Why are eco-friendly products so damn expensive?


A quick cost comparison
Look at this table of price comparisons between eco-friendly products and normal products. We’ve gotten these costs off general Google searches and a quick trip down to our local grocers.

 

Eco product

Normal product

Straw

$7.50

$0.0045

Cup

$18

$3

Soap

$10

$5

Clothes

$50

$15

Food

$7

$2

 
Isn’t it ridiculous how much more expensive “green” items are? How do we know if our purchases of “green” items even make a tangible difference? What if it’s all greenwashing and we’re throwing cash into the pockets of greedy capitalists who continue to exploit our environment for short-term monetary gains? 
And more importantly, is it even possible for us to be green if we can’t afford it? How do we change our daily purchases to reflect our sustainable values if we can’t support these values that come with such a high price tag?
We all want to do good – but is doing good a privilege that only the rich can afford? We all deserve the right to purchase items that protect our Earth, to eat food that are healthy and natural, to wear clothes that don’t end up choking our seas over many washes.
The hidden costs of going green
The reason why eco-friendly products are generally more expensive is because of supply chain implications. It is not easy making products that have minimal impact on the environment – and extra costs come with a higher degree of difficulty. 
The source
Environmentally-friendly agricultural processes
In terms of agricultural products, eco-friendly procedures are more expensive.
One common practice of organic farming is to avoid using chemicals such as pesticides. These chemicals can harm our environment by killing off endangered insects, disrupting the ecosystem, as well as getting washed off into runoff that pollutes local water bodies.
By reducing reliance on agricultural chemicals, naturally, this means farms will have to employ more labour for tasks like weeding, cleaning, and reparation of pest damage. The organic price tag reflects the costs of growing produce in environmentally friendly ways, as explained by the Organic Farming Research Foundation.
This brings us to the next point on why greener products are usually more expensive – this being because green companies are usually advocates of Fair Labour Employment Terms. Providing workers with fair wages and safe working conditions would naturally mean higher costs, that have to be covered by a higher price tag.
Processing
The processes of creating greener items also tend to incur higher costs. Most organic operations are too small to justify a large manufacturing facility, so these facilities are often shared. This means a lot of effort must go into ensuring that processes aren’t mixed between producing organic and conventional materials, meaning there is more time involved – and as we know, time is money, and labour is paid on a per time basis (this cost will be even higher if we consider fair wages).
Also due to low demand and small-scale facilities, green companies don’t really get to enjoy economies of scale, which means their fixed costs per unit of product produced is very high. This naturally causes their products to be more expensive. Here’s the catch though: there’s low demand because the prices of green items are high, but the prices of green items are high is partially due to low demand – it’s a vicious cycle!
Aside from these points, the idea that organic and green ingredients/materials needed to produce their product may themselves be expensive. These materials may be hard to find, difficult to produce, and very costly to purchase – this will drive up production costs and lead to higher price tags.
Lastly, environmental certifications are expensive. For example, acquiring USDA organic certification is a challenging task. The farm facilities must comply with sustainable standards, which may require their facilities be modified. Strict record-keeping must also be established for accountability. These certifications also come with an annual inspection fee, which can begin at $400 to $2000 a year – this is on top of their usual business costs! 
So that's why green items are so expensive - but will they ever get cheaper?
To sum things up simply: green items are expensive because we don’t want enough of them to encourage businesses to rethink their processes so that these processes have minimal impact on the environment.
As we continue to demand more, green companies can scale up and costs can become lower. Even then, there may be a floor to which prices cannot go below, due to natural reasons of fair labour employment terms and eco-friendly processes. Even if that’s the case, we should be okay with it, because this is the true price of consuming our products – a price that captures environmental externalities that we’ve chosen to ignore in the first place.
 

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