Perfumes have existed for thousands of years dating back to the ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Persian cultures where they were used in ceremonies, for hygiene, and as a sign of nobility. Today they are used by millions of people to express a personal style or taste. In 2018, the global perfume market was estimated to be valued at $30 billion and growing. Consumers are shifting preferences to perfumes made with natural ingredients.  Perfumes may contain synthetic compounds but plants are by far the largest source of fragrances used in perfumes. Many different aromatic compounds and essential oils are derived from the bark, flowers and blossoms, leaves, resins, seeds, and roots of plants. These natural compounds are often important to the plant to attract pollinators or deter pests. To compose a perfume these plant sources are blended with or without synthetic compounds resulting in a product that is aesthetically pleasing.
Climate change poses a serious threat to the continued success of plant-based perfumes. As global temperatures, extreme weather events, and greenhouse gas emissions increase, perfume ingredients are being put at more risk. Some key ingredients are already in short supply and regions where ingredients are grown are at high risk from climate change. Scientists who study pollinators have demonstrated that a rise in temperature can mean less scent released by flowers and that drought stress and increases in CO2 change floral traits. These and other studies indicate that major changes are underway for the perfume industry and its millions of customers. One option that could help the perfume industry is to grow the necessary crops in verticle farms where conditions could be controlled to match ideal out-of-door conditions.
The world's leaders in the production of lavender are Bulgaria and France. Provence in southeastern France is well known for its vast fields of lavender. However, these fields are now at risk as climate change has started to cause seasonal changes in temperature, rain, and pests. The lack of winter rains has harmed recent lavender harvests and the rise in temperature has allowed cicadas, the main insect pest, to ravage fields. Growers have tried to address these changes by planting hybrid crops, adding irrigation, and adding different plants to their fields to confuse cicadas, but success has been limited. The areas ideal for growing lavender are also shifting north as current areas face more challenges. The combination of these factors is devastating and resulted in poor crops in 2003, 2006, 2012, and 2015.  In Bulgaria, unexpected heavy rains affected production in 2019, and in the following year, a prolonged drought apparently activated a soil-borne disease, causing losses.
The natural vanilla industry is large but most of the vanilla compounds used today in perfumes are synthetic. Natural vanilla production is being affected by climate change in several ways. Madagascar, the source of most natural vanilla, has experienced increasing temperatures, heat waves, drought, floods, and cyclones. In 2017, Cyclone Enawo, the strongest to hit Madagascar in thirteen years, devastated Antalaha and Sambava, the country’s largest vanilla-producing regions. It destroyed 90 to 100% of the vanilla crops in Antalaha and 80% in Sambava (together almost 30% of the annual global supply) driving up prices by nearly 350%. More recently, Madagascar has been hit with drought conditions, which will likely worsen along with more intense cyclone activity with continued warming.
Vetiver is grown for the essential fragrant oil obtained from its roots. The oil is used in 90% of all western perfumes. Haiti produces about 50% of the world's vetiver, followed by, India, Java, and several other countries. Almost all are destined for the perfume industry but the plant can also be used to stabilize soil and prevent erosion. In fact, planting vetiver around hill farms is a cost-effective solution to erosion that has the potential to benefit both local farmers and the perfume industry.  Unfortunately, Haiti is the most vulnerable country in the Caribbean and Latin America to climate change putting vetiver production at increasing risk. 
This plant-based database is in its infancy. Please stay tuned as we will be adding products soon, starting with perfumes.
It’s not just foods that are changing because of climate change—so are the plant-based products we encounter every day. Textiles, perfumes, cosmetics, dyes, pharmaceuticals, medicinal herbs, cleaning products, pet foods and many more are changing. The plants used to make these products are growing in a world with rising temperatures, shifts in water resources, and a different atmosphere. And all of these factors can affect the quality and availability of plant-based products.
Our plant-based product database will demonstrate the extent of the changes underway.
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