Eco-Expensive: Why does sustainability cost more?

Eco-friendly price tag

Shopping with a budget in mind seems way easier and cheaper when purchasing mass-produced name-brand goods and services. It’s an understandable judgment on its surface. I’m also guilty of buying shoes and smartphones from companies that practice ravaging production methods.

I’ve recently begun working with False Ego, a brand all about sustainability, and have learned a lot more about how much pollution comes from the fashion industry alone. It really put into perspective the importance of acting against these forces damaging our planet. In a previous post, I described some differences between sustainable fashion and environmentally damaging fashion.

Diminishing the effects of human-influenced climate change takes a series of committed actions over time. In many cases, fighting for nature comes with a big price tag, because no one wants to work for free. Who would’ve thought?

Solar panel repair

There is an elephant in the room of sustainable fashion and most polite consumers avoid asking the question outright. When shopping for eco-friendly products initially, I found myself thinking:

“Why is it so expensive?”

Sadly, the value of “eco-friendly” is not immediately recognizable to most consumers. As I learn more about sustainable production, I understand the price point all day, but on the outside looking in, the explanation sounds like:

“You’re paying a premium because we care about Earth.”

Looking at sustainable products as a whole, not just fashion, the price is typically a lot higher than eco-harmful products. As a price-conscious consumer myself, I can recognize the dilemma. I would want to know exactly why the price is higher than comparable products.

Why should it be so expensive for me to eat, commute, and live a healthy and low-impact lifestyle? Because at this point, it takes a lot of work and technology to restore the environment during the process of producing goods at a mass scale.

As consumers, especially in the USA, we’ve become accustomed to searching for the hot deal. Open the doors to fast fashion and begin the dumping of textile waste into landfills. 

So where do the high prices come from with an eco-friendly lifestyle?


Harnessing Earth's Resources 

Resource Extraction

Producing mass amounts of high-quality cotton, oil, leather, lithium, and other materials require intensive processes that are often harmful to the environment. This includes drilling, insecticide, explosions, and much more; just to gather the materials needed to feed the global demand for cheap and quality products.

The perfect strawberry costs more time and effort when you aren’t manipulating nature with technology. But maybe that’s the way it should be.


Cleaning Up

Inside a Landfill

In the process of producing goods, there is always waste. The easy and cheap thing for companies to do is dump their waste into a local river, and they pass those savings on to you!

Dyes and other chemical runoff contaminate land and water. Factory and transportation emissions pollute the air. No stone left unturned.

For companies to counteract all those bad things, they must put programs in place. Programs to dispose of chemical and other waste properly. Programs to filter and diminish air pollution. All these systems to clean up after production waste do not happen for cheap, but they are necessary.


Offsetting Inevitable Damages

Smokestack pollution

There will always be emissions and damage to the environment as long as humans continue to produce goods in mass quantities. This is where offsets come in to save the day!

Businesses (and you!) can purchase carbon offsets to work against the emissions they produce. 

Let’s say a company has refined its resource aggregation and waste management to be as eco-friendly as possible. That doesn’t eliminate the pollution that comes from factories and transportation, for example, so this company would have to purchase carbon offsets to mitigate the last bit of environmental harm they cause.

Buy enough offsets to support a wind farm or reforestation project, and consider your pollution reversed!

Proud solar technician

This is by no means an exhaustive look at the expenses for an eco-friendly company. I just hope to share a perspective that has grown on me recently; buying “eco-friendly” tends to be a bit pricier, but it proves to be a way more valuable process than buying “eco-harmful” goods.



Photo cred: Daria Shevtsova, Prostooleh and Tom Fisk

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