Are Sustainable Products More Affordable?
A recent Telegraph article noted that green goods can cost 50% more than regular goods. To many, this makes environmentally conscious brands seem inaccessible. But what is the actual cost of choosing circularly produced goods over mass-produced brands?
To start, it's important to understand why eco-friendly products are traditionally more expensive.
Demand is one major factor when considering market pricing. Although sustainable living has grown in popularity, the fact of the matter remains that majority of consumers are not actively shopping for these goods. Low demand means pricing influx to support profit. How can you help this? Keep sharing! Tag your sister, your family, your mister in social posts that feature eco-friendly products, gift these products for birthdays or holidays, and advocate for these alternatives to those willing to listen.
Another reason these sustainable brands tend to be higher priced is the time and resources required to make them. Take vegetables, for instance. Organic veggies will take longer to harvest without the use of mass farming or genetic modification. Bamboo straws, a popular reusable alternative to plastic straws, are going to take more time and resources than mass-produced plastic that can be molded and pressed in a factory.
A third reason for increased price when it comes to green practices is the values that these brands and businesses typically hold. Fast fashion companies are not usually one for making an effort to provide equitable working conditions or livable wages. A company with the earth in mind is more than likely also going to have its people in mind. This means paid time off, fair wages, and fair work hours. This can decrease the profit margin and also productivity, both factors that lead to the rise of product pricing.
While these reasons provide clarity into the increased price associated with green goods, it can also be evidence to the increased value associated with green goods.
Smaller batch and green goods are made with quality, sustainable ingredients. Because of this, they are also known to last longer than mass-produced goods. Meaning, an artisan and ethically made couch may be triple the cost that a sofa from Walmart may retail for, but the consumer is going to be able to enjoy that piece of furniture for years longer. This longevity, although an initial investment, can equal less in the long term when spread over the span of the life of the product. In addition, these quality goods lead to less discarded material that is associated with low-end, temporal products.
You may also find there's added value in choosing brands that support ethical manufacturing. Often referred to as sweat shops, many mass-produced factories lack natural light, safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, emergency exits, and indoor plumbing. They are associated with lower wages that in turn, affect employee's quality of life.
Now for a shock: not all sustainable products are expensive. Some are, in fact, sold at a similar or even more affordable price than their traditional counterparts. Sustainable products are continuing to evolve to offer both usability and affordability.
One product category this is true for is the refill market. Brands like Youth to the People, Blueland, and NOTES® have onboarded this strategy in an attempt to make their products more accessible. Because they are shipping and providing a product that is a refill, lacking a container or coming in a more ergonomical packaging, they are reducing the cost to manufacture and ship the product to consumers. Customers are reducing the amount of single use plastic or glass they are purchasing, while also saving money over time.
Because sustainable goods are made to last, if they are donated to second-hand stores they are often in excellent, gently used condition. This is another great way to make green products accessible. Before buying a sustainable product online, try checking your local thrift store. Just like refillable products, sustainable goods made with quality materials are meant to be loved again & again & again.
Being sustainable doesn't mean throwing out all of your old, mass-produced products. Shopping green means working with what you have and being resourceful, thoughtful, and meditative on the items you don't. When it comes down to it, sustainability can mean using products that you already own, and might have otherwise discarded. It is imperfect, sometimes confusing, and surprisingly accessible. While green goods might not always seem a better value, by choosing these goods over mass-produced, unethical goods, you are making an investment into you and your planet's future.