Tenets of Sustainability: Sustainability can be Cheap

A lot of the time that I’m thinking about sustainability, the cost is one of the first things that come into mind.  There are a lot of great sustainable things out there, but some of them cost a whole boatload of money.  Some of these expensive things will have a pay back period (time it takes to recoup your investment) in the tens of years, if the item ever recoups cost before it needs to be replaced.

The thing with sustainability for most things though, is that it’s cheaper over the long term.  Some of the things you may buy will be more expensive at first, but will be made of a higher quality material and will last much longer, lowering your cost of each use.  Not only are you saving money over the long term, but by not buying something that will need to be replaced in 4 years, you’re keeping garbage out of the landfill.  So, if you’re focused on sustainability, look into high quality items that will last a while – they may be initially more expensive but will most likely be cheaper in the long run.

Over the last 10 or so years, one thing that I’ve noticed at the store is a whole boatload of new “green” products coming out, that are supposedly better for the environment in some way than their “non-green” counterpart.  Of course, the company doesnt really go into detail about why it’s greener, they just say that it is because it uses (or does not use) some ingredient.  Of course, this “green” product often comes with a nice price increase over the non green item, lots of times north of 10%.  I feel like a lot of people are concerned about the planet and want to do the right thing, so they purchase this product that claims to be greener, feeling like their extra money has done some good.  Typically though, the product is just called green and is only marginally better (or not at all) than whatever they non green version is.

One of the best parts about green cleaning solutions (and other green products) is that you can be much more sustainable and use less harsh chemicals if you simply make the product yourself!  I didnt do much of this up until two years ago because I thought that it was difficult, but it really, really isn’t.  Most cleaning solutions can be made with vinegar and water, and perhaps something else to make it smell good, and you can get vinegar for like 1.50 per gallon, where a normal sized bottle of green cleaning solution is like 4 bucks!  Depending on how much you use, you can save a ton of money making your own stuff!

Sustainability isnt just about buying the product with the expensive product with the green label.  Most times, you can save a truckload of money while trying to be more sustainable at the time of purchase as well as over the product lifetime.

Readers: Do you find green products to be more expensive as well, and does that prohibit you from buying them?  When you buy them, do you know why they are greener than their counterpart?

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8 thoughts on “Tenets of Sustainability: Sustainability can be Cheap”

  1. When we moved into our new flat in January, I definitely paid more for our appliances to have A++ certified energy efficiency. That said, I think there’s a difference between “investment” green spending, like that (as energy efficient appliances bring down our electricity bills too) and “everyday” green spending, on things like cleaning supplies and even food.

    I definitely agree that a lot of times the “green” label isn’t very meaningful, and it’s easy to pay a premium for a product that isn’t actually that different!

    • Hi FCG –
      THanks for stopping by – glad you were looking at the energy use of appliances. Most people just look at cost, and you only have to pay for it one time, but you pay the energy bill for years and years! It makes much more sense to get something that’s pretty lean on energy use.

  2. I read something that resonated: 100 years ago, the major cleaning supplies were warm water and elbow grease. Vinegar and water are good enough, and way less toxic than even the “green” cleaners.

  3. I like durable high quality goods too. Now that I only buy things I really like, I don’t throw them out (or donate) as much. I am still using my Columbia soft shell jacket that I got 10 years ago. A fleece wouldn’t have lasted as long.

  4. There’s so much here. I think the most profound thing that you mentioned though is “sustainability isnt just about buying the product with the expensive product with the green label. ” More and more, I see “green products” that are little more than clever marketing.

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