Across the world, millions of products are manufactured every minute of every day, and countless consumers fall prey to marketers and retailers that care little for the impacts that these products have on our health or that of our planet. Or do they?
Looking at some éarth friendly' products in a well-known and respected retailer today, I couln't help chuckle at the list of ingredients that most consumers don't even consider. Face creams, cosmetics, cleaning products and - wait for it, baby cosmetic products, all contain potentially harmful ingredients that pass the 'scrutiny' of the average shopper. But being responsible means little to the retailer, because their responsibility obviously ends at the point of sale and they seem oblivious to the 'downstream' impacts that the products they sell and brand pose.
But is it their fault? Are we as consumers not simply getting hooked into the 'fad' that has become of 'green'? The truth is that because we are uninformed, and we don't really understand the harm that common, everyday consumer products pose to our health - or the environment, we let the retail and manufacturing brands get away with trading on our trust. We assume - wrongly it seems, that 'they' know what they are doing, and they are a trusted household name, therefore it can't be bad for us. By becoming more informed and aware of the dangers of substances that manufacturers use out of habit - while more healthy and responsible alternatives are readily available, we can really make a difference. But it takes every consumer to become aware and to take a stand before producers and retailers change!
Being a responsible consumer should never descend into a situation in which we treat the concept of sustainability and éarth friendly' as a 'fad' or fashion item. 'Green' is a standard that we need to protect and encourage rather than simply assume what we are told is the truth. In South Africa, we have new, vigorous laws that require manufacturers to itemise each ingredient in the product on sale, and this gives us a unique ability to force change.
We are highly sensitised to issues such as GMO and the use of antibiotics in our food chain, so why not become as informed about what we use on and around us everyday? Why would you use something potentially harmful on yourself - or worse - on your baby, and still consider yourself informed? The next time you go to buy your favourite shampoo or carpet cleaner; soap or insect repellent, look at the label and google some of the ingredients before you buy. You will be surprised at what you find.