Tuesday, December 2

Green, Natural, Eco: the new low-fat

The terms 'green', 'natural, and 'eco', denote products that are allegedly sustainable, eco-friendly, that sort of thing. But to me, when it comes to commercial products using these terms, I take them with the same grain of salt that I do the term 'low-fat' on a box of cookies.

Put it this way, sugar is 100% natural. Yet we'd all agree that there's very little that is good about this substance. It makes things taste yummy sure, but it also rots our teeth and is one of the main culprits behind rising obesity levels in our children.

Just saying something is natural doesn't automatically make it healthy, eco-friendly, or sustainable. Neither does it mean it's mode of production ensured ethical working conditions or a fair wage. Even substances such as salt, baking soda, water, and wheat, have to be produced, manufactured, transported, packaged, and so on. There is so much more to products than just a single aspect such as 'natural'.

We need to keep in mind that companies are first and foremost there as a business - they are there to make money. So they follow trends - what the consumer wants, they provide. If we're all crazy about low-fat, suddenly there is a glut of low-fat products on the shelves. But how many of us wised up and discovered that these same products were incredibly high in sugar? Although the low-fat craze has come and gone, the ideology still lingers on. I still see commercials touting such products even today. Experts know full well that these products are virtually useless and often hazardous in trying to lose weight, but the general public is still willing to be duped.

Now, green and eco are the new low-fat. And the general public, with its good intentions, is ready to buy anything hailing those aspirations.

Sure, moving my consumer power over to these products is certainly a move forward. However, when properly studied, I often find the choice is actually only a matter of the lesser of two evils.

There are 'green' products that are entirely unnecessary, and 'green' products that are only marginally green. Those of us who truly want to make a difference, who live more frugally, and who live sustainably, will often see right through these products. But the 'affluent' citizen with plenty of cash but no time to spare, will inevitably be taken in

Personally, I'm glad someone chooses to use an eco-friendly cleaning product rather than complacently sticking with their ungreen brand. But if your aim is to make changes that truly matter, or you have actually made a significant lifestyle change such as self-sufficiency, then I know you will want to think a little more, do just that tiny bit more research, and ask lots of questions. I know I do.

One thing we need is better certification. But not being one to rely on the government and its officials for my ethical choices, the most important thing I can do is simply stay aware and take a little time and effort to find answers.

When I pick up an eco-product I will ask, 'is this just a cookie in disguise?'

Because it seems the true green lifestyle is not really about surrounding myself with green products but rather about looking at my level of consumption.

4 comments:

  1. Hear hear! This is a matter dear to my heart at the moment. Having survived the low-fat craze with a slightly bruised ego, I'm now finding myself making some of the same mistakes with supposedly green products and it infuriates me.
    I know the info is out there if I took the time and effort to find it, yet in my eagerness to move forward and do good I find myself relying on word of mouth instead of my own research (and I love research so that's saying something!). But when we know better we do better, so there's hope for me yet!
    Thanks Mon for making me think once again!

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  2. I was quite amused at the grocery last week that they were advertising a new brand of chicken they were carrying as "natural" with no definition as to what that meant. I certanily hope it's a natural chicken I don't want to eat an artificial one.
    Advertising copy is SO much fun.

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  3. This is a great post. I've thought much of the same thing. Especially in instances like when I see the Windex parent company (Clorox??) with a TV ad touting their "green" line of cleaning products. Yeah, right!

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  4. This reminds me of the sausages my husband brought home from the store recently: they were advertised as being a "traditional recipe", yet they had BHT and other preservatives!

    Lots of icky stuff occurs in nature. Near where I grew up there were naturally occurring tar pits...not something you would want to touch! And as you say, even seemingly simple substances still have to be processed: most sugar is made in factories, and things like baking soda and borax come from mines.

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