When shopping in a store or scrolling through products online, I can’t help but notice that eco-friendly products are almost always more expensive than traditional products. I want to know why, so I did some research to find out.
Eco-friendly products are more expensive than traditional products for a few main reasons.
- Items such as high-efficiency washer and dryers are more expensive upfront but save money in the long run.
- Demand for eco-friendly products is not as high as traditional products, yet.
- Fair labor and ethical practices cost more.
Increased Manufacturing costs
From procuring raw materials to shipping the final product, almost all steps of the manufacturing and production process of eco-friendly products cost more than traditional products.
A few reasons for this are:
- sustainable materials cost more to grow and manufacture
- reputable third-party certifications, such as organic or fair trade, are not cheap
- organic materials are more expensive to grow, partly due to the use of alternative means of pest control, instead of using chemicals
- A fair wage for laborers is an expense many eco-friendly companies will accept and honor
- Based on the facts above and other considerations, it just takes more time to produce an eco-friendly product, and time is money
How to increase the demand for eco-friendly products
Let’s begin with a simple economics principle. Don’t exit or fall asleep! This will be quick, I promise!
The Law of Demand states: All things being equal, as the price of a good increases, demand decreases; conversely as the price of a good decreases, demand increases.
This is true for all types of goods and services, including eco-friendly ones. An increase in demand will reduce the price for a product.
The simplest way to increase the demand for a product is to purchase it. Pretty straightforward, right?
Whether you choose to buy a green product, let’s say a reusable water bottle, from a small Etsy store, or from a line of eco-friendly products from Walmart, your money is supporting an environmentally conscious product and not a harmful one such as disposable plastic water bottles.
Your purchase will tell the manufacturer (small or large) that you support eco-friendly products and if enough people feel the same way and also purchase green products, they will put more money into increasing production and in turn, you will see a decrease in price, eventually (yes, it is going to take some time).
As well, as demand increases for eco-friendly products, and decreases for traditional toxic products, the production of eco-friendly products will increase and toxic products will decrease. This will result in the consumer having more choice for green products over non-green products on department store shelves.
To sum up, the more consumers purchase eco-friendly, environmentally conscious products (increasing demand), the more manufacturers will make of these products, subsequently lowering the price for consumers.
Why you should pay more for green products
You have two products in your hands, one eco-friendly, and one not. You are
Here is why you should purchase the eco-friendly product every time:
- When you buy green, you support:
- the use of sustainable materials
- third party eco-friendly certifications
- fair labor wage
- green practices, such as:
- using recycled paper
- writing with non-toxic inks
- shipping with recyclable, minimal waste containers
- By purchasing eco-friendly products, you are telling the manufacturer ‘this is what I want to purchase, make more of it’ which over time will lead to more green products being produced and less toxic ones. This should also lead to a price decrease for the consumer (law of demand).
- When manufacturers see the consumer purchases trending towards more sustainable manufacturing and production practices, they will produce more products with sustainability and environmental concerns at the forefront of their operation. This is a win for consumers, the environment, and manufacturers.
- You are setting a good example for your friends and family. When your kids watch you buy eco-friendly products and inevitably ask you why you can educate them on the benefits of green products. As they grow older, they will be more likely to purchase green products themselves. Similarly, when friends notice your collection of unique eco-friendly products scattered about your house, they will comment on how cool they are and will want to know where you got them and how they can get their hands on some. Of course, you can explain that they are not only rad, but they also serve a really important purpose as well.
- It makes you feel good. Is this a selfish reason for purchasing green products? Possibly yes. But that doesn’t make it not true. When you purchase green products, you feel good about supporting an eco-conscious company, while drastically minimizing or totally eliminating the
amountof toxic chemicals brought into your home. This feel-good feeling just may be enough for you to overlook the extra cash you shelled out for the superior (totally biased opinion!) green product you just purchased.
Bottom line: Buying an eco-friendly product made with responsible production practices will eventually lead to companies putting more money into this type of manufacturing and will, in turn, affect the price in favor of the consumer.
What happens when you don’t put your money where your mouth is
Despite my persuasive argument to always purchase green, you decide to take that $3.00 price difference and put it back in your pocket to purchase the non-green product.
You figured there are plenty of other people willing to buy eco-friendly, so your one purchase is not going to make a difference in the long term.
