one little thing

Towards the beginning of the summer I decided that I will continue using up any of the beauty products I have remaining which I had purchased blindly at Shoppers Drug Mart and the like, but would only replace them with the “good stuff” once they ran out.  I am very lucky to live so close to The Big Carrot, which has a fairly extensive beauty section with very knowledgeable staff and I can therefore go in and purchase anything remaining quite confident that the products I am buying have been well researched.

I realize that a lot of the products we buy from shampoos, to body washes, to make up, to toothpaste can have many different issues associated with them, such as

– animal testing

– dangerous chemical products

– environmental damage

– adverse health effects on the consumer

– funding from these products supporting larger corporations/organizations which channel money into all sorts of “questionable” (to put it nicely) practices

The products that are more ethical, that are made by companies that are more transparent about their ingredients and practices, also come with a much higher price tag.  The toothpaste that I bought after making the switch cost me about $8, the shampoo and conditioner cost me about the same each, face wash set me back $11, and most recently I spent almost $9 on organic deodorant.

I should be clear, this is not the first time I have ever bought organic, natural, ethical beauty products.  I have been purchasing them for years but only intermittently, the deal I made with myself is to go this route from now on.  I think in the past I continued to make excuses about finances, convenience, and whatever else and therefore kept flip flopping between shelling out the dough for stuff I would feel good about purchasing and using and the garbage (sorry to say) that most of settle for.

I think that cost is a major barrier for a lot of people, as it is for me, but I think that it is just a matter of priorities and ethics.  Most of us have, at one time or another, seen the horrific images of animals being cruelly mistreated in the name of making our shaving gels, shampoos, make-up, [insert any beauty product here], “safe”.  We can all agree that we do not want to be the one directly responsible for that poor rabbit going blind for example, but it is very easy to remove that connection between the animal in the lab, the pollution in the water, the other detrimental side effects of the industry, and the purchases we make on a daily basis.

I have a very hard time writing about issues such as these because I will admit in many ways I am still a hypocrite.  I know that I, often knowingly, spend money on products that are not ethical but are convenient, not clean but are what I am used to, not the right choice but gosh darn it, I like them!  Thus the title of this post, “one little thing”.  In the grand scheme of things me buying $9 deodorant may in some way make a difference but I doubt it.  The main effect it has is making me feel better about how I am spending my money and what I am putting on my body.  I would love to be able to do the same and only eat organic for example, but I just really don’t know how I could possibly afford to do that at the moment.  And I know for some, that is no excuse.  I know for some, if I really wanted to eat organic I would re-prioritize my life and make it happen.  And on some level, I agree.  However, I think that for everyone it is about personal decisions and small changes over a period of time. Trying to change anything in one’s life too quickly and too drastically is bound to end up in failure and feelings of defeat.

I once heard an owner of a Fair Trade distribution company speak at my university and he said that it is a good idea to set a rule for yourself.  His rule is 90%-10% – with all of the purchases and decisions he has to make in his daily life, 90% of them are made with thought, research, and ethical considerations.  The other 10% are things that he either cannot buy in that way (he gave the example of a computer, it is very hard to buy an ethically made computer, but he still did research and bought the best possible), or those small impulse purchases that we all have.  90% is a lofty goal.  He knew this and was very clear about the fact that he worked his way up to that percentage.  He challenged all of us to set our own rule and really try to follow it as much as possible.  Even 50%-50% is a great start because even if a large group of people started to really think about what they are purchasing and therefore supporting with their money half the time they have to make a purchase, a huge shift would result in a consumer patterns.  I personally find that the percentage rule, while a good idea, would be somewhat difficult to track so I try to do it more by aspects of my life.  So beauty and cleaning products are now both in the “only clean, ethical, organic (when possible)” column.  I am slowly trying to move fresh produce into that area but it is difficult, mostly due to cost.  Coffee is in there.  So is laundry detergent (which I suppose also falls under cleaning products).

The next major step would be clothing and shoes.  Eeeep!  Not even really sure where to start on that one but when I make some progress on that journey I will be sure to write about it and share any wisdom I may have picked up!



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