All of us only want to live in a sustainable and eco-friendly world, but why are green products usually more expensive to produce? Many of us want to commit to the environment but the problem is that if we do want to support green products, they end up being too costly for our budget so we resort to commercial products that are causing harm to the environment, even in little ways.
So, what exactly makes the price tag higher for green and sustainable products? We’ll break down the facts in this article so you’ll have more information about them. And, with this information, maybe we’ll help companies to produce even more green products so that we don’t have to resort to breaking the bank.
Why are eco-products expensive?
Different factors make eco-friendly products not only expensive but also difficult and tricky to make. Here are the reasons why environment-friendly items usually cost more than the regular versions of the products:
Eco-friendly products usually originate from organic farming. When you consider organic farming, that means all pesticides and herbicides are out of the way and the products are raised using only natural methods. Without the pesticides and other chemicals, there will be little to no pollution running into the waters, which means plus points for eco-friendliness.
The downside to this is that it takes time to harvest quality produce without the problem of pests. Moreover, organic farming is costly because it requires more manual effort, such as weeding, cleaning, and even as far as having to sacrifice some produce just to get rid of pests. Although the result is quality fruit or veggie without pesticides, the problem is that it takes a lot of effort to achieve it.
Another addition to the cost of a green product is the labor practices. In an eco-friendly company, they will commit to giving the employees a much safer working facility, fair labor practices, and the like. This leads to much more costs because of additional expenses from creating better facilities.
Likewise, green and responsible companies nowadays have to use separate machinery between ingredients. For instance, if they want certain products to be dairy-free, they have to separate their dairy processing setup from the other ingredients so that people with food allergies will not fall victim to such.
Having separate machinery for organic/allergen concerns would be costly because it takes more time to maintain them. Time is money in a sense so having multiple mixing setups would mean much more problems for the company in terms of budget.
On production, certifications and audits are also part of what makes green products green. A company will have to receive yearly or so certifications and check-ups to make sure that their company goes well with set standards by environmental groups (e.g. USDA for organic items). This is an additional cost to the company as they have to overhaul their processes in case they need to follow certain rules.
Certification is not just limited to between a company and a worldwide organization – there are even rules and regulations based on the locality of the plant or factory. For instance, certain states in the United States, such as California, have the CARB that regulates products that are considered eco-friendly based on their composition and any known harmful emissions to humans and the environment.
Depending on where you live, if your country or state has a stricter government, companies might price their products even more because they have to pass such tests and audits so that they can keep serving you with their products and/or services without worrying about the environmental, and sometimes labor-concerned issues.
Low-carbon footprint shipping
When you want to be responsible for the environment, you have to think about your packaging properly. Gone are the days where we can just plastic this and plastic that. Transporting and shipping your items in sustainable packagings, such as using recycled paper, cartons, and the like will reduce the carbon footprint of your company.
The downside to that is you have to make sure to double-secure your packaging to avoid problems along the way. Items covered in plastic are much sturdier when it comes to shipping and delivery versus paper and/or cardboard. This is especially the case in a country with high humidity and a great chance of raining or snowing all the time – no one wants their packages wet!
The same is true for wet markets, which is why many people resorted to eco bags and even bring their containers. However, not all wet markets around the world have people who have the luxury to have containers for their fish. At most, the containers will still contain amounts of plastic because using paper is just usually messy, while stainless steel containers, although they are the best solution, are very costly.
Lack of consumer demand
Unfortunately, there isn’t enough market demand for eco-friendly products yet. However, that is based on a cycle that never ends: many consumers don’t buy eco-friendly products because they are costly, and at the same time, many manufacturers don’t make eco-friendly products because there’s no demand. This is why the green revolution is still at a difficult stage in today’s society.
One example is the metal straw. Most people would just say that they won’t buy stainless steel straws because they are expensive. On the other side of the story, most malls and hardware stores won’t sell stainless steel straws because not many customers look for them yet.
Less popularity, knowledge, and budget
In certain countries that don’t have a lot of eco-friendly knowledge and campaign yet, people are more inclined to buying shampoo sachets that are cheaper (but will end up in the sewers and rivers) versus a large container of shampoo with eco-friendly packaging and organic products.
Not all communities around the world are well-oriented yet about the positive effects of patronizing eco-friendly products due to a lack of campaign by the government and other organizations. At the same time, many of them simply don’t have the budget for eco-friendly products because they need the money for necessities such as food.
Time-consuming organic produce
As mentioned above, organic produce not only takes effort but also time. Anything organic requires a lot more time. Aside from fruits and vegetables, livestock is also part of the equation. If the pasture grass is not affected by fertilizers then the products that will come from the cows and goats will be truly organic. This also takes a longer time to achieve versus non-organic farming.
How to make green products less expensive?
While it is true that green products today are considerably pricier, there are ways that we can reduce their prices in the future. Let’s take a look at some suggestions on how we can lower the cost of producing and buying an eco-friendly product:
More campaigns about eco-friendly products
Companies and organizations should have better campaigns and information dissemination on the benefits of going green. Many malls, supermarkets, and groceries around the world have resorted to eco bags and sustainable packaging, which is a good start. This is a way of teaching people how to lessen their plastic consumption to avoid pollution and harming the environment.
In the same way, the government must show support by building and/or strengthening initiatives, existing laws, and creating ordinances to avoid harming the environment. For instance, imposing higher fines for littering, improper waste segregation, excessive carbon footprint, and other similar activities would help people to become more disciplined about the environment.
Demand from the market
If you want to go green but want the prices to be lower, the best way is to keep buying. While it is not a guarantee that green products will truly be at a lower price in the future, we could at least lower its cost if we have a higher demand from the market.
A simple example would be mobile phones. Back in the 90s and 2000s, only a few people had cellular phones because they were too expensive and thus, low on demand. However, when people kept buying them in the later years, the demand became high and thus, the prices of phones became significantly lower. The price of your Nokia 5110 back in the days could already buy a much better smartphone today.
Buying green products at an expensive price today is a sacrifice we should make if we want a brighter future tomorrow. It shouldn’t break the bank to go green but we’d have to make our efforts by supporting eco-friendly products and manufacturing processes so that companies don’t suffer in terms of cost and effort for manufacturing.
If we simply have a higher demand for them, companies would be willing to invest more in their eco-friendly sector. Therefore, with higher demand in the market, their prices could significantly drop and Mother Nature would be proud of us. In the long run, we aren’t just helping the companies but also the environment and the future generations ahead of us.
Name: Rebecca Tarvin
Discipline: Integrative biology
Degrees: B.A., Biology, Boston University, 2010; Ph.D., Biological Sciences, University of Texas at Austin,2017
Rebecca Tarvin is broadly interested in integrating studies of natural history with molecular genomics and phylogenetics. Specifically, she aims to elucidate causal genetic mechanisms underlying novel traits, characterize phenotypic diversification at macro and micro-evolutionary scales, and identify factors that promote and constrain biodiversity.
She also likes to write about eco-friendly lifestyle and other material alternatives that are eco-friendly, aside from other ways to save Mother Earth