As Americans generate 230 million tons of trash per year, as 8 million tons of plastic winds up in the ocean every year, and as 600,000 tons of pesticides get used every year in the US to saturate cotton crops, one thing is clear — what we buy as consumers is having a direct impact on our planet.
It’s a reality that makes us all look at our feet in shame, want to shake our fists at the atrocities committed by businesses behind closed doors, and just want to do something about it all.
But it’s maddening, because all too often, the eco-friendly options on the market are just too freaking expensive for the average person to go out and buy. Unless you’re set with a swanky salary and stock options, organic underwear and fair-trade coffee just isn’t in the cards.
We want to make a difference, we want to empower ourselves with better purchases that are kinder to the planet and support businesses that are putting planet above profits, but how do we do it if we can’t afford what they’re selling? Finally, the market is actually listening.
Affordable eco-friendly fair-trade is bursting onto the scene like never before, and the prices are coming down. It’s not everything, and it’s not everywhere, but these businesses have seen the writing on the wall and are offering products that we can all actually afford.
Why Eco-Friendly Costs More
Even more frustrating than knowing the impacts of conventional manufacturing is not being able to choose otherwise because you just can’t afford to. The bottom line is, eco-friendly products cost more because often they just take more time and labor to produce. You’re not creating a fiber out of petroleum stew, you’re growing it in a field, and you’re not sucking the local aquifers down with crummy farming practices to make them grow faster.
Organic, free-range, sustainable, free-trade — all of these things reflect the real cost of a product:
• What it takes to pay the people who make these things fair wages.
• What it takes to grow things slower, the way nature intended.
• What it takes to use wholesome ingredients, instead of synthetic junk.
These companies put so much more on the line financially than just what goes into their products too, putting money into getting the certifications that prove to their customers that they’re putting people and planet above profits. B-corp and fair-trade? It all costs money to get those certifications, but these companies go for it anyway.
I know it’s frustrating, I know you just want some organic sheets AND to pay your rent on time, but trust me, there are some really great reasons you’re paying more for eco-friendly, and some really sad reasons you’re paying less for the conventional stuff.
Businesses That Are Changing the Game
Okay, all of that doom and gloom aside, there are businesses that see this problem, and despite all of the things that make it so challenging to compete with cheap, inferior products, they’re working their tails off to make it so we can actually buy from them.
These businesses have prices that are surprisingly lower than what you’re used to seeing from eco-friendly retailers, so pace yourself — it’s only affordable if you don’t go on a shopping spree.
I’m having a personal love affair with this mattress company. Their mattresses are INCREDIBLE, made from organic cotton, wool, and even recycled steel springs, and they’re 100% polyurethane-free (which is like, insanely unheard of).
>The crazy part? A queen-sized mattress from Avocado is just $1,399, about the same as something you’d get from Serta.
This shoe company has decided to make use of tire waste in one of the coolest ways possible — by turning it into eco-friendly shoes that rock and roll. Indosole carries sandals, flats, urban walking shoes, and flip flops, all made with upcycled tires by people paid a living wage in safe facilities.
Their latest release, the ESSNTLS, are their most affordable yet, at just $35 a pair with free shipping within the US.
PACT has taken the internet by storm with their comfortable collection of organic cotton basics that are as versatile as they are comfortable. With everything from underwear to kids’ clothing, this company offers a solution to the environmental catastrophe that is conventional cotton, at prices accessible to the rest of us.
Get it all here — a long sleeve women’s tee from PACT is only $16.99.
I’ve raved about this store before, and I’m shamelessly at it again. For those of you living a rugged life (or maybe just wanting to try your hand at home fermentation), this store has it ALL, and so many of their products are made with materials like wood and metal, right here in the US.
Built to last is built for the planet, and Lehman’s has it all. Get their lamb’s wool dust mop for just $24.99!
I know, you’d never expect to see this fashion giant on a list of green brands, but believe it or not, H&M is the world’s largest buyer of organic cotton! From maternity clothes to menswear, H&M carries an impressively large line of fashion-forward organic and consciously produced products.
Me? I’ve got my eye on these sweet organic cotton maternity leggings — just $12.99 a pair!
Clothes, Home, Electronics, Pets, and Jewelry
When you’re on a budget, sometimes these big box stores are your friend, and you can feel good about it because SO many of them are carrying eco-friendly options these days. Overstock carries a huge range of products, but they have a particularly nice selection of organic bedding at some great prices.
Check it out — these organic cotton sheet sets are priced at under $85 for a queen-sized set!
Bed, Bath, and Home
When it comes to sheets, linens, and rugs, Under the Canopy is another great one to shop around on. Their mantra is ‘Beautiful. Sustainable. Affordable.’, and they live up to it well. With six kinds of certifications that showcase this company’s commitment to planet over profits, Under the Canopy just raised the bar a little higher for everyone.
You can get an organic cotton towel set from these guys for $64.99!
One of my favorite companies, this business makes use of plastic milk jugs by turning them into durable dishes for kids. Re-Play’s dishes tough and built to last, but also free of BPA, PVC, and phthalates, and shipped with minimal packaging. They’re even made in the USA!
At just $18 for a six pack of their plates too, these dishes are crazy affordable!
Another company recycling plastic waste in the US, Green Toys makes a wide variety of tough toys that are 100% safe and non-toxic, and even packaged in biodegradable boxes printed with soy ink!
Ready to try one? These toys last forever, and you can nab a whole recycling truckfor under $30!
Epic and Eco-Friendly
It’s challenging being a conscious consumer on a budget, no doubt. But the tides are turning, and the world is wising up to the idea that to make eco-friendly options truly sustainable, they’ve gotta be affordable.
Don’t despair, and you sure as hell better not give up, because left and right, businesses are finding ways to compete with lower prices without compromising their values.
As a culture, we can all turn our consumer habits down a notch, but as an economy, we can move forward in a sustainable way to support businesses that are meeting us in the middle, and not compromising the health of our home sweet home to do it.
Guest Environmental Writer: Destiny Hagest