Could your everyday products change the world?

Clean water in India
July 2016

Our homes are filled with consumer products which enable us to go about our daily lives. But what if those everyday household products could benefit the lives of others? The good news is that they can.

In February last year, I found myself in Timor-Leste with five friends from around Australia, all of us ambassadors for World Vision. During my stay, I became intrigued by Thankyou, a social enterprise that manufactures water, body care and food products, with the proceeds going towards funding development projects around the globe. One of the girls had brought along a hand sanitiser from the Thankyou brand and, after reading its label, we were all eager to scan the barcode. You see, all Thankyou products have a unique tracking code, which allows consumers to find exactly where in the world their product is helping to fund development projects.

Together we scanned the hand sanitiser and, as it turns out, the proceeds from the sanitiser were funding a project in Timor-Leste. Little did we know that, a few short days later, we would be visiting this project first-hand. Here I talked with women who didn’t have easy access to a water supply, and in the middle of the night I squatted over a hole in a frog-infested, open area, whilst kids laughed and pigs roamed. I was only doing this for one day, and it was extremely hard. I couldn’t physically comprehend that some people had to walk for up to four hours each day to access their water source.

But this project, funded by Thankyou, was building taps in each small community; so that everyone could easily access clean water. In one community that we visited, an estimated 10,026 people now have access to clean running water, mere footsteps from their homes.

Running water courtesy of Thankyou

Later on in the year, I met with Pete Yao, Chief Impact Officer at Thankyou, to find out more about Thankyou. I asked, “What is so important about buying Thankyou products?” 

Simply spoken, but powerfully, he said, “When someone buys a bottle of Thankyou water, it gives dignity and inclusiveness.” Pete explained that water is a fundamental human right; and when people who have never had easy access to water, finally do, it changes their life in every single way.

Thankyou has a beautiful range of hand and body wash, muesli bars and water products, and 100 per cent of the profits go to their development projects abroad. I personally recommend the cranberry and coconut bars! Since the start of this year, Thankyou has provided 192,367 people throughout fifteen different countries with reliable access to safe drinking water. These products are changing the world and we have a chance to be a part of it - simply by purchasing a bottle of water.

Now, anytime I buy Thankyou products, I picture the smiling faces of those that I met in Timor-Leste, and I know that - without a doubt - something as simple as a bottle of water or even a hand sanitiser can in fact change someone’s life.

Thankyou water

There are also a lot of great everyday household products that are ethically certified and ensure that those working in all stages of production are being paid fair wages. Let’s start with the kitchen. At any supermarket or local store, you are guaranteed to find ethically certified tea and coffee. This makes the switch to ethical tea and coffee extremely easy, as we have so many options and don’t have to give up our favourite flavours.

The next time you’re at your local shopping centre, take the time to find the ethically certified products (it won’t take long) and give them a go. If you’re worried about the cost, you have nothing to be worried about. Just because a product has the label of ‘Fair Trade’ or ‘ethical’, it is not necessarily more expensive. Big brands of tea like Dilmah, which are ethically certified, are among some of the most affordable brands on the market.  I’m also a big lover of Oxfam stores, where you can buy Fair Trade spices, such as chilli and cardamom pods, Fair Trade vanilla essence, and delicious Fair Trade chocolate.  There’s nothing more delicious than biting into a brownie and knowing that those who sourced the cocoa beans were paid fair wages.

Now that we’ve got the kitchen pantry out of the way, there’s something that happens afterwards in the bathroom that people don’t like to talk about; but today I dare to discuss. One Melbourne-based social enterprise, Who Gives A Crap, decided to make toilet paper that funds projects to build toilets in communities overseas.

Who Gives A Crap toilet paper

For most of us, toilet paper is an essential. It is something we simply cannot live without. It is so important to our lives that it’s easy for us to forget that not all of the world’s population has access to a toilet. An estimated 2.5 billion people around the world - approximately 40 per cent of the global population - don't have access to a toilet. Diarrhoea-related diseases are rampant in sub-Saharan Africa, taking the lives of 1,400 children under 5 each day.

Stunned by this global sanitation crisis, the Founders of Who Gives A Crap were moved to transform a product as simple as toilet paper into something that gives individuals access to something that we, in the West, often take for granted. So far, Who Gives A Crap has given 120,000 people around the world access to sanitation and toilets.

Who Gives A Crap Founder digging toilet

If you believe that every individual in the world, no matter their circumstance, deserves a fair chance, I encourage you to buy these products. Worldwide, humans just like you and I, are denied access to water supply, toilets and showers, nutritious food and basic health care. It is so simple to help out, and we don’t even have to spare any change. All we have to do is buy the products that we need which will, in turn, support someone in need.

As cliché as this may sound, it must be understood: We have the power to change the world. When we go to the supermarket, we are faced with aisles of choices, which ultimately reflect the kind of world in which we live. As consumers, we have the power to choose ethical products, which can benefit the lives of the most vulnerable - instead of lining a CEO’s wallet. Our purchases have the power to extend a helping hand to people on the other side of the world, and send out a message of support - and that’s exactly what these products do.