This week's eco test.....

Lynda Brown - 02 February 2012

Trying to do the right thing, I've concluded is a tough call, whether it be buying and selling houses (where being economical with the truth is so ingrained in the system if you try and be honest, you're considered odd) , or buying something as mundane as loo paper. I've done both this week, but as the house milarky would take a book's worth to tell, I'll confine myself to loo paper.

I buy organic loo paper; my local Waitrose stocks it, or did until recently, which meant on Monday I was faced with a interesting eco twister. Do I buy Papura loo paper made from 90% sugar cane with packaging covered in all the "no's" you could wish for - no chlorine, bleach, inks, dyes, perfumes, nasty chemicals, animal testing , plus reassuring phrases like 'ideal for sensitive skin" and "as soft and gentle on the environment as they are with you" ( If they could get away with it, they'd probably tell you it was cholesterol free , too ); or do I buy Nouvelle Soft, 100% recycled and a strap line sporting a sun , a picture of two smiling Zambian children and the boast that "every pack helps build toilets for schools in Zambia" ?

The small print on Nouvelle Soft is even more heart tugging: "Georgia- Pacific is proud to be donating 180,000 euros to SOS Children's villages in connection with sales of Nouvelle and other European brands; if we exceed 3.1 million pack sales in the UK during the promotion period we will donate an extra 10,000 euros to the charity ". The back of the pack, meanwhile, is given over totally to their good works and how with "every pack of Nouvelle bathroom Tissue purchased we will work to make children's lives in Zambia better". A slick piece of bigging up, if ever I saw one - I hope the copywriter got his own loo as a thank you present.

I cursed Waitrose for not offering their customers organic loo paper; and Papura for treating customers like gullible idiots and being fake eco - a planet's worth of pesticides are probably sprayed on sugar cane every year . Which left Nouvelle Soft , which I bought , but with no pleasure : fake charity , in the guise of helping the Third World, makes me see red.

Don't get me wrong, it's much,much better than not helping Zambian children - but let's not fool ourselves that linking up with charitable causes is anything other than the latest wheeze to increase sales (I've no idea, but sales-wise, it would surprise me if it didn't make very good business sense, and a lot of loos cheaper than an ad campaign)

Am I wrong or are there buckets of money to be made in making us feel good about giving ? All corporates are at it, falling over themselves to be more fair trade, more soft on the environment, more greener than thou, more caring, sharing and charitable than Mother Teresa. Truly charitable companies do not shout about it on the packaging, but quietly marry their ethics with their business principles from day one. People Tree immediately come to mind; there are countless others, but you won't often find them on supermarket shelves or in the High Street.

Lynda is an award-winning food writer and broadcaster, and keen advocate for organic living. She is author of several food books over the last twenty years including Planet Organic: Organic Living, The Cook's Garden, and The Modern Cook's Handbook, as well as writing The Preserving Book that was published in 2010 in association with the Soil Association. Lynda is an expert on food and nutrition and a seasoned broadcaster, regularly speaking on food and farming both on the radio and television.

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