Thursday, March 4, 2010

Shop with a clear conscience

By Carina Truyts

Buying power. We all have it. Every time we enter a store, it is in our hands to buy responsibly or recklessly. Consumers have the right to ask questions and demand answers, but we can also educate ourselves about companies that are worthwhile supporting.

There are a few fiddly labels that may confuse shoppers. This is due to lots of opportunistic producers hopping on to the bandwagon of organic produce- It’s a fast growing market, with vast opportunities for exploitation. It’s a fact that producing eco- friendly or organic products is more expensive. The Organic Consumer Association (OCA) says that “Limits on pesticides, for instance, mean more hand-weeding. They also mean farmers run a higher risk of losing all or part of a year's crop.” Certifying foods as organic is also expensive. So, some companies use commercial methods of producing, but sell products for “organic” prices with misleading labels such as “natural” “green” or “environmentally conscience.”

You should look out for labels that say “organically certified” or at least “made with recyclable materials” or “not tested on animals”. Bio- dynamic labels are another cup of tea entirely. According to, biodynamic farmers respect and care for soil, water, plants and animals, but also work with natural and cosmic cycles, considering the universe as an indivisible whole that should be managed as such. It’s pretty intense and proportionally priced!

I visited the shop “The Mustard Seed” at Peppergrove Mall this week and found some really reasonably-priced-good-for-mother-nature stuff. It’s really worth a visit. The friendly staff will happily point out the environmentally-friendly products. I found some fantastic Lavendar and Sugar Beet conditioner from Earth Sap Organic. I don’t recommend the Bloublommetjieskloof hair products though- although they smell really good, they’re too runny to apply! However, their Wild Fynbos soap, priced at R8.50 is a total treat. There is also a vast range of cleaning products to choose from- a great way to cut down on your carbon footprint!

Bulk buying is another way to save the environment and your budget when you consider how expensive packaging is for everyone involved. Digs- mates can buy 5 litres of cleaning products and share it. To make it even more worth it, The Mustard Seed also offers a 10% discount on cleaning materials to all GRASS members!

Another long-term investment worth considering is purchasing a ceramic Biowash ball - you don’t need to add any soap to your wash! Manager Louise Krueger owns one and highly recommends it. “It works, and you only have to pre-treat stains” she says. “You can also put it in your fridge to keep your veggies fresh.” Retailing at R479, it’s not bad considering a 2kg pack of commercial washing powder costs R59.99 and only lasts a month or two.

There are several other interesting buys. Instant Organic Miso soup, although it costs about R10, is a good clean convenience, especially for hikers. They also stock Organic Pukka Teas. Its 12.48 am and I just brewed a cup. The flavour I chose is Clarity, with organic ginger, lemongrass and gotu koja tea. It’s amazingly good. No sugar or milk required. Just refreshing lemon grass and revitalising ginger that doesn’t taste raw or astringent. Priced at R3.95 a sachet, I’ll keep it for special occasions like pre-exam stress relief and the night before deadlines!

People in search of healthy food (bird seed, that kind of stuff) will enjoy the Health Connection range. Be aware of the subtle packaging- bright green packets are organic, while the dark green labels are not. Solgar vitamins and herbal supplements are also a fantastic buy; they focus on sustainable production, going so far as to use filtered water in the process. They also have special vitamins that are focused on vegetarian and kosher diets.

We move from the cosy Mustard Seed to the glaring lights of Pick and Pay and are confronted with the moral issue - free-range versus caged chicken eggs. It’s as simple as free versus caged- what would you prefer? There are so many good reasons to buy organic, free-range and eco-friendly. You are in a position to promote healthy soil building, reduction in fertilizer usage and cruelty to animals. Your money also goes a long way to support small and local businesses, which in turn follow fair trade principles. You’re helping humans today, and by supporting planet-friendly ventures - the generations of tomorrow.

Even the simple act of filling up your recycled bottles at the spring near the highway makes a difference. Think of the plastic that goes into packaging water. As a bonus, spring water is deliciously sweet and better than anything you can buy! And don’t forget to take home your green goods in a recyclable or environmentally-friendly bag; it’s just one more step towards a squeaky clean conscience.

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