This line of thinking is just not true. It reminds me of The Simpson’s episode when Homer became The Garbage Man and his slogan was ‘Can’t someone else do it?’ ‘The garbage man can!’ Homer’s business model, while sounding good to the people of Springfield, was ultimately unsustainable, and was too much for one person to do alone.
Similarly, if you leave it up to someone else to purchase eco-friendly products, and you don’t help any chance you get, there will simply not be enough people to get the job done. Eco-friendly products will stay the same heightened price and toxic products will continue to rule the shelves of all the big box department stores.
Take control over your purchasing power, don’t pass the buck for someone else to do it.
So next time when you are thinking about taking the $3.00 savings over the green product, remember, ‘The garbage man can’t.’
Have no doubt: Your dollar matters.
Eco-friendly products are more expensive than traditional products, right now because demand is lower, and they cost more to produce.
However, fret not, you can change this. By purchasing eco-friendly products over traditional products whenever possible, you are indicating to manufacturers with their bottom line, that YOU want to see more of these products on the shelf.
Money talks, it is the universal language of business, so when manufacturers see their eco-friendly line growing more and more in the green, they will make more of it. Similarly, if they notice their traditional lines are doing poorer in the marketplace, they will make less of them and concentrate on the products that are making them the most money.
Eventually, we may just see eco-friendly products at the same price point as traditional ones, but it will take time and a conscious effort by consumers and manufacturers alike.
Please, let me know what you think. Do you believe green products will ever be the same price as traditional ones?
How much years will it take, you think?
While manufacturers are starting to clue in and make everyday products more eco-friendly, unfortunately, I think it will take many, many years for green products to become the norm and be priced as such.
This is a great article and something I never thought about. The quality of eco products are generally always better as well so you don’t have to keep buying more. Buy cheap buy twice! That’s what my grandmother always said.
Thanks for your comment! Sorry it took so long to reply. I totally agree with your grandmother, spend a little more money upfront for high quality items and you probably won’t regret it.
How to start production of eco friendly products
In my humble opinion I think politics and environmental protections or lack thereof play a big role as well.
Should there be better protection for laborers, a more realistic notion by lawmakers of what a fair wage really is. And should all those nasty, toxic chemicals be banned from our food and everyday products. Manufacturers would have no choice but to comply. If environmentally conscious and ethically produced goods were the norm, I think the market for this would equalize therefore bringing prices down.
You make some fair points. Unfortunately there is not enough oversight for big companies when it comes to labour laws and the source of materials used. That’s why it is so important to think about the products we buy and where they come from. Consumer culture is very prevalent and real, not enough people think about how products are made or where the materials come from. Consumers dictate the market. If more people buy green products, manufacturers will create more green products. Supply and demand. We need to keep leading by example and purchase environmentally conscious products as much as possible.
I agree with many of the reasons you list why eco friendly products are often more expensive, however sometimes I do get the feeling on certain merchandise they are just marking up the price because they think slapping a green label on something gives them to right to charge a high elitist price for it, similar to the way they increase the prices on things meant for weddings or for designer labels. When I see the high prices on eco friendly things I sometimes think they are just trying to over charge me .
I totally understand why you think that, and I am sure that sometimes that is the case unfortunately. It is really important that we as consumers do our due diligence and research a company before we buy their products. This way we can ensure we are supporting a truly eco-friendly company.
I think quality costs money and once we understand that, we will be willing to pay more for a product because it is great and has a longer shelf life. Eco-friendly products usually have a human factor in the production process and more demand can generate more employment opportunities and create better systems, which over time ultimately results in better outputs and brings down the cost of production substantially. Yes, it will take time, but we’re investing our money on the people who are making our products and not on machines owned by giant rich corporates. This act itself a positive act which when repeated over many times by many people will surely yield positive results.
What would you say to families who live paycheque to paycheque and cannot afford all household items on a regular basis, let alone the higher cost of doing good? This is an honest question, thanks!
Thanks for your question!
My advice to those who cannot afford to buy every single eco-friendly item at the same time is to buy the item which you use the most. That will make the biggest difference in the long term. For example, if you use dish soap every day and only use floor cleaner once a week, pick up the most eco-friendly dish soap you can find and buy your regular floor cleaner.
If it comes down to price alone, get whatever green product you can afford. Buying one eco-friendly item is better than none at all.
