Are Zero Waste Products REALLY More Expensive?

Vector illustrations of various zero waste low waste products

How many times in the past have you been looking at products in the aisle of your local supermarket and opted for convenience over sustainability?

How many times have you reached for an item simply because it was priced the lowest? Don’t feel too ashamed of your answers. The fact that you’re reading this article tells me that if you aren’t already making consistent sustainable decisions, you’re at the very least considering dipping your toes to test the aquamarine waters of zero waste living, and that’s the important thing! 

The truth is disposable products exist because the convenience of purchasing singly-packaged products are incredibly tempting. Couple this with the fact that these non-green disposable items are made and packaged with cheap synthetic materials to provide to you an economical short-term option, and it’s easy to see why our world is saddled with an enormous plastic waste pollution problem on our planet if we focus solely on convenience and upfront cost.

But low-cost and convenience does NOT equal quality and, when determining the financial benefit of a purchase, the savings are rarely found strictly on the initial price tag alone.

Once you shift your focus onto the long-term cost-effectiveness of the product itself, you will find that practicing “The 10 Green Commandments” will not only help you save the planet by using eco-friendly products, but purchasing these well-built, reusable items can also help save your budget in the long-term! 

Learn how to make sustainable choices that will ensure you live a rewarding zero waste lifestyle and read “The 10 Green Commandments” here.

Why Do Zero Waste Items Sometimes Cost More Than Non-Green Items?

Before we dive into the reasons why environmentally friendly items sometimes cost more at the check-out aisle than non-green products, we have to dispel the myth that this is always the case. Depending on where you live and where you purchase from, sustainable products may cost the same or sometimes even LESS than conventional non-green items.

With that said, when you make a purchase at a store, the amount you pay doesn’t just include the item itself. It also covers the overheads involved with producing it and physically getting the product to you. For example, most conventional household or personal care items are made from synthetic, non-biodegradable materials and designed for single (or limited) use before being discarded, making them relatively inexpensive to produce, and cheaply made whereas eco-friendly products are typically well-constructed with bio-degradable or compostable components.

Other reasons why zero waste items may cost slightly more than non-green items include:

  • Demand for green products are not as high.
  • Fair Labor and Ethical practices cost more.
  • Sustainable materials cost more to grow and manufacture.
  • Organic materials are harder to grow.
  • Reputable third-party certifications are not cheap.
  • Fair wage for laborers is higher overhead.
  • Not mass produced unlike greedy corporations cut cost at expense of the planet.

As you can see, there are many variables that influence the price point for sustainable product that don’t affect non-green items. But when you make a purchasing decision, it’s important NOT to confuse penny-pinching for being penny-wise!

But Isn’t Going Zero Waste Supposed to Save Me Money??

No…but in reality, YES. Confused yet? I’ll explain...

As illustrated above, there are many reasons why zero waste items might have a higher upfront cost than its cheaply made, conventional counterparts which essentially comes down to overhead costs associated with the manufacturing, production, and transportation of materials and finished goods. However, the upfront cost of an item is very different from its overall cost-effectiveness. While you may pay a little less at the checkout aisle for disposable non-green products, you’ll inevitably end up paying much more when you have to replace them over and over again in the future.

On the other hand, if you choose to spend a little extra on well-constructed, sustainable items that are designed to be reused again and again, you’ll quickly find your savings adding up in the long term since you will not have to replace them nearly as often. It hardly makes sense to pay slightly less for a disposable product that you know you will have continue to replace many times over throughout the year, as opposed to paying those few extra dollars for an item that will last you years upon years, if not forever!

An added benefit to making the financial prudence of swapping out non-green items with zero waste reusable items is that each purchase increases the demand for these green products. With higher demand, more companies will be encouraged to provide the supply to fill it, gradually lowering its costs as businesses alter their production to meet the growing need for zero waste items.

Is It WORTH It To Go Zero Waste?

Financially speaking, purchasing sustainable products in place of environmentally harmful items may be more expensive in the immediate short term. But those initial savings will surely soon be wiped out the moment have to replace them once or twice in the near future. If your budget allows you to spend a little extra for reusable & green alternatives, it is certainly worth it to save money in the long-term with zero waste products that are reusable and built to last.

But we must also consider that something’s “worth” is the level at which you feel it deserves to be valued at, which is not always monetary. And before you can genuinely determine how worth it it is for you to go zero waste in a thoughtful and honest manner, it’s important that you first know your “WHY” for deciding to go green. What most motivated you to rethink your consumption habits and compels you to want to live sustainably? Is it just to save money? Is good health without plastic toxins leaching into your food and body important to you? Is leaving behind a beautiful planet valuable to you?

A great blog for you to read if you are new to the zero waste lifestyle that ensure your zero waste journey is a long, rewarding, and successful one is "5 Things Every Zero Waste Newbie Should Know".

When you know what your purpose is for making sustainable decisions and the important things that you place value in, you can better answer if making green consumer purchases is personally worth it to you. Because while a zero waste item may cost you a few extra dollars at the checkout counter, you may decide that living out your purpose by making these earth-friendly decisions is something you consider to be priceless. 

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