This week I decided to delve into the world of couponing again. I spent a good amount of time on the We Use Coupons (WUC) forums where, clearly, I made a beeline for the Organic & Natural threads. Part of me still wishes I hadn’t.
Let me back up and say that over the past few years I’ve done the best I can to shop locally + seasonally. I’m a big believer in supporting small, local business, partially because I am one, but also because I believe they tend to be better run and more conscious (or at least the small, local companies I buy from). I know that some of “my brands” are owned by mega -corporations and conglomerates but I choose to buy their products because they are the best priced lesser of two evils. Muir Glen is a great example of this. Despite being owned by General Mills, I continue to “buy” their products for two reasons: 1) they have BPA-free cans and 2) I can usually get their products for free or, at least, less than $0.50. Ideally I would buy only BioNaturae and Eden’s Organics but as a grad student, and even last year as an entry-level worker, that wasn’t part of the budget, especially not when I use canned diced tomatoes as much as I do. One last side note, the reason I’m so picky about BPA-free tomatoes and not beans is because the acidity of the tomatoes causes more of the chemical to leach than other foods. And because I can usually get Goya beans for about $0.50/can. <–dried beans are still FTW though!
Anyway, while perusing the WUC last night, I stumbled upon this article which talks about 13 mom-and-pop natural companies now owned by mega-corporations like GM, Clorox, and Colgate. Many of them I was aware of, Tom’s and Burt’s Bees included, but some I was not. <–aka Lightlife! =( The one that disturbed me the most, however, was Tom’s. Yes, I knew they weren’t independently owned. But I hadn’t realized that a somewhat recent redesign was responsible for a huge product change…and a whole lot of outcry.
You see, each of the highlighted companies features and article dealing with the merger. While I highly recommend the Burt’s Bees one, it was the Tom’s one that struck a chord. Reading through the comments I realized that when I first bought Tom’s in 2009, I hated it. It tasted so friggin disgusting but somehow my mouth felt so damn clean. It was flavored only with real mint oils and took a couple of days to get used the lack of sweetness but once I did, I never looked back. I haven’t used “regular” toothpaste since, with the exception of a handful of trips where I used my hostess’. As a side note, when I do use “regular” toothpaste, I get a buildup of gobbly goop in my mouth overnight. I know, real scientific. ;)
Nowadays, though, the Tom’s is like a special treat, especially when compared to the Trader Joe’s which I used for almost a year straight (for price reasons). When that stopped making me feel clean, I made a deal with myself that I could buy the Tom’s when I could get it for less than $3.00. It isn’t special for this reason though, especially considering I can get that price almost always, but because it tastes so damn good compared to the comparatively lackluster TJ’s brand. Reading through the comments made me realize that things have changed…and I can’t help but think that it isn’t for the better.
That being said, I was hesitant to write about this topic for two reasons. Firstly, Tom’s still leaves a whole lot of cr*p out of their products and is committed to sustainable practices, as the above image shows. They are doing far more than most companies to give back and make a difference in this world. Secondly, it is really only because of the Colgate buyout that I can purchase Tom’s just about anywhere from CVS to Trader Joe’s. And herein lies my biggest struggle with natural products. The very reason hippies are no longer sequestered in communes, living off the land and a handful of communal shops is because “natural” has become mainstream. <–maybe a gross exaggeration but you get my point I hate mega-corporations because many of their actions go against almost everything I believe in, especially science and health, which they seem to laugh at and ignore in the name of higher profits. After all, who cares if the scientific world basically accepts as fact that ingredient x is toxic if getting rid of it means we’ll make less? But a part of me is also thankful that they have allowed me to incorporate more natural and sustainable products into my everyday life and my student budget. I think my shopping habits wholly reflect this conundrum and it is likely more my being torn over this issue than price that shapes my them.
Want more information on “who owns organic”? Here’s a great master list. as well
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. In the comments tell me, how do you solve this conundrum?