An article in today’s Guardian discusses the phenomenon that I have often observed to be associated with eco living namely, that it caters to a higher socio-economic status:
Many of the companies and individuals marketing a sustainable lifestyle tend to give the impression that it takes place on another fairytale planet, and is unattainable for normal people down here on the ground with limited cash, who have to go to work every day.
This phenomenon has been true for a very long time. I have always been struck by the often ridiculously inflated prices that are charged for environmentally-friendly alternatives. I think that this can be problematic because, a) it gives the message stated above; and b) it feeds into people’s egos and makes eco living a competitive shopping sport, where it becomes a matter of showing off brands.
In many cases, there are much cheaper and reasonable alternatives that don’t need to cost an arm and a leg. You don’t need to spend a fortune on reusable kitchen towels, for example; you can easily cut old towels into rags for this purpose. I buy inexpensive sackcloth towels from my pharmacy that last a very long time. You can re-use all those glass jars that once held jams, condiments, and so forth, to store and freeze food; there is no need to buy overpriced mason jars that serve only to replicate these humble glass jars. Re-using in this manner serves also to cut down on waste. Stainless steel tiffin boxes are a little pricey, but they last for years, so they are an excellent investment. Buying expense eco cleaners ($8 for dish soap? Completely and utterly absurd) is unnecessary when you can easily make your own products for much less money. Full disclosure: I used to buy a lot of these expensive products, but realized that I was simply generating more waste by doing so. No matter how recyclable a product, waste is generated to produce and recycle it. I have slowly weaned myself off this buying cycle. I now use bars of Marseille de Savon soap to clean bathtubs, counters, handwash laundry, make laundry soap, and wash dishes. This soap does not come in any containers, serves multiple purposes, and works far better than any eco cleaner I have ever bought. I buy 1kg bars of soaps that last a long time. The humble vinegar and baking soda work like a charm.
I don’t mind investing money into a product that will last for a long time, and which I cannot replicate easily myself, but I think we need to be careful of supporting overpriced eco products especially if, ironically, they serve only to add to further waste and consumerism.