Organic...Understanding the Organic Label and Why Honua does not use it.
Sustainable ingredient sourcing is core to our DNA and every single product we make. In fact, Honua Founder Kapua Browning spent ~2 months this year with several of our farming partners throughout the Hawaiian islands to help them better plan what they grow and when so we can use in our upcoming product launches.
Some of our farms are "organic" but some are not and likely never will be. Hang on before you throw up your hands in frustration. We source from a variety of farms throughout Hawai'i (and outside of Hawai'i when we don't have a Hawaiian source). None of our partner farms use pesticides or farm in an unsustainable way. They all practice sustainable methods, including managing soil health/quality, minimizing water usage, and using absolutely no chemicals or genetically-modified ingredients. This also includes focusing on plants that are suited for the local environment. Attempting to grow plants not suited to the environment can be a drain on resources, which is....not sustainable.
Our farms are 100% focused on growing the absolutely highest quality ingredients possible and while they practice organic and sustainable methods, they don't have the official USDA seal, so they can't claim to be organic nor can we include organic on our packaging (but they are in practice). They either chose not to pay for this pricey inspection and certification (with annual license renewal fees) or they cannot pay for it. If we required our partners to be certified organic, we would lose out on many beautiful ingredients. Additionally, we would be unable to help these farms grow and benefit the local Hawaiian economy.
Based in Maui, Maiden Hawaii Naturals is a produces premium oils used in culinary and cosmetic products. Their parent company, Pacific Biodiesel, uses recycled cooking oils from Hawaii restaurants to produce clean biodisel. In 2017, they began sustainably farming sunflowers (see left) and other crops in Maui's central valley. Today, they produce and sell their products internationally, while their efforts have created a sustainability network that supports local communities and beyond.
Near the northernmost tip of the Big Island of Hawaii, sits a small farm outside of Hawi. In addition to their sustainable beekeeping operation, Ho'ola Honey has recently started planting on their family farm, both to sustain their growing bee colonies but also to supply high quality plants and herbs (and lemons, per the photo to the right!) to the local community. They produce high quality, potent 'Ōlena (Hawaiian turmeric) but in small quantities. We are starting to use it in our 'Ōlena Beauty Oil as well as our recently launched Limited Edition.
Both of these farms adhere to the strictest organic and sustainable methods, yet they are not organic-certified, and that is fine with us. We prefer they invest their money in growing their operations through more crops, better practices and people vs paying for an expensive certification that also carries annual fees.
It's important to understand that organic does not always equal sustainable. Many companies source exclusively organic thinking it is the best way to ensure great ingredients. While it does ensure ingredients are clean and natural, they may be over-harvested, which can wreak havoc on the soil and the local ecosystem. Demand for the next hot organic ingredient can result in more and more planting of it in regions that don't cater to this plant, which is a drain on resources.
Additionally, we don't source ingredients that don't have sustainable farming plans in place. For example, for many years, Honua chose not to use sandalwood as we did not have a sustainable option and some sandalwood harvesting destroys living trees. Now, we've partnered with Hāloa'Āina, a sustainable reforestation project on the Big Island of Hawai'i. Founder Kapua has started blending with Hawaiian Sandalwood again and we could not be more excited.
Another example of over-harvesting happens when an ingredient skyrockets in popularity. For example, demand for ginseng has grown in the past decade as more people understand its health benefits and its use in products from ingestibles to skincare has increased. As a result, wildcrafted ginseng has been harvested at an increasing rate, triggering protection by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) to prevent over-harvesting or even extinction.
More to come on "wildcrafted"!
We'd love to hear your thoughts on organic! Mahalo for reading.