An alternative to buying an environmentally friendly product is making it at home from household ingredients. I quite frequently use a vinegar/water solution for cleaning bathroom and kitchen surfaces. I also use a vinegar/water/dishsoap solution for cleaning the floors.
Being eco-friendly can certainly be expensive, but you don’t have to buy everything at once.
I hope this helps.
Take care and stay safe.
Why do sustainable materials used to make houses cost so much money?
Sustainable materials cost so much money because there is less competition in the market place. Fewer sellers mean less choice, so you’re stuck paying whatever price they are asking.
Also, sustainable materials are responsibly sourced so there is more money involved to pay appropriate wages, lower environmental impact, source locally, etc.
Those are two of the many reasons that sustainable materials to make houses are so costly.
I do hope and think that in the future, prices will decrease as demand increases. More companies will manufacture sustainable products and drive the price down. Until then, unfortunately, the prices will remain higher than less eco-friendly alternatives.
Is it worth buying product with ecolabels over traditional products?
Great question! I truly believe it is worth buying eco-friendly products over traditional ones especially if you are looking to cut down on the number of chemicals used around your house. I know it can be expensive to buy ALL environmentally friendly products, but if you start with buying products you use the most, it doesn’t seem quite as daunting.
Honestly, just do the best you can. One eco-friendly product is better than none.
Hope that helps.
1) In my opinion, certain factors facilitate an increased demand in any product at all. Not everyone is really concerned about green or not. People either buy what they are familiar with, what is cheap, or what works for them. I as an individual would not buy a “green” expensive product if it does not meet up with and even go beyond my traditional needs. Products don’t get increase demand just for being green or not. Being green, should not overshadow the purpose of the product.
2)What are the chances that fair labor wont be a thing of the past when demand gets high.
3) Should being sustainable really have to interfere with my convenience and budget.
Take for example, i tried getting a metal straw, take away the fact that they are ridiculously expensive and have to shipped over( carbon footprint eh), I personally find them uncomfortable, unsafe( rust, corrosive, hot liquids) and quite unnecessary. Lets not even discuss how “green” it is to produce one metal straw. So do encourage me to go ahead and get one for the ENVIRONMENT.
4)Why do people believe the solution lies in purchasing Eco-friendly products. To feel good?
5)Why not encourage reuse, reducing, clothing swapping and second hand clothing rather than Eco-friendly clothes, bags, tissue, e.t.c?
Tell that friend to purchase recycled paper when he/she finds one, use both sides of a paper and recycle.
Thank you for your insightful comment. I agree that products should meet and even exceed consumer’s expectations, even eco-friendly ones. I would hope that if demand increases, ethical labor practices will still be in place but there is no guarantee of that. As far as metal straws go, if you don’t like them, don’t use them. I am not saying to buy every single green product. Do what works for you. I am a big fan of buying used and reusing items until they are completely worn out. There are many ways to be environmentally friendly, and I don’t believe there is a right way and a wrong way. If you are making a conscious effort to incorporate the impact on the environment into your purchases, that is amazing and you are doing your part to help make this world a little more eco-friendly.
Hello, is there the slightest chance of companies and businesses going green contrary to consumer demand? I feel like major companies and corporations should take the first step even though it is quite risky. Is there a way to somehow break the demand-supply cycle? At this point, we’re in extreme need of more sustainable sources and I can only think of the government/businesses to be the the ones to take the first step and provide green products. Please if you think theres a way to break the consumer demand- supply cycle, let me know.
It’s really up to the consumer to do their due diligence when purchasing products. It would be wonderful if companies took it upon themselves to take a more eco-friendly approach to their practices, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. They focus on the bottom line and find the cheapest possible options, which usually isn’t very green. However, if consumers keep demanding environmentally friendly products, companies will make them. It just takes more time than we would like.
Thanks for your comment!
Do you think businesses producing green products really increase the price of their products? Discuss.
I completely agree with your reason that eco-friendly products seem more expensive up front but save money in the long run. Additionally, lack of awareness among individuals makes its demand lower than the regular products and that can only be solved by conscious effort and mindful purchasing by consumers.
However, I have found a business named Vedessi that offers high-quality eco-friendly products for daily household essentials at affordable prices. You must check it if you are willing to have a sustainable lifestyle at pocket-friendly prices.