Purchasing sustainable items seems to be more expensive compared to mainstream alternatives, but is this always true? And does a higher price point mean that an item has been sustainably made?

Sustainability does not always have to cost more, nor is a higher price always a direct reflection of the quality or sustainability of the product. As it often times is, things are not just black or white, so we will give you a bit more of an elaborate explanation to these questions.

Does sustainability always come at a higher cost?

The cost of being self-sustaining is actually quite low, so long as there is arable land, water, shelter, and community. If you look at mainstream living however, yes, sustainability usually comes at a higher cost. That is if you want to live without too much disruption, sacrifice, or change, and that’s exactly what we will talk about in this post.

Sustainable alternatives to mainstream products cost more

It is a generally accepted truth that ethical items come, more often than not, with a more expensive price tag than its mainstream counterpart. That’s why consumers sometimes complain that ethical and sustainable items come at a high cost, describing it as “exclusive” or “elite.” It is not greed driving the high cost of ethical products however, it’s actually the opposite. Sustainable items often have a higher price tag because they require more investments: labor, and a fair wage for it, is a driving cost, but sustainable brands also have higher costs when it comes to the materials being used or the research and documentation needed to be sure that they are operating in a sustainable way.
Besides that, conventional brands keep their prices low by producing vast amounts of stock, even when there is not always a market for these quantities. This means that the high production numbers can be spread over many units, while sustainable brands often try to reduce their waste and only produce small-batch runs. An increase in demand will reduce the price of a product, and demand for eco-friendly products is not as high as traditional products, yet.

Even so, in the long term you might actually save money by buying more sustainable products. This is because sustainable products often times have a longer lifespan, or because they are reusable. Moreover, you tend to cherish a more expensive purchase more compared to something you can easily replace.

So does more expensive mean more sustainable?

Sadly enough this is not always the case. When you buy an expensive item, it’s possible that you are mainly paying for the name of the brand. This is because the mark-up of brands we associate as “designer” or “luxury” can sometimes be astronomical. Several findings such as the Clean Clothes Campaign show that a higher price is not always a direct reflection of the quality of the product, nor the standards by which it was made.
It’s important that you know what you are buying. Initiatives like Ethical Made Easy can help you in your search for ethical brands.

In conclusion

It might be a good idea to save up a bit more so you can choose a product of higher quality that has been made in a sustainable way. Yet, a higher price is not always an indication of higher quality or sustainability.

When you choose quality over price, remember that this is almost always the more sustainable choice because it eliminates waste, improves efficiency, and supports businesses that prioritize value.