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Sustainable, fair trade, cruelty free… They make us feel good, but what do they actually mean?
Sustainable, fair trade, cruelty free…
I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for products that say “sustainable”, “cruelty free” and “fair trade”- I love the warm and fuzzy feeling I get when I buy them. So it’s been quite the eye opener for me to go through the process of discovery of what these “warm and fuzzy” words actually mean in practice. I’m sure you will associate to one more strongly than the others, and I encourage you to support what you believe in…
I’ve always been an animal lover – which is probably a side effect of having grown up in South Africa surrounded by the most amazing and fascinating animals. As a child I had the typical pets – dogs, cats, birds and hamsters – and I loved each of my furry little companions dearly. I was also very privileged to have a life that involved travelling to game reserves and natural habitats throughout southern Africa as a child. I was inspired by the work that the game rangers did every day – protecting wildlife from poachers and providing them veterinary care – so much so that I gave serious thought to training as a game ranger. As a result, it’s very important to me to try to buy products that are cruelty free. This to me means not only whether or not it was tested on animals, but also if the product is made from any animal products. As an interesting note – there is no international or nationally agreed language around what it means to be cruelty free. However, it is generally accepted that this means that the products and their ingredients are not tested on animals.
The best way is to check if any of your products display these logos: The leaping bunny logo is an internationally recognised symbol guaranteeing consumers that no new animal tests were used in the development of any product displaying it (http://www.leapingbunny.org/content/leaping-bunny-logo ).
The others you may recognise are the USA PETA logo – the bunny with the pink ears; and the Australian Choose Cruelty Free black and white bunny logo. Here’s a quick blog to help you spot the logo’s and also the fakes! http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/cruelty-free-101/cruelty-free-bunny-logo/
“Every product, every action, and every lifestyle decision can be a choice to harm less.” — Zoe Weil, The Animals' Agenda
The meaning of the word sustainable is pretty straight forward:
- Able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed
- Involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources
- Able to last or continue for a long time
If you stop and think about how this may apply to farming methods of your favourite ingredients, you may think that this is similar to how subsistence farmers have farmed for generations – without modern farming soil additives they cannot afford to completely deplete the soil that they use to grow their crops. Nor can they afford to drain their local watering supply. And they certainly cannot overwork the cow or donkey that helps them hoe and til the land…
As so wonderfully described by the Grace Communications Foundation:
“In simplest terms, sustainable agriculture is the production of food, fiber, or other plant or animal products using farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, human communities, and animal welfare.”
The only issue with this comparison is that the above does inevitably happen as the modern world encroaches on theirs, and their neighbours downstream start draining their water supply, and the effects of climate change encourage the loss of the topsoil. Which is why it is of utmost importance that we recognise the importance of sustainable farming – we need to preserve not just our natural environment but the environment that is necessary for those less fortunate to survive.
This is something you see very often on your product packaging – though usually it applies to just a few ingredients in the product (unless its, e.g. coffee – I would hope you’re buying 100% coffee beans!). This is something that is quite close to my heart – I sincerely believe we should not be exploiting others for our gain. There is something to be said for hard work, and it should be fairly rewarded.
Fair Trade International offers this explanation:
“Fairtrade is an alternative approach to conventional trade and is based on a partnership between producers and consumers. When farmers can sell on Fairtrade terms, it provides them with a better deal and improved terms of trade. This allows them the opportunity to improve their lives and plan for their future. Fairtrade offers consumers a powerful way to reduce poverty through their every day shopping”
This is one of the few “warm and fuzzy” words that has an internationally recognised definition and charter of principles – agreed by the World Fair Trade Organisation – and which has defined standards per industry. If you see this symbol then you can be sure you are supporting the local community that supplied that ingredient or product.
Overall, there are many certifications and labels that are available for use – just be sure to research those that are closest to your heart and support those products that adhere to those standards.
The LUXE Botanics Team