Renewable and Sustainable Citrus Oils – A Life Cycle Assessment

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By Christie Harman, Executive Director, Renewable Citrus Products Association

Citrus oils are used extensively in flavors, fragrances, consumer cleaning products and other commercial products.  Compared to petroleum-based alternatives, essential oils from citrus crops have significantly lower environmental impacts.  This was unequivocally demonstrated in a cradle-to-cradle Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) recently performed which demonstrated reduced effects on impact categories such as human toxicity, smog, and global warming.

"Citrus oils are the essential oils expressed from the peels of citrus fruit during the juicing process," said Jon Leonard, president of the Renewable Citrus Products Association.  "In an era of increased awareness of sustainable practices and a global move toward utilizing renewable resources, we are pleased the LCA confirms that citrus oils are 100% biobased, renewable, and sustainable.  Additionally, by utilizing the peel to extract citrus oils, we do not consume a human food crop or impact crops used for feed or fuel," he concluded.

Citrus oils are also finding new markets as biobased starting materials for innovative products that utilize the principles of Green Chemistry. "We fully expect the use of citrus oils for Green Chemistry and Engineering to increase due to their proven low carbon footprints and ability to replace petroleum-based products," asserted Mr. Leonard.

Citrus oils are unique in that the building blocks (carbon dioxide and water) come from the environment through photosynthesis and most uses return the carbon to the environment.  This cycle is commonly called the closed carbon cycle for biomass and allows the LCA to track these building blocks from their origin in nature to their return to the environment or "cradle-to-cradle."  This carbon neutral approach demonstrates the carbon neutrality associated with renewable citrus oils.

A key objective of performing the LCA was to provide a cradle-to-gate assessment of citrus agriculture, juice production and processing of citrus oils, employing the carbon neutral approach.  The LCA follows the ISO 14040 Standard and uses the Carbon Trust’s PAS 2050 methodology to assess the global warming potential or carbon footprint of orange juice, cold pressed orange oil, 5-fold orange oil, orange terpenes and citrus terpenes more commonly called d-limonene.

The Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) impact assessment methodology was used to assess all the impact categories, further illustrating the lower environmental impact of citrus oils compared to petroleum-based products. Ultimately, the LCA showed that utilizing renewable and sustainable citrus oils promotes sustainable outcomes.

The LCA, an Executive Summary, and a two-page brochure can be downloaded at

For additional information about RCPA and citrus oils, please visit

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