If you've been shopping for eco-friendly products made from sustainable materials then you might have noticed that they can sometimes come with a higher cost than traditional alternatives.
This can be really frustrating. If you're trying to do the right thing and you recognize the importance of living sustainably, you don't expect to end up worse off financially.
So is there any reason why sustainable products need to be more expensive? Shouldn't an eco-friendly product actually be cheaper to encourage people to buy it?
To answer this question, you need to understand the ways in which ethical brands actually make their products.
If you're trying to decide whether you're willing to pay more money for a sustainable product, then this article will help.
It's true that most eco-friendly products cost more to buy than the mass produced equivalents you might find on the high street.
There are a few reasons for this. Mostly, the extra costs involved in buying raw materials, and in the manufacturing and production process.
The majority of eco-friendly materials are more expensive to produce.
Organic cotton, for example, costs more because of the way it's produced. The fiber has to be grown without using any chemicals or pesticides.
This means that the cotton plant produces leaves with fewer insect-killing chemicals, which means that it can’t repel or kill insects as well. This results in smaller crop yields, and therefore higher prices.
As well as the cost of procuring raw materials, most sustainable products are manufactured using renewable energy. Right now, this costs more money (although we very much hope that renewables will start to cost less over the next few years).
Furthermore, while almost all traditional products are mass produced, most eco-friendly products are made at a much smaller scale, and many are even hand made. No big factories involved! Needless to say this is much kinder to the environment, but does cost more.
In addition to the increased sustainable materials cost, many eco-friendly companies also believe in paying a fair wage to their workers.
So when you buy from an ethical company, you know the product wasn't made by exploiting workers in developing countries.
This all costs costs more money, as opposed to certain other large manufacturers who don't follow these practices, which bills up the price you end up paying for eco-friendly products.
Eco-friendly companies tend to use recycled materials for their packaging.
This means the eco-friendly product you buy is packaged in a box made from compostable materials, or recycled cardboard, with recyclable plastic and wrappings.
The eco-product itself is also usually wrapped in recyclable or biodegradable material such as paper and/or natural fiber.
The eco-friendly company has to pay for these recycled materials, which adds to the eco-product’s higher price tag.
Sometimes eco-friendly products can be more expensive because of eco certifications.
The eco certifying body that the product is certified by has to pay for quality control and inspections, certification costs, administration costs, and marketing costs.
These are the certifications that let you know that a product or company is genuinely eco-friendly, and that you're not just being greenwashed.
So while they do result in higher costs, they are very necessary.
Aside from all these reasons, eco-friendly products are more expensive because they're not in high demand yet.
This means that eco-friendly companies have lower production rates anyway, and they haven't built up economies of scale.
Lower production rates mean slower turnover times for their stock, which is usually stored until it's sold (as eco-friendly companies are not mass producers).
Plus, eco-friendly products aren't as recognizable as their counterparts, so it's more difficult for eco-friendly companies to market themselves.
Every time we decide to buy a new product, whether it's something we want or something we need, there is a choice to be made.
Right now, sustainable living costs a bit more. So do you spend the extra few bucks on sustainable items, or do you go for cheaper traditional products?
If you are willing to pay a little extra to buy sustainable products, you can save money in the long term as they are generally better quality.
Buying environmentally friendly products from truly sustainable brands also means you can be sure that you are not contributing to climate change, pollution or the exploitation of workers.
You're also sending a message to the manufacturers.
When they see more and more sustainable products being sold, companies will take notice. They will make what the market demands. When consumers show they are willing to spend on sustainable options, more companies will start to make these, and the production costs will come down.
As eco-friendliness becomes more of a factor in consumers' minds, then the demand will increase and prices will fall.
This will create eco-friendly economies of scale, which means that eco-friendly companies will be able to produce more items at lower costs.
However, eco-friendliness is usually more important to eco-aware consumers than price. This might not be the same for everyone - until attitudes change.
So you're likely to see eco-friendly prices drop as much as those of traditional products in the near future, but only if enough people decide to change the way they shop.
In conclusion, eco-friendly products are more expensive because businesses have to pay extra costs in the process of production and manufacturing, from using eco materials to following ethical practices.
Eco-friendly companies also incur extra costs so they can adhere to eco certifications.
At the moment, there is a relatively low demand for eco-friendly products because not enough of us are environmentally conscious consumers - yet!
It is our responsibility to lead a change. The more we choose to buy sustainable products instead of their traditional counterparts, the more we can influence other people and the manufacturers.
When you buy green products you are paying a little more now, but saving money (and our planet) in the long term. And if that isn't worth a couple of bucks extra, I don't know what is.