20 Years of Natural Collection

20 Years of Natural Collection

Natural Collection is 20! Can you believe it?
In 1999 we started as a mail order catalogue delivering a selection of products we felt benefited people and the environment and sought to find products from suppliers with integrity and vision and who aimed to create products with social and environmental consideration.

Now in 2019 we have over 6,000 items ranging from fair trade fashion, organic groceries to plastic free beauty ranges. We thought it would be great to look back and see what has changed in the last 20 years.

We’ve been searching our warehouse for an original 1999 catalogue but unfortunately the oldest one we could find was from 2001; if anyone has a 1999 catalogue in a drawer somewhere we’d love to see it!

How our catalogue used to look, do you recognise any familiar names?

Whilst we are going to be talking about things that have changed we should mention some brands who we have been working with since the start. Some mainstream brands are now jumping on the eco bandwagon but really just paying lip service to environmental concerns – that’s why we have been working with Natracare and Bio D since day one, they have both been providing eco-friendly alternatives before Natural Collection opened its doors.

Natracare were the world’s first brand of organic and natural period products founded in 1989.
Natracare have been supporting plastic free periods for years!

Like Natracare, Bio D are eco pioneers, also being born in 1989 so they were already 10 years old when we opened our doors and started working with them!

Bio D has changed a bit since they launched!


Fashion is one of the largest consumer industries with the average consumer purchasing 60% more clothing than in 1999. Each garment is kept half as long and around 40% of clothes in the wardrobes of developed countries are never worn. We seem to have lost sight of what our clothing is, even though fashion can be ludicrously expensive people often seem to treat it with little value. Shockingly it has become the norm for some people only to wear an item once and couldn’t possibly dream of being seen wearing something twice. Some go one step further and wear it once, get some photos for Instagram and return it!
Fast Fashion is something which is becoming more of a problem, the industry being flooded with cheap not-made-to-last clothes, often made in poor working conditions. This is something we have always been against and would always encourage you to buy fashion that will last, not just the cheapest option.
How much do you think fashion has changed? Below is a shirt from 1999, compared to one from 2019…

Do you prefer the modern look or the late 90s look?

So what were we talking about, thinking about and how have things in general changed in the last 20 years? Well we’ve got a rather random list of things we think are interesting.

The Millennium Bug

We were all very worried about the Millennium Bug, it was known as ‘The Year 2000 Problem’ which would have perhaps created slightly less panic. The problem arose because many programs represented four-digit years with only the final two digits, so 2000 would be the same as 1900 potentially leading to all sorts of things getting confused and not working. We worried about planes dropping out of the sky, power plants shutting down, nuclear disasters etc etc. So when this didn’t happen people all seemed a bit disappointed there was little or no ensuing chaos. There was one video shop customer in New York who ended up with a $91,250 fine for his overdue video which was widely publicised in the press to ridicule the people who warned of the problem.
But was it all a fuss over nothing? Well probably not, the fact that things didn’t go wrong was a good thing, and it was down to the fact that we did something about it. A lot of people took the problem very seriously and worked very hard to mitigate the threat.
So does this have any relevance to today? Well one parallel could be the climate crisis, people are doing things about it now but frankly not enough (especially from governments and big business) but who knows, maybe we will get our act together and work together to fix the problem. Wouldn’t it be great if many years in the future after the hard work is done and we actually get carbon emissions down to zero and prevent much of a change. Would people then look back and say it was all a fuss about nothing as it all worked out? Well I think we would take that outcome!


2019 has been dominated by Brexit (as was 2016, 2017 and 2018!) but look back 20 years and the Euro had just been introduced on 1st January 1999 although the notes and coins didn’t come into circulation until January 2002. In 1999 the talk was around should the UK adopt the Euro, 20 years later we are ‘discussing’ leaving the EU entirely!

The Climate Crisis

The environment was a big topic back in 1999 and even more so now. Two years prior to this the Kyoto Protocol was concluded in which broad outlines for emissions targets were agreed. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol committed states to reducing greenhouse gas emissions based on the scientific consensus that global warming is occurring, and it is extremely likely that human-made CO2 emission have predominantly caused it. Despite this many people were sceptical but it now appears to be changing with an acceptance among the general public of responsibility and mass protests such as Extinction Rebellion having a big impact and eventually the mainstream political parties are finally starting to really talk about it (being the ones who actually should have been leading on this years ago).

One interesting difference is a recent one, instead of the problem being referred to as ‘climate change’ it is often referred to as the ‘climate emergency’ by many politicians and key figures. Although this makes no difference to the actual situation it does represent a change of thinking, and with a change of thinking will (eventually) come a change of action.

