customers, their marketing and the way they choose their raw materials.
Have you got any advice for other makers or businesses to help them work in a more ethical or sustainable way?
Start being more inclusive! If you feature people using your products in your marketing, pay influencers and models from a diverse range of backgrounds - not just white, middle class, cis-gendered and able-bodied. Make sure your website and social media are compatible with assistive tech, use image descriptions and alt text.
Have you got a particular cause or issue that you would like to raise awareness of?
Please check what's in your favourite perfume! Is it all synthetic aroma chemicals that are mostly made as by-products from very environmentally unfriendly oil and paper industries? Does it contain animal derivatives, such as Civet, Ambergris, African Stone, Castoreum, Honey or Beewax? I think a lot of people don't realise what actually goes into making an industrially-made perfume, and how many perfumes have never even been close to a flower, let alone contain plant-based ingredients.
What is the most challenging thing about the work that you do?
When I make perfumes, there's a lot to consider. It's not just about what smells nice! I also make sure I am up to date with what plants are on the red list of endangered species, which is continually changing. I also make sure that I am not buying from conflict zones, as it's near impossible to be sure that slave labour is not being used in the growing and harvesting of crops from these areas. I also have to abide by a lot of legislation and guidelines to make sure my products are safe.
Do you have any advice for people trying to shop or live more ethically?
Billions of people doing sustainability imperfectly is better than a handful doing it perfectly. Not everyone can do it all! I'm disabled, I would be housebound without a car as I can't use public transport where I live, but I did use reusable nappies with my daughter, we bulk buy without plastic when we can, and use household cleaning products that are environmentally friendly, just to name a few things! Not everyone can grow their own food, but we can choose to buy seasonal fruit and veg and reduce food waste by going for "imperfect" options.
What would be the top thing that you would change about the way we treat the planet if you could?
I would make sure that governments actually implemented carbon taxes and stopped offering corporate welfare to any company that isn't carbon neutral. If that happened, not only would substantially more taxes be raised from those who can most afford to pay them, it would also enable subsidies to be given for large scale projects like changing gas boilers for ground source heat pumps in homes across the country, but it would also force companies to change their business model to one that put the environment front and centre because being environmentally-friendly would equal being more profitable.