What's with the Green Premium?

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It’s safe to say that it’s pretty normal for people to think that sustainable goods are more expensive than their unsustainable counterparts. Unsurprisingly, this is apparently one of the main reasons many people say they aren’t willing to “go green”.

But is eco-friendly stuff really more expensive? Maybe not everything, or some things require some pretty spendy upfront costs but save you moola down the road (e.g. using renewable energy), BUT...if we compared your typical green product to a conventional product, the likelihood of the former being at least a bit more expensive is pretty high.

Okay, so we’ve all got anecdotal evidence supporting the thought that sustainable stuff costs us all more green (pun intended.) BUT! Why is that? The short version is that more sustainable production shows up in price tags. The medium-long version is this:

Upfront Costs

Wages We’ve all probably heard about the evils of fast fashion at this point. Sweatshops? Freakishly low wages? Shitty working conditions? That’s fast fashion for you! We’ve probably also heard some sort of thing about why more sustainable fashion costs more money then.

Higher wages obviously lead to higher price tags at the end of the road, and that goes for any product or industry, not just fashion. Food, personal care, and electronics are only a few other examples of industries that have had controversies about unethical labor conditions.

Worker Safety Oh yeah, and did we mention that ensuring safe working conditions requires spending money? It’s a “sad but true” kind of management in a lot of manufacturing processes to look the other way rather than making sure workplace environments are healthy. So when companies actually do ensure good working conditions (e.g. safety equipment, breaks at work, healthy - instead of excessive - working hours), they spend more money, and you end up paying more.

Mother Earth Why is it cheaper to make stuff that has a shitty effect on the planet? Besides the fact that they’re already industry-accepted practices that don’t get you weird looks from other industry peeps, rare or unconventional items and practices cost money. Typically more money than more common or conventional stuff anyway. Things that are conventional are already cheap. That means unsustainable things (e.g. using non-renewable energy to fuel factories and transportation or plastic instead of a compostable or biodegradable material) are going to be less expensive.

Also, companies will only make a choice if it’s cost-effective. Since there are more consumers who are willing to buy unsustainable shit, the costs of sustainable stuff and the marketing that comes with it doesn’t necessarily pay off.

That’s not even mentioning things like the costs of fees for eco-labels or lower investment in green companies (is this post depressing enough yet?)

TLDR

Shit wages = low AF prices, therefore not so shit wages = higher prices

  • Safe conditions = more money, so safe conditions = higher prices

  • Unsustainable practices + popularity = cheaper, more sustainable practices are rarer and therefore not cheaper

    • Not to mention that a lot of peeps aren’t willing to buy green, so companies don’t see a financial benefit

Actual Costs

So not cutting corners costs money - too bad so sad! But since this is a sustainable lifestyle blog we should point out that costs don’t only show up in terms of money.

Human Costs You know those workers we mentioned earlier who don’t get paid enough, are overworked, and gotta be mad stressed because of all that? Yeeaaahhh, they’re not too happy right now. Pretty sure it’s safe to say the rest of us wouldn’t want to be in that kind of situation, so empathizing should be pretty easy in this case.

If you’re still focused on the money though, I’ll point out that maybe having skilled, happy workers requires a bit more money in the short term. But in the long term you’ve got loyal people who actually like your company, so you don’t have to worry so much about high ass turnover rates and company scandals and all that.

Safety/Health Costs That protective gear and those reasonable work hours (and other conditions) we mentioned earlier...yeah, many factory workers around the world are probably thinking that would be nice right about now.

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Maybe thinking of health as a cost is hard to wrap your head around, in which case I’ll remind you that hazardous work conditions can (obviously) lead to high healthcare costs. If we’re talking about places that don’t have super developed health care, there’s still the issue of unhappy workers, turnover rates, and scandals that was mentioned above.

Environmental Costs Our tagline IS protect your wild after all! So maybe the monetary cost of things we’re buying is cheap, but the planet is giving us the MF right now.

Cheap plastic packaging? The ocean would bitch slap us if it had a hand. Using unsustainable energy for everything? Say hello TO MY LITTLE FRIEND...climate change. Big, cheap farms that make the same shit? Bye bye healthy soil. These costs are going to be more obvious in the long run (when everyone who’s reading this is already long gone), so it can be hard to want to take responsibility for them.

BUT! It won’t hurt us to give a damn about future generations. Also, pretty sure all those fish that are nibbling away at old toothbrushes right now would appreciate more sustainable packaging.

TLDR

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Low financial costs = unhappy workers, Happy workers = less employee turnover and fewer scandals

  • Unsafe workers - unhappy workers and a lot of cash for healthcare, Safe workers = Lower healthcare costs (and also less turnover and scandals like we already mentioned)

  • Economically cheap = environmentally expensive. Stuff like plastic is inexpensive to pay for as far as its monetary value is concerned, but Mother Earth is giving us a spanking right now (and not in a good way.)

So my friends, while the Wild Thoughts Blog normally focuses on giving you viable lifestyle tips to green your life, today we wanted to break down some of the basic reasons why goin green might cost a pretty penny.

As a final note, the more that sustainable products are purchased, the more the price goes down. Why? Economics of scale! Okay, REAL QUICK economics lesson: as supply of sustainable goods increases, the cost PER UNIT decreases, which allows companies to drop their prices. So go forth, buy more sustainable shit, and #protectyourwild.

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By Darian Williams, ALDA's Blog and Digital Marketing Specialist Intern 

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