One often used excuse which has certainly been around since 1999 is “why should we bother if China is just going to pollute”… Increasingly however more people are coming round to the notion that we must lead on this – perhaps other nations and other people may not appear to care, but they never will take action unless they see others leading by example. It is a myth however that China is doing nothing, in fact they are leading the way in solar tech and may steal the march on us to reap the economic benefits of being the leader in technology all countries will need to adopt.

There are some great examples in recent years of people speaking out and raising the issue enough to get others to take action, it does work! You could look at the example of the BBC Planet Earth series which helped massively to raise awareness of the plastic problem (something which has been known about for years but perhaps not by the general public). However you don’t have to be a large organisation to have your voice heard, surely the best example of the difference one person can make is Greta Thunberg. Greta started out protesting outside the Swedish parliament calling for action on global warming, she did this on her school days and encouraged other students to strike for climate action. From this she was asked to address the United Nation Climate Change Conference which is when she really came into the public eye. She has inspired people all over the world, especially younger people who have the most at stake.

Earth Overshoot Day

This is not good reading – the Earth Overshoot Day is the day when humanity’s resource consumption for the year exceeds the Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources that year. Back in 1999 this was at September 29…in the last 20 years this has worsened to July 29.


One significant event in 1999 was the human population reaching 6 billion; since Natural Collection was started that number has risen to 7.7 billion! This is a significant increase in such a short time but the actual rate of growth is similar to the previous 20 years where the population went from 4.36 billion in 1979 to 6 billion in 1999. The number of people on the earth is a significant factor in how much we pollute and change the world around us. Humans have been around for perhaps 300,000 years, with ‘modern human behaviour’ starting around 50,000 years ago it took until 1804 to reach one billion – in the 200 years since it has rocketed by over 7 billion!

Fairtrade was 5!

This year Fairtrade celebrated its 25th birthday, so back then it was just 5 years old! 25 years ago the world coffee price collapsed causing devastation on smallholder coffee farmers around the globe, this prompted a number of organisations including Oxfam, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Traidcraft and The Women’s Institute to come together and form the Fairtrde Foundation to tackle the crisis.

The Fairtrade Minimum Price was introduced which is like a safety net that comes in when the market price falls below a sustainable level. This means that farmers in the Fairtrade system will at least receive the cost of production for their coffee if the price has crashed.
The first Fairtrade product Green & Black’s Maya Gold hit the shelves in 1994 and British shoppers put Fairtrade on their shopping lists. Since we started in 1999 the number of Fairtrade products on sale in the UK has risen dramatically to 4,500!

Along with this the UK market for Fairtrade products has seen massive growth from around 22 million in 1999 to somewhere over 1.7 billion in 2019.

The Internet

Back in 1999 we started as a catalogue mail order business and we quickly realised the internet wasn’t just going to be a fad and we got ourselves online pretty quickly! But back then there was only 3 million websites, now there are 1.7 billion online in 2019.

Back in 1999 you could ‘Google’ to navigate your way around the internet – it looked a little different, but perhaps not that different:

Until you got to some of the websites you may have been looking at in 1999, then things start to look very old fashioned, odd when you think at the time it would have felt so cutting edge!


Do you remember getting those AOL CDs in the post? At least with everything going digital there is less waste!


Many of our customers use PayPal, but did you know you could use it in 1999?

Top Selling Singles in 1999

Music used to be so much better didn’t it? Well perhaps if you look at the top selling singles from 1999 you might change your mind! The best selling UK single was Britney Spears with Baby One More Time; second most popular was Eifel 65’s one hit wonder Blue (Da Ba Dee), followed by Cliff Richard cashing in on the Millennium with his Millennium Prayer. Fourth is Mambo No.5 from Lou Bega (perhaps he should have named it No.4…) and 9PM (Till I Come) by ATB rounded out the top 5.

Cliff Richard’s Millennium Bug Prayer

Nobel Prize Winners in 1999

Peace: Médecins Sans Frontières
“in recognition of the organization’s pioneering humanitarian work on several continents”

Literature: Günter Grass
“whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history”

Physics: Gerardus ‘t Hooft and Martinus J.G. Veltman
“for elucidating the quantum structure of electroweak interactions in physics”

Chemistry: Ahmed H. Zewail
“for his studies of the transition states of chemical reactions using femtosecond spectroscopy”

Medicine: Günter Blobel
“for the discovery that proteins have intrinsic signals that govern their transport and localization in the cell”

Economics: Robert A. Mundell
“for his analysis of monetary and fiscal policy under different exchange rate regimes and his analysis of optimum currency areas”

The Next 20 Years!

We’d love to hear some of your predictions for the next 20 years, tell us in the comments below what you think things will be like in the year 2039!

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