Jumping Off the All-Natural Bandwagon, and Why

You see it everywhere nowadays: food, cosmetics, clothing, laundry detergent - all with labels trumpeting the product's "All Natural!" status. The Cult of All Things Natural is huge in these days of growing environmental conscientiousness, and I, for one, am crying Bull Puckey and jumping off the bandwagon. Here's why.

First, there is no legal definition whatsoever for the word "natural." Anyone can slap the "natural" label on their product, and it means whatever the company says it means. Your definition of "natural" may not be remotely similar to say, Healthy Choice's, or Arbonne's definition. But as long as you're handing over your money theirs is the definition that matters, not yours.

Second, the idea that products straight from the bosom of Mother Nature are the Best of the Best is, well, naturally puzzling. Truly natural things are seldom what anyone would call desirable. Mildew is all natural. Staphylococcus is all natural too, as are flatulence, tomato hornworms, and scabies. Hurricane Katrina was all natural. I suppose one could argue that mountain sunsets and true love are natural too, but as pure and beautiful experiences those things are definitely (unlike Katrina and her aftermath) fleeting.

The environmental movement has been a tremendous advancement for our world. The realization that "disposable" isn't necessarily better may be our best hope for cleaning up the mess we've made of this planet. And the awareness that labels containing such unpronounceables as heptyl paraben and acesulfame-K are best shunned is a great example of taking a step backward, in order to move forward. 

Major corporations would be a day late and several million dollars short if they didn't attempt to cash in on this movement, of course. It's possible that what many companies are trying to convey with the "All Natural" label is that their products are wholesome, and carry a minimal amount of artificially manipulated ingredients. Or it's equally possible that they're simply trying to manipulate us into parting with our hard-earned dollars for no other reason than to increase their sales. It's so hard to be objective when profit margins enter the picture, isn't it?

Which brings me to the final reason I dislike the "All Natural" label. Simply put, it's often little more than a marketing device designed to play to the emotions and hidden desires of the consumer, regardless of what might actually be in the product. The purpose is to create a back-to-the earth kind of feeling in the consumer, and to consequently raise the company's bottom line. That's not only manipulative and deceptive, it presupposes that American consumers are ignorant of what they put into their mouths and on their bodies, and why.

Wait a minute... are American consumers ignorant of these things?

I think that unfortunately, the answer is still at least a partial "yes." It's not as bad as it used to be, and it certainly isn't because we want to be ignorant. Quite frankly, we're all very busy trying to juggle jobs, homes, children, school, mates, hobbies and the occasional stretch of sleep, and often there's just not a lot of energy left over to give to the things we consume.

But more and more people do care about things like this. And as with anything, awareness is the first step toward change.

Here's what I urge all of us to do. Ignore the blatant marketing scheme inherent in any label that screams "All Natural!" (or any other gimmicky phrase). There's no reason a multi-million dollar corporation should do our thinking for us, right? Read labels. Refuse to be manipulated. Make small changes. Make up our own minds. Ask ourselves if the brand, based on its other products and its history is truly interested in nutritional, environmental, or social responsibility, or if they're just attempting to cash in on our emotions.

And buy accordingly. It might be just one item this month. Next month it might be two. Pretty soon we'll find ourselves making more changes than we thought possible.

And that adds up to every person making an informed impact... naturally.

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