Fake News: Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Products Need to Cost More

Eco-friendly shopping doesn't have to cost more

A growing number of shoppers are environmentally-conscious and truly want to choose products that are safer for our planet. In a 2015 Nielsen survey of 30,000 consumers in 60 different countries, 45% of respondents said commitment to the environment factored into their willingness to buy a product — and that percentage was even higher among Millennials, of whom 75% said they would be willing to pay more for sustainable buys.

Sounds promising, right? Except another survey, also conducted in 2015, found that 4 in 5 buyers think green products cost more, and 3 in 5 of those buyers would only opt for green products “if they cost the same or less than non-eco-friendly products.” Despite the fact that shoppers are increasingly motivated to choose eco-friendly goods, they’re still going with conventional ones in the interest of their finances.

Less Green to Go Green

Here’s the truth: Eco-friendly products don’t have to come at a premium anymore. Environmentally conscious choices, including safer detergents and personal care products, may have hiked up your bill when they were new to the market and outside the norm, but now they’re commonplace in most chain stores, thanks to higher consumer demand. More options on the market means more competition and, as a result, lower prices — it’s simple supply and demand.

But what about production costs, you may ask? While employing more sustainable business practices, like switching to renewable energy, may cost a company more money at adoption of the technology, it will ultimately save the company money over time and allow for price drops. Where there are still higher costs for consumers to go green — for instance, with certain organic and conventional grocery items such as eggs and meat — the price gap typically traces back to the stricter requirements that an item needs to meet to get its “organic” seal. The certification process alone may cost the producer extra (learn more on that here).

Thankfully, another trend is helping to lower the price of eco-friendly goods: the rise of direct-to-consumer e-commerce, AKA buying online straight from the company that makes the product. When the product creators don’t have to distribute through an established retailer or wholesaler and share a cut of their profit, they take back control of pricing and are able to become more transparent to their customers. Case in point: Selling direct allows Dropps to offer green cleaning products with safer chemistry than big name brands, but at comparably low prices.

The incentive for companies to minimize their environmental footprint is also bigger than ever before, as studies continue to show that eco-friendliness has the power to win over consumers and turn them into brand loyalists. A 2015 trends report by the Natural Marketing Institute found that 58% of American shoppers are more likely to try a product from an environmentally-conscious company. No doubt, more companies are catering to these potential customers and cleaning up their products, which benefits not only the environment, but also your wallet.

What Is “Eco-Friendly”?

With so many new products on the market proclaiming that they’re “eco-friendly,” “more sustainable,” or “environmentally conscious,” you may be wondering how you can tell which ones actually live up to their labels — or what “green” even means these days.

According to the EPA, “a product may be considered ‘greener’ if it poses less harm to human health or the environment compared to other products that serve the same purpose.” An example of this would be makeup or shampoo that’s specially formulated without harmful chemicals that can wash into our oceans and waterways, or Dropps laundry detergent pods, which are packaged in recyclable and compostable boxes rather than plastic. (Psst! Here’s how you can help to reduce plastic pollution in our oceans and waterways.)

Of course, not all products fulfill the green promises they make on their packages, so it’s worthwhile to follow these guidelines when seeking out eco-friendly shopping:

 

  • Consider the packaging. Recycable packaging sounds like it checks all the boxes, doesn't it? Unfortunately, the recycling game has changed and countries like China are no longer accepting the United States' plastic waste. This means that our recyclable waste is ending up in landfills, being incinerated, or sent to other countries that are not prepared to properly handle recyclable plastic. Look for zero waste compostable packaging instead. Traditional liquid laundry detergents are usually packaged in high density polyethylene (HDPE plastic jugs). A shocking 68% of these bottles are not recycled, and contribute to the approximately 275 metric tons of plastic waste generated on land that goes into our oceans and waterways annually. Choose a plastic free alternative
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  • Scan labels for meaningful verifications. Depending on the product category, there is likely an ecolabel or standard set by the EPA or another government agency to determine whether the product is actually “greener.” Examples include the Energy Star certification for appliances and electronics, the EPA Safer Choice label for cleaning products, and the WaterSense label for water-efficient showerheads and homewares. (Dropps was awarded the 2017 EPA Safer Choice Partner of the Year for its achievement in formulating products that meet strict human and environmental health criteria.)

  • Be skeptical of buzzwords. Companies use words like “natural” and “nontoxic” on product packaging to attract eco-minded customers, but these words don’t come with any guarantees about how the ingredients are sourced or how the product was made. The best way to learn more about these claims is to do some research online via reliable sources such as the Environmental Working Group.
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  • Learn about the company’s mission. Start with a simple internet search to scope out the company’s website, and then dig deeper to see if the company is transparent about its environmental goals and what it’s actually doing to achieve them. Does it list any environmental awards or certifications, and are they issued by a respected government agency or environmental group? Don’t be afraid to call or email the company directly with questions!

  • Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash