Journalist Sally Whittle, she of the fabulous Getting Ink blog, has tagged me in a meme, first started by Dom at PR-otagonism. The idea is to admit publicly to the products you use that normally you would be too ashamed to admit to in polite company.
I’m not mad keen on memes, but this one does raise some interesting issues about ethical consumerism. Most of us probably put on a good front about how much we “do our bit” for the planet. Why, only yesterday, I was having a Twitter conversation with David of Quest PR about why I wasn’t going to buy a funky new laptop bag because I had a perfectly serviceable one already. (I confess to having caved in on that already – my laptop bag, barely used anyway, is up for sale and I ordered this.)
And, actually, having spent 9 years in the Netherlands where having 5 dustbins is a normal way of life, I’m pretty good at doing my bit. I’ve been buying clothes and books from charity shops for 30 years, I don’t run a car, I separate my rubbish (my weekly black bin bag is barely a tenth full) and I don’t really feel any great urgency at having the latest must-have gadget (I have never owned an iPod, Apple iPhone or BlackBerry, for example).
So I had to think quite hard about what I do and/or buy that is Bad with a capital B.
Bottled water: not so much a brand as a way of life for me. Before I went abroad I had a Brita water filter jug. And in Paris I drank the tap water happily for 3 years. But at some point while across the Channel, I started buying the bottled variety. Because I’m a consumer cheapskate (cf. clothes from Oxfam), I don’t spend oodles on Perrier or any other expensive brand. My H2O habit is Tesco own brand and the cheapest they sell – Perthshire Mountain, which I think costs about £1.59 for 6 x 2-litre bottles. I know the tap water here is clean and healthy and drinkable. I know I’ve paid for it with my water rates. But I have to have my bottles. I drink a lot of water and a daily 2-litre bottle helps me keep track of my fluid intake. So there. And the empties get flattened and dumped in the plastic recycling bin.
Clarins: a couple of decades back, I bought my shampoo at the Body Shop but somewhere along the way fell out of love with the brand. Maybe it’s because I got tired of smug Anita Roddick saying how “experiences” were the most important thing in life. Yeah, it’s easy to have an “experience” hanging out with African tribeswomen when you have that sort of wealth to pay for it. I can’t actually remember what I used to slather on my skin before Clarins, but I remember feeling hideously guilty at spending £20 on a tube of Beauty Flash Balm the first time I bought it, probably around 15 years ago. Now I use the day and night creams – RRP £45 a jar. In fairness, I do think my skin looks better since I switched and careful use means a jar lasts 5-6 months, which is reasonably economical. And at least I’m not buying Creme de la Mer or La Prairie, which both cost around £150 a pop.
Cillit Bang: Like Sally Whittle, I know I should be using Ecover on the rare occasions I do housework (in fairness, I had a cleaner at my last house – not paid by me I should add – and the current abode is tiny so only needs a quick going over once a week). Having spent more than 12 years abroad, I was a bit puzzled on my return to hear mention of CB, as this brand doesn’t exist in the Netherlands. Plus, I rarely watch the commercial TV channels as I hate ads, so I was completely ignorant about this brand. The thing is, worthy as Ecover and co are, they don’t actually clean very well. And while I don’t want to eat my dinner off the loo seat, I do want the loo seat to be clean. And the pan. My landlord works for the company that owns CB so when I moved in, there was a free supply under the kitchen sink. And it does what it says on the tin. I’ll be buying it again, even though I know that it’s probably really toxic to small mammals and poisons the water table. I don’t care. Well, I do. But not enough. Especially as I have a pet and need to keep my floors clean. I might start buying loo roll made from recycled paper again though, if the boffins can figure out a way to stop the toilet paper disintegrating in your hands the minute it comes into contact with fluid.
I couldn’t possibly embarrass myself any more now after fessing up those bad habits. Well, I could, but I’m not going to here. Craig McGinty, Claire Annals and Joe Gravett – consider yourselves tagged…