In 2005, when Anna Meloto-Wilk and her husband Dylan had their first child, “we decided to use washable diapers instead of disposable ones after discovering that it takes more than 500 years for disposables to biodegrade, and that they release harmful toxins into the environment,” the environmentalist recalls. She noted, of course, the inconvenience of going green, particularly at first, since “we never used disposable (before, and which we did) even when we would travel with the children; but after four years and two children, we’ve gotten used to it, and (became) firmer in our resolve to make sure that our lifestyle creates the least impact on the environment whenever possible.”
That “very personal choice,” Meloto-Wilk says, “made it easy to make a natural transition into coming up with a business that will not only help the environment, but also create sustainable livelihood.”
This became a reality through a partnership with the Gawad Kalinga (an NGO helping provide housing to the poor) communities, which Meloto-Wilk’s family has been supporting since the late 1990s, to form Gandang Kalikasan Inc. (GKI) that is into the production of Human Nature, which is into green personal and children’s care products (shampoos, conditioners, facial washes and toners, moisturizers, body lotions, hand sanitizers, hand soaps, lip balms, massage oil and body butters).
“Human Nature products are natural, (have) no harmful chemicals, are Philippine-made, AND are affordable,” says Meloto-Wilk, who heads GKI, which prefers to source its raw materials locally from farmer cooperatives so that it can buy at fair trade prices and ensure sustainability of the supply.
The response to Human Nature has been good – though, realistically, it can still be better, especially since among the biggest challenges faced is the “low awareness for what constitutes as a truly green product since there are no strict standards in the Philippines, or in Asia for that matter, unlike in Europe or the US which are the pioneer markets,” Meloto-Wilk says. But “we address this by focusing our marketing on education campaigns, and coming up with an extensive training program for our dealers. We also wish to educate our suppliers by providing more information on what constitutes as safe and environmentally sound raw materials according to European and American standards.”
Human Nature is now distributed all over the Philippines, with branches in Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo, Samar, Bicol, Laguna, and, yes, Metro Manila; as well as the US (since November 2009). There have been inquiries from Japan, Hong Kong, Canada, the Middle East, and Europe.
More than just being affordable – thus accessible – Meloto-Wilk believes “our customers know that we are more than just a personal care products company. They patronize Human Nature because they know that every purchase helps the Philippines; helps the poor especially, the farmers and GK residents who work for us; and helps the environment, as well.” And with this, with Human Nature, not only is there a line of good products, but by buying them, “they also get to do a lot of good as well.”