Over Consumption, Over Use and Cosmetics
A few years ago we used to visit north Wales a lot. The kids were at the bucket-and-spade stage, which was great. We used to very frequently call into souvenir shops, which we loved with all their joyous and colourful nonsense. Trinkets, toys and tea-towels to remind us all of a great holiday on the beach. After a while we started to think about how much goes into producing all this stuff. A million items that aren’t really necessary at all and which result in the use of environmental resources. But we then thought about all those people in poor countries whose survival and hopes relies on us buying this stuff. We were in a quandary!
We’ve recently been grappling with the topic of consumption again. A lot of people are now talking about the over use of resources, which results in environmental degradation. As with most such subjects, we’ve found this one is also a lot more complicated than might first appear from the headlines that usually grab people’s attention and result in a “call to arms” !
The most important influences in this debate
People in developed economies use more resources in those of developing economies. The worse culprit is the US which has 4.5% of the world’s population but consumes 30% of its resources, as measured by expenditure at 2012 levels. Per capita, the developed world uses 32 times the resources of the developing world (source: New York Times 02.01.2008).
We see this as being unacceptable because we in the West consume too much, but the main worry is that people in the developing economies aspire to our lifestyle and consumption levels. China and India (which account for one third of global population) together with the US are the three biggest forces that will affect the global biosphere (source: Michael Renner, 2006) this century, which will be closely followed by Africa,which is where the vast majority of population growth will happen (globally from 7.5bn to c.11.5bn) by the end of the 21stCentury (source: United Nations 23.01.2019). As the people in these countries consume more (as we have done) the effects on the environment could be catastrophic if unchecked.
But what is it that we consume that has the biggest impact on the environment?
Well, according to the World Bank, across all economies as measured by expenditure:
- food, beverage and clothing accounts for 45.8% of all consumption, so getting on for a half. We’ve recently seen concerns raised of the effects of the fast fashion industry on the environment and it’s well documented that something like 30% of all food production is wasted. As economies get richer, they spend more on travel, housing and entertainment.
- The personal care sector, which is where Handmade Naturals sits, accounts for only 1.4% of consumption.
Many people now advocate reducing consumption, which is difficult to argue with... except ... reducing consumption results int housands of people losing their jobs. We see this in the UK at the moment, with so many retailers closing down. and there are tens of thousands of people in poor countries who rely on us buying, what we may consider as over consumption items, to sustain their jobs and survival.
So what’s our position ?
Everyone should do their bit, there is no doubt about that, even if it doesn’t seem like it would amount to very much in the grand scheme of things.
To reduce consumption of resources, we as a brand use as little packaging as possible. For example none of our products are supplied with outer boxes, which are usually thrown away as soon as the product is received. Some bubblewrap however is required for protection of glass during transport .
There is so much talk of plastic-free packaging and customers expecting for example carton tubes for lip balms and deodorants and products supplied in paper pouches as a way of reducing plastic. The reality is this packaging is anything but convenient (the carton tubes some natural deodorants come in do get wet through use and deform very quickly) and waterproof paper pouches are certainly not as easily recyclable as a plain HDPE bottle for example. This is why we use the best dispensers, tubes and bottles we can find that strike the right balance between safety and hygiene, being able to get the product out of packaging without any inconvenience to you as a consumer and also being fully recyclable.