Ethical Living: Saving The Earth, Or Costing It?
For whatever reason, ethical living is seen as a bit of a middle class luxury.
It’s about shopping at Waitrose, taking Instagram worthy photos of all your purchases, and wondering why everybody else isn’t doing the same thing.
Or is it?
Whilst admittedly, there is a bit of a ‘craze’ surrounding living an ethical lifestyle, I think the stereotype that plagues the topic is far from an accurate reflection of what it’s all about.
With this in mind, I wanted to look a little deeper at ethical living. Specifically, I wanted to see whether or not it’s as expensive as everybody thinks.
One thing that can’t be denied, is that ethical living can be expensive.
When comparing two different products, there may be a price difference. This difference is more noticeable in certain industries (e.g. clothing), where unethical behaviour results in a significantly lower cost. In may ways, this is why people think ethics=expensive.
I think that ethical products can be more expensive than we’re used to (especially in fashion compared to high street prices) – but that’s because they are paying workers and suppliers fairly! #ethicalhour
— #EthicalHour® (@EthicalHour) April 9, 2018
It’s inevitable that ethical products and services are comparatively more expensive, paying a fair price and livable wages simply costs more! That said I think a lot of people overestimate the cost of ethical living, it’s often cheaper than you expect!!
— EthicalHoliday.com (@ethicalholiday) April 10, 2018
If ethical products can be expensive, the next question is, does it matter?
After all, when companies pay workers fairly and produce items sustainably, that does come at a cost. Perhaps it’s the case that ethical living isn’t expensive, it’s just that unethical living is far too cheap?
Yes. Generally. But perhaps we should think of ethically produced products as fairly rather than expensively priced. And quite often people keep things they have paid more for for longer so some things could be better value long term.
— Gill Quinn (@GilliAnn5) April 10, 2018
It has always appeared that way to me however in the long run you can’t put a price on making the right choices to do what’s right…
— Geralynn Davies (@DaviesGeralynn) April 10, 2018
I do very much agree with the idea that ethical products are fairly priced, but that does create a problem. After all, it doesn’t matter whether it’s fair or not, if they cost more than alternatives, poorer people won’t be able to afford them.
Regardless of fairness, ethical living will never bring about change if it remains a middle class luxury.
Fortunately, this isn’t actually the case, as ethical consumerism is more than just buying ethical things.
I know why some say it is, but overall ethical living very often means consuming less, possessing less, wasting less, and living/eating ‘lower on the food chain’ (which is cheaper). So, no, it isn’t more expensive.
— Rodney North (@Rodney_S_North) April 9, 2018
Ethical living can be expensive – but some alternatives (such as buying second hand for example) can turn out cheaper – so you can use what you save on the things that cost more!
— Buengo (@buengoUK) April 9, 2018
It’s crucial to realise that ethical living is just as much about what you don’t buy than what you do buy. After all, ‘Reduce’ is the top of the waste hierarchy, and reducing consumption all together is often the best starting point. In fact, most of the tips from my plastic free post are about reducing and reusing.
Combine that with the fact that ethical products can often be higher quality, and suddenly the cost is justified.
It’s these ideas that need to be communicated. It’s these ideas that will help to scale ethical living into the mainstream.
Overall, the idea of ethical living being expensive is super interesting. Yes, individual products can cost more, but an ethical lifestyle is far more than that. Think about reducing consumption. Making things last. Buying second hand.
Sure, it may not be as glamorous as the middle class stereotype, but maybe it’s no supposed to be.
The way I see it, the ‘price’ of ethical living is irrelevant. In fact, it’s exactly the same as unethical living. The only question is, who pays it? When you buy a £2 t-shirt from Primark, the workers are paying the price through awful conditions and low pay. When you buy unsustainable products, the planet pays the price.
So no, ethical living doesn’t cost the earth.
As to whether or not it saves it, that’s a topic for a future blog post.
Thanks to everybody taking part in #EthicalHour who helped shape this article. For the full set of replies, click the link below.
I've got a question for an upcoming blog post. In your opinion, is Ethical Living more expensive? Replies will be featured! #ethicalhour
— Jason Wicks (@jasonwicksCSR) April 9, 2018
Hi! I’m an author and blogger within the fields of social impact and responsible business. I believe that businesses can be a force for good in the world, and this website contains my thoughts on how that can work.