}

Monday, July 23, 2018

Choosing products

There are all sorts of reasons why we choose consumer products, including things like cost/value for money, reputable brand, recommendations, promotions, values, politics, and so many more reasons. Whatever the reasons we have, using a brand is a matter of choice. Sometimes, those choices are made for unexpected reasons, like petroleum.

Several years ago, I began switching the household cleaners I use to a New Zealand brand called ecostore. I picked them because they don’t use petrochemicals, instead using plants and minerals to make their products. The reason I made the change was because I was worried about Peak Oil.

Peak Oil refers to the point at which the extraction of petroleum hits its peak before beginning a gradual decline and eventual depeletion. In the earliest stages we’ll have plenty of time to make changes to move away from petroleum, but over time—especially if we don’t make changes fast enough—the supply of oil will become scarcer and scarcer, and prices will soar.

Weaning Western Civilisation off of oil will be slow and painful, and I realised that there were some things for which plastics made from petroleum will be needed for a long time. I was thinking particularly about medical products, things for which the plastic needs to be pure. So, it didn’t make sense to me to use petroleum to make household cleaners when there were alternatives not made from oil.

I started thinking about all this when Jeannette Fitzsimons, who was co-Leader of the NZ Green Party 1995-2009, started talking about the topic, as she did in the early 2000s. When she left Parliament, she was focused on the topic nearly full time, and it got my attention.

And that’s the entire reason I made the switch—to do my part, basically, and to tell others about the products if they worked. Turns out, they do work, BUT, they’re significantly more expensive than the oil-based mass-market cleaners. My strategy was to buy them when they’re on special, when the price is much more competitive.

Over time, I added shampoo, conditioner, soap, and even lip balm to the list of their products I use, and throughout that time the reason was the same as always: Avoiding oil-based products. I learned, though, that some of the people using the products did so because they believe that plant and mineral based products were somehow less toxic than ones made from oil. The reality, of course, is that many natural substances are, or can be, highly toxic, every bit as much as ones made from petroleum. The main difference is actually that plant and mineral based products are generally more sustainable than petroleum-based products, particularly as the company moves away from pure plastic packaging, as they have been.

The company’s founder, Malcom Rands, sold out of the company. The managing director who succeeded Rands, Pablo Kraus, said, "We're not saving the planet, we're trying to save ourselves so that we can live on the planet: I think it's a really big distinction to make." I think that’s a good, achievable goal since they’re making it easy to tread more lightly on the planet. A portion of the company’s profits still fund Fairground Foundation, which funds sustainability and conservation projects, among other things, which the Rands founded and now devote their time to.

As it happens, the company and its products align very well with my own values. The products they produce are good and effective, and are affordable when bought on special. But the whole reason I started using them was that I wanted to eliminate the unnecessary use of petroleum-based products, and to show it can be done, because it can be done. And, of course, all of this was before the move to ban single-use plastic bags, too. Things are moving in the right direction.

The products listed and their names are all registered trademarks, and are used here for purposes of description and clarity. No company or entity provided any support or payment for this blog post, and all products were purchased by me at normal retail prices. So, the opinions I expressed are my own genuinely held opinions, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the manufacturers, any retailer, or any known human being, alive or dead, real or corporate. Just so we’re clear

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