The Real Price of Things: The True Value of Sustainable vs. Conventional Products

There's an ongoing debate surrounding the cost of sustainable products versus conventional alternatives. Frequently, the focus is on the perceived "higher" cost of sustainable options. Yet, the real question we need to be asking is: Why is there a price discrepancy between sustainable and conventional products in the first place?

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Sustainability Isn’t Expensive; Conventional is Underpriced

So, why are sustainable products often more expensive than conventional products?

When we buy conventional products, we are often paying a hidden price for the environmental damage that is caused in their production. This damage includes things like deforestation, water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Sustainable products, on the other hand, are produced in a way that minimizes environmental impact. This means using renewable resources, reducing waste, and conserving energy.

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Companies offering genuinely sustainable products aren't inflating their prices just for the sake of it. The price you pay for a sustainable product more accurately reflects the real cost of ethical business practices. These practices can include:

  • Sourcing higher quality and sustainable ingredients.  For example, organic cotton is more expensive than conventional cotton because it is grown without the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers.
  • Offering more concentrated, and longer-lasting products. This means that you need to use less product, which can save you money in the long run.
  • Using eco-friendly packaging. This packaging is made from recycled materials or biodegradable materials, which helps to reduce pollution.
  • Providing fair wages throughout the supply chain.  This means that the true cost of the product is reflected in the price.
  • Creating handmade products that require more labor.
  • Implementing regenerative practices.

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All these elements naturally require higher investments, both in terms of money and time.

So, are sustainable products too expensive? I don't think so. I think conventional products are too cheap.

The Hidden Costs of Conventional Products

Conventional products may have a lower upfront cost, but this often masks the 'hidden' environmental, social, and long-term economic costs. These can include pollution, climate change, poor working conditions, and a host of other societal issues. Therefore, when you purchase a "cheap" conventional product, you're only paying a fraction of its real cost—the rest is offloaded onto the environment and vulnerable communities. 

We are essentially subsidizing the environmental damage that is caused in their production. We are also contributing to the exploitation of workers and the destruction of small businesses.

Policy Changes We Should Advocate For

We should champion not just for the accessibility of sustainable products, but also for comprehensive policy changes. These can include advocating for:

  • Higher minimum wages
  • Universal healthcare
  • Enhanced workplace safety standards
  • Better support for small businesses
  • Elimination of subsidies to fossil fuel industries
  • Equitable taxation, including on the ultra-rich

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In Conclusion

Choosing sustainable options isn't just about personal ethics or lifestyle choices; it's a step towards a more equitable and sustainable world. When we consider the full range of costs—including environmental degradation and social inequality—it becomes clear that sustainable products offer a truer reflection of real costs. Let’s flip the narrative: sustainable products aren't too expensive; conventional ones are just priced too low.