It’s easy to love Palo Santo (most eco shops do). In the locales where it is grown, this wood is culturally significant, in fact holy. In a weird case of cultural appropriation, there is an emerging retail obsession with it. It is ‘natural’ and unpackaged … but is it sustainable or low-waste?

‘Hand-collected and cut in Northern Peru’, ‘only old dead wood is used’. It is wild-harvested, it is not re-planted, nor do we really know the social conditions of its production nor the impact of the removal of dead wood on animal habitat and local ecosystems.

In a similar way, many tropical and exotic ingredients like cocoa butter, coconut oil, palm oil, himalayan salt, shea butter, and many amazonian ‘superfoods’ (cinnamon, sandalwood and tropical spices) that end up in ‘natural’ products like essential oils and incense are embraced with very little objective consideration.

No product is perfect, but sending hardwood halfway around the world to improve the smell of your home has to be done with a conscious sense of what you are actually trading off.

Sage, mesquite, sweetgrass, pinon pine: all of these are available in the USA and provide a viable alternative to all those carbon miles from Peru, or India for example.

Our rule of thumb—respect a sense of place: local and connected markets are fresher and unique, embodying standards we can observe and understand.

Exotic stuff should be used occasionally and thoughtfully.

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