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The Lifely Continuum of Products
& The Journey to Lifely Products
Since I started looking at products in 1978, the marketplace has changed dramatically.
I have observed a steady progression of products that have more and more lifely characteristics. Market sectors have emerged with names that identify certain beneficial characteristics: nontoxic, natural, organic, and green. And as each next step emerges, the next product sector carries forward the benefits of the previous sector.
Natural products, for example, are nontoxic as well.
Organic products are nontoxic and natural, and more.
Green products are nontoxic and natural and organic, and more.
And lifely products are nontoxic and natural and organic and green, and more.
As I stated in The Lifecycle of a Product, products are multi-faceted and may be better or worse across their universe of materials, manufacture, use, and disposal. But then, products also fall within market sector categories that can indicate how they may affect health and the environment.
Recently I discovered that all products actually fall into a continuum that moves in degrees from the worst industrial products that harm health and the environment to the best lifely products that sustain health and the environment.
In this post I am going to outline this continuum as a reference point for evaluating and sorting products, and eventually making a decision to chose and use a product.
My definition of Lifely products contains all the previous benefits, plus new ones that haven't been defined before. So for the moment, they may be few and far between, but I will write about those I find and encourage more lifely products to be made.
Looking back I can see how my own lifestyle has changed as the marketplace has evolved toward more lifely products.
Each of these product sectors is a step in the direction of Lifely. I've given a brief description of each below. Posts on the details of each are in progress.
It is a leap to go straight from industrial products to living lifely. Though personally I am now reaching for the lifely end of the continuum, I am giving you the whole path so you can see where you are and what the next step is. Of course, you can leap if you want to!
Industrial products are the result of a system with an underlying intent to produce products for profit. As a result, their aim is to get the greatest volume of goods to the largest number of people. Nature is viewed as a storehouse of resources valued only for human use, so forests are clearcut, mountains are mined, and soils are depleted to perpetuate profits, wastes pollute air and land and water, and advertising expertly convinces consumers to buy products they neither want nor need.
- a set of basic principles based on the philosophy of materialism
- a method of manufacturing a large number of identical products for a mass market>
- a way of selling products via advertising.
Nontoxic products are industrial products that are made without toxic petroleum-based chemicals that are usually used. When a product is labeled "nontoxic," this generally means that the toxic petroleum-based chemicals has been replaced with a petroleum-based chemical that is not toxic. While this is a step in the right direction, the product is still made from petroleum-based chemicals that are not found in Nature, mass-produced in factories, and sold to the mass market.
A POST THAT WILL GIVE A MORE COMPLETE DESCRIPTION OF NONTOXIC PRODUCTS WILL BE COMING SOON.
So-called natural products are industrial products made with materials that are renewable resources, such as plants, animals, and abundant minerals.
While some natural products use the whole material, such as a shirt made from cotton fibers, many natural products are natural only in the sense that the material was originally from nature. Industrial processes turn that natural material into industrial ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate (originally from coconuts). Natural cleaning products and natural personal care products are made almost completely from these industrial ingredients that originated in Nature.
Most natural products are made in factories and marketed and sold through the industrial system, but they are another step in the right direction.
A POST THAT WILL GIVE A MORE COMPLETE DESCRIPTION OF NATURAL PRODUCTS WILL be COMING SOON.
Like natural products, most organic products are industrial products made with materials that are renewable resources, such as plants, animals, and abundant minerals. But the plants and animals used are organically-grown without petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers.
Organic materials are either foods or fibers, so they are generally used in their whole state or minimally processed. Organically grown foods are used whole in industrial food products. Organic plants and animal ingredients may be fractionated (such as extracting oil) for organic personal care products. Organically grown fibers are used as they come from the plant or animal to be spun into threads for weaving into fabric or used whole as stuffing for mattresses and pillows.
With organic products, we begin to see products made and marketed outside of the industrial system, from artisans, craftspeople and farmers sellling their wares at farmer's markets, craft fairs, and online.
A POST THAT WILL GIVE A MORE COMPLETE DESCRIPTION OF ORGANIC PRODUCTS WILL BE COMING SOON.
Green products were the first products that began to consider the environment. introduced around Earth Day 1990, they brought attention to environmental issues and gave industrial consumers something they could do to help the environment. But they were and are still industrial products, conceived and made and marketed and sold through the industrial system.
That said, green products have a lot going for them. They are made from renewable or recycled materials, conserve water and energy, reduce toxics in air and water, and reduce waste by being biodegradable or recyclable.
But they don't go far enough. They are still industrial products. We need to go further.
A POST THAT WILL GIVE A MORE COMPLETE DESCRIPTION OF GREEN PRODUCTS WILL BE COMING SOON.
Nontoxic, natural, organic, and green are all improvements in consumer products, but they are still consumer products, made to appeal to consumers and to be sold through the industrial system.
Lifely products are conceived with the awareness that we are born of Nature and live in ecosystems, Everything we need to live can come directly from Nature without passing through the industrial system.
There are many lifely products already available we just don't recognize them as such. Lifely products are products like:
- handcrafted items made from local renewable or reclaimed materials sold directly by the artisan at craft fairs or on Etsy
- fresh and prepared foods sold directly by farmers and artisan producers at farmer's markets
- traditional pre-industrial handcrafts—such as weaving, glass-blowing, pottery, woodworking, blacksmithing, and more—are all lifely means of production.
Lifely products are natural, durable, classic, creative, and made by hand or with hand tools or simple machines.
READ MORE ABOUT THE DETAILS OF CHOOSING LIFELY PRODUCTS HERE.
The Journey to Lifely Products
The whole concept of lifely is so different from the industrial consumer marketplace that i can't just say "go to this website and buy all your perfectly lifely products here."
In fact, while many lifely products are available, they are few and far between and you are not going to find them on the shelves of big-box mass market stores.
But as already described above, moving away from industrial products and into lifely products is a process, an evolution, a journey...a direction we all can move in. A series of small steps.
Now that I know the steps on The Journey to Lifely, I use this continuum to evaluate products I might purchase or make and to see where I am right now on the journey and where I could be.
Remember that a product is a lifecycle with more than one aspect and each aspect might be at a different point on the journey.
My personal guideline is:
- do my best
- choose the most lifely product available that I can afford and otherwise meets my needs
- start with lifely and move back down the journey as needed until I find the most lifely product available.
If there is no lifely product available to meet your needs, look for a green product.
If there is no green product available to meet your needs, look for a green product.
If there is no lifely product available to meet your needs, look for an organic product.
If there is no organic product available to meet your needs, look for a natural product.
If there is no natural product available to meet your needs, look for a nontoxic product.
And if there is no nontoxic product available, take another look and see if you really need to use a toxic industrial product.
I know it's possible to make this change. I'm already on this journey in my own life and I know you can do it too.
Just make lifely decisions step-by-step, one-by-one. Learn as much as you can. Support those makers who are offering lifely products at any step of the journey.
Together we can do this.