Most green families are on some sort of budget. If you’re in that boat (like me) then it can be frustrating because eco-friendly and organic fashion and body care is more expensive than conventional, in most cases. However, this isn’t without total lack of reason.
There are many reasons why ethical clothing and body care products cost more. Once you start looking around, you’ll see that the benefits of healthy clothing and body care far outweigh the higher prices. Also, there are plenty of ways to still afford green clothing and beauty (we’ll check those ideas out later).
Getting back to prices – some of the reasons why eco-friendly style and beauty products cost more are justified, such as…
Green is a newer concept: Organic farming is as old as time (nope, we didn’t always have pesticides) and likewise, natural beauty products have been around a while too. However, while natural used to be just how things were done, times changed. As industries emerged and became more commercial, so did chemicals, cheap labor and skimping on product materials. Make it bigger and cheaper is sort of the standard American way. As people have wised up, green goods are on the rise, but haven’t truly been hot, or in-style for all that long.
Eco-friendly is getting popular slowly, but it’s still an emerging industry. Many of the companies on board with these products are smaller and don’t always have the ability to achieve the sheer sales scale that helps drive prices down.
Sustainable materials cost more to grow and manufacture: It can cost $1,000+ simply to get a business or grower certified as organic. That applies to any herbs or plants grown for body care and items grown for fabrics too, such as organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, wool, soy and so on.
And remember, not only must growers be certified organic but anyone else who handles (i.e. manufactures or distributes the material) must also consider certification. Plus, while retailers don’t have to get certified to carry organic clothing, many are getting certified to help encourage consumer trust. That’s a big chunk of change to get everyone certified. If a product goes through other certification standards, such as Fair Trade, that costs money too.
Additionally, growing organic is much more time intensive for organic growers than it is for growers who can toss chemicals and pesticides at their crops. For example, someone growing organic lavender or cotton still needs to keep pests away, but since they can’t use chemical methods, pest reduction becomes significantly more time intensive.
Facilities are problematic: Most organic operations aren’t large enough to warrant a full-scope manufacturing facility of their own, so they often share. However, if the facility they’re using processes conventional items, time must be spent to ensure that processes aren’t mixed and that machines are cleared of any conventional materials before using said machines for organic materials. If a body care company processes both organic and conventional products, the same care to separate product types must be taken.
Synthetic is easy and cheap: When a company makes a body care product like everyone else, with easy to find, cheap chemical synthetics, of course it costs less. It’s really inexpensive to follow along with what everyone else already knows and buy what’s super available. However, organic and natural body care and cosmetics are less common. These products cannot contain typical toxic (but readily available) ingredients and preservatives, so not only must green companies be innovative in how they design products, but they also must locate harder-to-find, more expensive ingredients. Synthetic clothing is the same – easy but cheap. It’s harder and costs more to think outside the box.
Fair labor costs money: When you buy a cheap conventional shirt you get more than pesticides, you’re also likely supporting unfair labor. The reason so many companies can afford to sell super cheap clothing or other products is because they don’t pay workers squat. If you want an ethical product made by workers who earn a fair wage and who have safe working conditions, it will cost more, as it logically should.
Green practices cost more: Good companies who make ethical clothing and body care often have other green practices in place. For example, often eco-companies print their labels on recycled content paper with non-toxic inks, offset energy use or water use and aim for greener offices and facilities. Running a company with green practices in place can cost a lot more than running a business that only uses conventional practices.
Shipping ethical products costs more: According to Organic Clothing Blog, organic or sustainable items cost more to ship because while a large chain like Gap can ship huge truckloads at once, a smaller company usually ships, not surprisingly, smaller loads which costs more in the long run.
Marketing costs money: Marketing any product costs money, but larger companies often have a budget for this, while smaller companies don’t. Still, these smaller companies, budget or not, must pay for print ads, websites and more.
Time is money: All of the eco-issues above; certification, sourcing, manufacturing ethically, providing fair labor conditions and so on, take significantly more time and care than conventional business methods. It takes time, which for businesses, means money, to make sure products are grown, created and shipped ethically.
People don’t buy green: Part of the reason why eco-friendly products don’t sell for less has to do directly with you, the consumer. When people flock to cheap $5 shirts and toxic $3 lipstick, well, guess what, companies make cheap shirts and cheap lipstick. In turn, green companies, who already make products that cost more to grow and manufacture, have to try and compete with insanely low priced conventional goods and they’re not going to win.
There’s a lot to supply and demand. For example, a few years ago it was much harder to find eco-friendly toys at affordable prices. As green parents have caught the green bug, eco-friendly toys have gone lower and lower in price. The result – this last holiday season it was hyper easy to find green toys anyone could afford. Organic food has gone the same way. More people demand organic food nowadays AND actually buy it, and surprise, prices for organic foods are now significantly lower than they were just five years ago (trust me, I’ve been buying organics for years).
Very few people demand or buy organic and sustainable clothing or body care – and that’s likely a major reason why it costs more. Believe it or not, companies, even major companies, do attempt to give consumers what they want.
When the demand for sustainable style and beauty goes up, companies will deliver – not for the same low prices as conventional, because then you wouldn’t be getting a green product, but lower than these products cost now I’m sure. We’ve seen it happen with green toys, organic food, green cleaning products and even recycled office goods, so it is possible to eventually see style and beauty prices lower too.
- Six designers explain why sustainable clothing costs more.
- A body care company explains about the high cost of organic.