Can a Sustainable Lifestyle be for Everyone?
Since the Industrial Revolution initiated in the 18th century, our lifestyles have become more convenient and complex. This did not happen with no cost; it came with labor exploitation, climate change, water, soil, and air pollution. Everything that surrounds us right now is a cause of those problems, and yet many people are oblivious to their contribution to the issues. From plugging in our phones to the socket to traveling on airplanes, we contribute to global warming.
While the majority opt to live on the convenient, but unsustainable, path, some others choose sustainability. They choose a sustainable diet by eating organic products or being vegetarian or vegan. Some may obtain their energy from a renewable and/or clean source. One can even choose to consume everyday products manufactured under a sustainable brand—ones that minimize adverse environmental and social impact. However, those brands usually come with high-digit price tags.
A t-shirt at Reformation, a well-known sustainable fashion brand, can cost more than $50, and a dress can cost more than $200. Compared with the clothes we can purchase from fast fashion labels, the former’s prices are 3 to 4 times more expensive. A small bar of soap from Lush, a handmade cosmetic brand, can cost up to $10, about twice as expensive as typical American bar soap, and 10 times more expensive than that of Cambodia. Despite the fact that some sustainable labels are affordable, most reliable ones are beyond many people’s budget, not to mention they’re only available in some countries. This is why only a sample of the world’s citizens are devoted to a sustainable lifestyle.
But what’s the story behind the overpriced tags?
An element of a sustainable product is organic material: no chemical fertilizer or pesticide use. The production methods also aim to reduce water and energy usage. Accordingly, the products typically take longer to be processed; more time corresponds to more cost. Additionally, the tailors working for the clothing brands typically earn a more reasonable wage, contributing to the higher cost.
With these reasons, it seems that, right now, sustainable commodities aren’t for everyone—yet. However, there’s a silver lining. Similar to the reduction in the price of solar panels over time, those sustainable products have the potential to be less costly. Because there’s a correlation between efficiency and price, the discovery of cost-effective production methods can beget a decline in price, as the sustainable industry expands. Once the price decreases and the availability extends, more people can be inspired to rethink about their lifestyles and encouraged to shift towards sustainability.
Nonetheless, there shouldn’t be excuses for waiting to be a loyal citizen of Earth and take care of our home planet. We can start a sustainable lifestyle without spending money on extravagant products. We can start by eating less red meat, one of the main culprits of climate change. We can start by reducing our plastic consumption: owning reusable bags and bottles. We can start by turning off electrical appliances when they’re not in use. Some of this lifestyle may cost a little more compared to the common ways of living. But if everyone turned to do so, the contribution to the environment would be immensely greater than the cost.
By Thathiny Tep