The principles of organic agriculture are wide-ranging and include concerns for safe food production, for the environment, for animal welfare and for issues of social justice (a.w. Browne). Here are the different meanings of organic within agriculture and personal care products, and how the conscious consumer is developing as they shape and are shaped by what it means to be organic, through marketing, awareness, and education.

Organic is refraining from pesticides and chemicals used to deter pests, bacteria, and diseases while employing a holistic approach to the cycle of production. It works in tandem to biodiversity, using sustainable measures to preserve the environment, for instance, being conscious of the effects on preserving a vegetable, the soil, and anything in-between. Organic products comprise of those agricultural food products that are not treated with chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and other synthetic chemical substances during its production, processing and storage.‘Organic’ is loosely defined when it comes to consumer care products because it is a broad area in the ratio of ‘organic’ to chemicals, preservatives, and everything in-between.

Certified organic means the product has the assurance of quality, food safety and sourcing integrity. Universal standards for organic products are usually similar as they follow the organic body IFOAM (Organic International & it’s Action Group) that campaigns for organic agriculture and living as a means to assist global environmental challenges. IFOAM views are organic as moving into a new movement called organic 3.0 that approaches organic as a ‘modern, innovative system that has positive impacts on global environmental and social challenges’ (IFOAM). This identifies organic products being shaped by global issues such as sustainability and social issues, that shape and is shaped by the conscious consumer as they become more aware and educated.

The ecological footprint measures the supply and demand of nature. On a micro level, it looks at the demand a person has on their environment and works in tandem to ‘organic’ because it looks at the demands placed on nature to produce a resource. Choosing local and organic products helps to reduce the ecological footprint because there are smaller environmental overheads such as transport, less/ no synthetic chemicals being used in the soil, potentially less reliance on heavy machinery and fewer chemicals being absorbed by the body.

There has been an increase in the demand for personal care products that are labeled organic and natural, with environmental and appearance consciousness positively influencing attitudes. ‘Green product’ is a loose term to describe a consumer preference for products from conception to the manufacturer is viewed as an eco-friendly product. Characteristics of this consumer can be a concern for recyclable packaging, sustainable measures used in production, a simple design, organic ingredients, and weight placed on social and environmental responsibility. Because the label ‘organic’ is very broad, labels may be used as a marketing tool to appeal to the consumer that seeks a ‘green product’ – check the ingredients.

Research shows that consumers associate organic products with fruit and vegetables. This can be construed as a tunnel vision of organic that leaves out other items that can be organic products such as cleaning and skincare products, shopping bags, household goods, tinned fruit and vegetables, perfume, and others. However, organic can highlight a few ingredients but detracts from chemicals, pesticides and other ingredients that are not organic, or certified organic. Due to manufacturing constraints ingredients may be purchased from a supplier that is not organic or does not hold an organic certification. This is then blended with certified organic ingredients but will not classify as a certified organic product.

Things to look out for when seeking ‘organic’

  • A certification ( Biogro is the largest and best-known certification in New Zealand.
  • Where did the organic ingredients come from?
  • Check the label: what is the ratio of organic ingredients versus nonorganic?
  • What is the packaging like? How does it affect the environment?