In recent years everyone converses upon the usage of organic products as well as the consumption of organic fruits and vegetables. More merchandizers have also advertised rapaciously about how organic and natural their products are. What does organic really mean? Why do so many products claim themselves to be natural? Let us simply understand this concept more.
What is organic?
In simple terms, ‘organic’ refers to a specific cultivating and manufacturing process. By definition, under such horticulture conditions, farmers are not allowed to apply any synthetic chemicals, such as pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, etc. Organic products indicate that during every step of their production process, including the plantation and application of raw materials, manufacturing, packaging, etc, the outcomes should not be harmful to the human body nor cause permanent damages to the environment and ecology. For any brand to obtain such official certifications, strict examinations and high transparency with various institutions are necessary and expensive, therefore, many manufacturers and producers are reluctant with such claims.
The criteria required by different countries or institutions vary, for example Europe’s ECOCERT demands the ingredients to be at least 95% natural and 10% organic while France’s AGRICULTURE BIOLOGIQUE insists the ingredients to be at least 95% organic. Other institutions are Australia’s ACO and USA’s USDA.
Many products in Hong Kong claim their products are “purely natural”, but is “natural” guaranteed good and healthy?
“Natural” has a very broad meaning; products may lack preservatives and contain unprocessed natural extracts or have some natural ingredients. Therefore, products, which are labeled as natural, can be slightly processed and involve some chemicals. Such unrealistic claims may mislead consumers in selecting products, which don't match their actual needs. This explains why some ‘natural’ products may still cause skin irritation.
Apart from ‘natural’, other declarations such as ‘no chemicals’, “harmless’ etc have similar connotations. In general, such claims cannot 100% guarantee that the products are beneficial to the consumers so it is best and safest for consumers to select brands with certifications of international recognition.
As Hong Kong doesn't have a strict regulated legal requirement of such connotations, products claiming to be natural or organic may include very little of such ingredients. Some merchandizers may even use such wordings as selling points to attract buyers amid the small quantity of natural ingredients, thus, it is best to observe the list of chemical names of the constituents and review the possible negative effects they may have on your body.
The choice of organic?
In the past, a consumer’s choice of products is often related to the product’s effect and price. However, such practice has changed over time. Nowadays, consumers focus more on the long-term impact of the products and for this reason the trend of organic consumption has become very popular.
But why isn’t organic consumption a key trend yet? We believe in the following…
Majority of consumers expect quick results once they have used the products and most existing products also emphasize such concepts eg one spray for immediate result or recover youth in just a week etc to attract the attention of the consumers. The constitutes of the natural and/or organic products are often milder in effect and would normally require a much longer time for the results to appear.
Take shampoo as an example. A bottle of shampoo may cost around 50-60 dollars for a household, however, for the same size yet made in Europe with organic ingredients, the price may be around 300-400 dollars. For such reason, many consumers may not be willing to explore further.
However, consumers should employ a long-term vision when applying organic products. When we implement any type of products, especially for our skin, we absorb all ingredients into our body, which will have a direct long-term impact to our health e.g. damage our skin or cause irritation. For safety and best effect reasons plus the avoidance of any side effects in the future, it is always crucial that we select organic products.
Beyond organic? Sustainability!
Although “all organic” may be beyond reach at the moment, shouldn’t consumers have other considerations when they purchase any goods on a daily basis for the sake of our world, e.g. the sustainability of product and consumption development? In simple terms, we mean “energy saving, retaining, frugal”. From the principle of our own needs, we should always select what are most cost saving and environmental friendly such as bringing our own shopping bags and choosing the best energy and environmental labeling appliances etc.
For the sake of the next generations, thorough considerations should originate from the level of the production cycle and the impacts, which are generated from each stakeholder. For example during manufacturing, from ingredients to packaging, what would be the stresses? Is pollution at the minimal during the production process? Are material usage minimized for packaging purposes? Have the manufacturers thought of social liabilities? The potential long-term causes of all such should be in the consideration of all consumers.
Some of the existing available environmental labels have already taken such concerns into their consideration and hold such values as their core criteria. An example includes the Nordic Swan Label. The Nordic countries are some of the most environmental friendly regimes in the world. Consumers of these countries focus highly on the product impacts, ensuring their lack of harmful substances to both the human body as well as the environment. Subsequently, everyone, including pregnant women, children and people with skin allergy, can safely use the products. Hence, it is necessary for us to understand more about such labels in order to select the most suitable and healthiest products.
In conclusion, the good news is that Hong Kong has accepted the use of real natural and organic products. As smart consumers, we need to spend wisely. Upon the purchase of the products, an analysis of the list of ingredients is compulsory. Pay attention to the actual percentage of the organic ingredients and the criteria of the environmental labels. Don’t get deceived. Josephine Fairley, the beauty expert, once said : “Why feed your skin with ingredients, which you cannot eat?” Let’s act smartly and select wisely. Use quality products and lead a healthy path.