Thursday, October 04, 2007

Why Do Eco-Friendly Products Cost More?

In a conversation on the Facebook group for Everyday Trash blog, somebody asked "Why does the eco-friendly product always cost more than the regular version?"

It doesn't always cost more. The eco friendly alternative to disposable kitchen cleaning wipes, for example, costs less (a bottle of white vinegar and a washable cloth). A bicycle costs less than a car. But marketers don't have to put "Buy this! It's eco friendly!" on those things to sell them, because "Buy this! It's cheap!" trumps the eco-card.

But when the product is more expensive than the alternative, that's when marketers need to work at persuading the consumer to buy it. Why should I buy those expensive clothes rather than these cheaper ones? Ah, because they're organic. Why should I buy this expensive coffee? Ah, because it's fair trade.

The questioner asked why products touted as eco-friendly are often more expensive. Actually it's the other way around. Expensive products are often labelled as eco friendly.

16 comments:

flutterby said...

i had a discussion with a friend today about the disposables versus cloth nappy debate and i concluded that sod how much extra work it is (very little, one wash load every 48hours) it's the cost that makes it the prettier option - so no, eco friendly doesn't always = more expensive. i worked out if you bought 1 nappy a week during pregnancy for x weeks, and the same for wraps and liners you could be completely kitted out before you start your maternity leave and then you'd only ever have to shell out for liners once every so often (they can be washed several times) rather than £8 or so a week for disposables. so even if people don't care about the environment (which of course they should but hey we can't have everything) then surely more money in their pockets should make them want to use cloth??
sorry if slightly off topic - although not as it's eco versus cheap really (and in fact eco = cheap!)

Steph in Roker said...

On the subject of Fair Trade coffee often being 15p or so more expensive that others, I remember you saying that if a destitute Peruvian coffee farmer stopped you in the street as asked if you could spare 15p, you wouldn't think twice.
I've never questioned the price of Fair Trade products since. And I've getting that way with Organic now too.

benjymous said...

Yup, "green" products have suddenly become fashionable (look at the "I'm not a plastic bag" fiasco), so people are buying them, not because they care about the environment, but because they want to jump on the same bandwagon as their fave celebs.

All businesses are run for profit (well, the vast majority) so they're offering "green" products because it's what people are demanding. Our bandwagon jumpers are used to paying over the odds for trendy designer gear, so don't realise/care they're being overcharged.

When the celebs all get bored and go back to being wasteful, these hangers on will stop caring too, and leave it to those of us who would actually like to make a difference!

red_swirl/ginevra said...

The local organic co-op is interesting, it has an explanation in a side window as to why its spices SEEM expensive ... it is self service, so they have to list the price per kg. Coles / Woolworths (Aussie equivalents of Tescos)only sell prepackaged, in small amounts ... but their price per kg is much higher.

I've often found organic fruit looks real small, and initially I thought it's not worth it ... but they taste far better & fill you up just as much as the huge, watery, tasteless supermarket fruit.

NIgel's Eco Store said...

A lot of eco friendly products are made by small companies, in smaller quantities than the big boys are able to produce, which can make the price higher. BUT, being eco friendly is about things that last, and that'll save money - so cost might behigher upfront, but cheaper in the long run. Take eco balls - they cost about £30, but last up to 1,000 washes, which could save £200 over their life. Same with low energy light bulbs...

NIgel

Melanie Rimmer said...

You make good points, Nigel. Often the eco version costs more to produce, and sometimes you can save money by buying eco. But I think eco wash balls are a bad example. I tested eco wash balls and the results astonished me, and changed the way I do laundry. Read about it at http://bean-sprouts.blogspot.com/2007/01/load-of-old-laundry-balls.html

Frankie @ Veg Plot said...

Congrats - you have been awarded an eco friendly (I think) Egel Nest Award!

Moonwaves said...

The thing that really gets me is when I hear people talking about paying farmers and producers a fair price for organic produce and then in the next breath talking about how organic stuff is expensive but prices will come/are coming down as more and more people opt for this choice. Part of trying to buy organic/ethically is choosing to eschew the idea that cheap is the best thing and realising that everything I buy has a much bigger value than the monetary price put on it.

JP said...

Check out http://www.greendealsdaily.com for lots of inexpensive ways to reduce everyday environmental impacts. The site is new but I'm now updating it daily (starting today) so check back for lots of great deals of green products.

Heather Gorringe said...

Lots of "green products" are less expensive - for example home grown sunflowers and seed is less expensive than peanuts. And what about planting a hedge - one of the best possible things you can do in your garden.
One buckthorn- £1.80. However I would agree that if we are going to support our homegrown industries we have to think less about cost and more about value.

Stonehead said...

And don't forget, eco-friendly products often only appear expensive because the real costs are visible and being passed on.

With many conventional products, the real cost - to the environment, to people and to cultures - is masked.

So wellie boots from Chinese sweatshops look cheap, while ones from a factory that pays a decent wage and sources materials responsibly look expensive.

In actual fact, the sweatshop wellies are not cheap - it's just that someone else or somewhere else is paying the bulk of the price.

Suresh said...

There is no escaping that our health - both individually and as a society - is directly linked to the health of our environment. So at Bluehouse, we passionately believe that what surrounds your body is just as important to your well-being as what you put into it.
For more detail please check http://www.bluehouselife.com/

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