Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Philosophy of Belle Journée

Choosing Organic Makes a Difference

As we planned out our business, we had a particular philosophy that we wanted our handcrafted products and practices to reflect.  Believing there are too many synthetic ingredients in the majority of personal care products, we wanted to keep our line simple and as natural as possible.  Limiting environmental impact through minimal packaging made of recycled materials was also important.  Much time went into formulating the right balance of vegetable oils for our soaps, developing scent blends using safe amounts of essential oils and designing a look using only natural colorants.  It is those aspects of our products that are well received by our customers.
There is one factor, however that is generally not considered by our customers that I felt was important to write about; that is the use of mainly organic oils.  You might ask why we bother with organic oils at all.  With soap being a wash-off product, what’s the sense in using ingredients that are more expensive?  In considering our choices, we took into account the many ways in which conventional farming exposes our bodies and the environment to toxins.  
Aside from applying non-organic cosmetics, lotions, etc to our bodies and eating produce that is conventionally farmed, pesticides also affect our health through secondary exposures.  Their application in farming alters the soil, and through runoff and erosion the ground water is contaminated.  These in turn affect the health of the ecosystem, often harming organisms that aren’t being targeted such as beneficial insects and birds.  Too often such man-made environmental impacts are discovered too late.  DDT is a tragic example.  Despite its ban nearly 40 years ago, DDT's breakdown products continue to be found in food supplies, human blood and our homes .
The human health risks of pesticides are well documented in research.  Their presence in cord blood and breast milk reveal how pervasive pesticides are as well as the risk they pose to the healthy development of our future generations.  Through young adulthood, the development process is highly sensitive to the effects of pesticides, which can contribute to neurological and metabolic issues, as well as chronic disease.  Low dose exposures over the long-term have been linked to ADHD and cancers.  When you consider that most crops use a variety of pesticides, even a low dose within safe limits can be harmful due to the combined effects.  
While there have been technological advances, such as the development of systemic pesticides that limit their exposure to farm workers and are more specific in what they target, those advantages don’t come without problems.  The systemic pesticides are more persistent in the environment and have been linked as a possible cause of the Colony Collapse Disorder of bees.  Because they actually become a part of the plant tissue as it grows, they are not able to be washed off the food, thus increasing dietary exposure of humans and any other organism that consumes it.  
The cursory safety reviews of the pesticide companies, who have in recent years become the seed manufacturers, lead one to question how much more is unknown about the effects of these pesticides.  And let’s not forget the heavy herbicide usage that has created super weeds which will require even heavier applications of weed killers.  Recent research also found glyphosate, the key ingredient of Roundup that has been linked to birth defects, in the air and water of the two farming states tested.  Over a 2 year period glyphosate was found in every sample taken from streams and in most of the air samples.  The government response was that more research is needed to fully understand the implications.  How much additional damage will have occurred before those studies conclude?  

It can be overwhelming to consider all the harmful things we are exposed to.  One feels powerless to effect any change in the established practices of distant corporations or the workings of government.  It’s also easy to forget when the effects don’t impact us immediately, and in a way that is readily apparent.  When the topic of choosing organics is considered, a typical response is that we will all die anyway of something so why worry about it. 
This way of thinking avoids the fact that the health of our future generations relies on us; they will face the full impact of our choices.  Will we continue practices that endanger human health as well as the world’s eco-system or will we choose safer alternatives?  
We have the power to effect change through our purchases and our voice.  Companies do pay attention to anything that affects their sales and have been known to change their practices accordingly.  There are also groups actively engaged in the fight for our health.  The Organic Center and The Pesticide Action Network are two of them and they can always use more participants.  Each of us as individuals can make a difference in our own way.  
It is with those thoughts in mind that we began Belle Journée Handcrafted Soaps.  Aside from wanting to provide a product line that considers health and environmental impact, we hope to encourage others to contemplate these issues when making life choices and decisions.  That is our vision and hope for a beautiful day!

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