Many people I meet at markets say to me that they would buy more eco-friendly products if they weren’t so expensive. Whilst we can easily get that impression when looking solely at the price, I think it is more complicated than that.
From my own experience, I would say that choosing eco-friendly products has saved me money overall, even if the initial cost of the product was relatively high. However, making a direct comparison of different products is not always straightforward. First of all, there is so much choice. Secondly, there is more to a product than just the price you pay.
As a woman, I have probably saved the most on menstrual hygiene products since switching to a menstrual cup and washable liners. Other than that, taking my own lunch to work in a reusable box is definitely cheaper than buying it every day. The price of fruit and veg at the farmers’ markets can also compete with some supermarkets. I could think of a few more examples. So to me, in many cases it’s not as simple as just saying that eco-friendly living is too expensive, even if we only consider the absolute cost of the product.
The Cost of a Product
There is another aspect we have to consider here; the true value of the product, which may (or may not) be included in the price. I sell a lot of products that are made in the UK. Because labour is more expensive here than in Asia, the price of a product is automatically more expensive. In addition, the ingredients / materials of the products are as sustainably sourced as possible, which also increases the price. Reducing the price of a product means to save money somewhere. But the seller is probably not willing to cut their profits. So the next aspects to save money on include labour costs, product quality, type of raw material and waste disposal. That means if we don’t pay the real price for a product, someone or something else along the supply chain will pay for it, and we will end up supporting non-sustainable sources.
What is your priority?
I have also established another theory: What we regard as too expensive depends on our priorities. If good food is important to us, we are willing to spend money on good food. If it’s more important to us to have loads of clothes instead of a few good ones, we probably prioritise buying from fast fashion shops instead of ethical brands. No matter what it is, if we want something or prioritise something, we will save money somewhere else to afford it. So when people say to me that eco-friendly products are too expensive, I think what they are really saying is that choosing eco-friendly products is not their priority. They would rather spend their money on something else.
I don’t have loads of money, but every time I need something I decide what to spend it on. My priority is to live sustainably, so I am willing to pay a little bit more and save somewhere else. But sometimes I can’t afford the eco-friendly option either. For example, at times I would like to take the train instead of the car. However, in Britain at least, as soon as there is two of us going, it’s considerably cheaper to take the car. It’s a shame!
The less obvious benefits of eco-friendly products
In many cases, there are additional, less obvious, benefits to eco-friendly products. These benefits are are not as easily displayed as the price. I sell menstrual hygiene products from Eco Femme not only because they make washable pads, but also because they are a women-led social enterprise which supports female empowerment. The pads are made by women, for women. For every pad sold internationally they donate a pad to marginalised girls and women in India.
Zero Waste Path (ZWP) Shop, who make the soaps and shampoo bars we sell, are committed to zero waste and ethical sourcing of the ingredients. They have almost completely eliminated plastic from their supply chain. ZWP Shop, Tabitha Eve, Rowen Stillwater and Mrs B’s Bees are all companies that make their products in the UK. That means by choosing their products you are supporting UK-based businesses that create jobs and support the economy.
The company Shole offers reusable stainless steel mugs and bottles and donate 1% of their profits to environmental non-profit organisations. You might also have heard of Who Gives A Crap, who make toilet paper and give 50% of their profits to charities that build toilets across the world.
These are just a few examples, but there are many other companies that value their products not only by the price tag. They look at where the ingredients and materials for the product come from and who makes them. For them, it’s important that the products don’t harm the environment at the end of their life.
When I choose products for my business I look at the bigger picture, as it’s important for me to offer you products that are not only eco-friendly, but also ethical. And this is also why I have made sustainable living one of my priorities.
We have a choice
The world we live in is not build on sustainable principles and so our choices can never be perfect. However, when we have a choice, choosing the more sustainable option is not only better for the planet and people, but it also sends a message. Our current culture is defined by consumerism, buying more stuff and throwing it out. So I think there is a lot of truth about the idea that we can vote with our wallets.