Is Sustainable Living Really Expensive?
Is Sustainable Living Really Expensive?
Most of us appreciate the environmental benefits of leading a sustainable lifestyle. However, many believe it’s out of their price range.
According to a recent poll by Essity, 62% of Brits want to live and buy sustainably — but worry the rising cost of living makes it impossible.
But is this belief based on fact or fiction? On a planet on the brink of a man-made ecological disaster, does sustainable living really cost the earth?
In this blog, we’re pulling no punches. We’re pointing the spotlight at the secrets corporations are hiding in plain sight, and sharing straightforward tips on how you can live 100% sustainably without breaking the bank.
What does it mean to live sustainably?
Sustainable living (or “net zero living”) is a lifestyle choice designed to reduce an individual’s or a family’s environmental impact. It’s a decision to consume consciously — not just food, but everything bought and used, including clothes, transport and energy.
Living sustainably means reusing what you already have, and buying what you need from suppliers of plastic-free, ethically sourced goods and local, organic produce.
It’s holding accountable the corporations guilty of unimaginable levels of waste and pollution, and rejecting the “buy cheap, replace soon, ignore the planet” mentality they force feed us.
In short, it’s voting with your money for a clean, fair and responsible world.
Does it cost more? And, if so, why?
The simple answer is no it does not!
But it’s probably easier to answer the question of why it doesn’t seem that way by first addressing why most unsustainable products cost less initially.
Quite simply, it all boils down to one word: profit.
Profit isn’t bad. It’s what keeps every business afloat. The issue we have isn’t with profit itself, but with the companies that prioritise profit at the expense of everything else.
Did you know 71% of global emissions come from just a hundred companies? Each of them has a board of directors whose jobs exist solely to harvest as much profit as possible for their shareholders.
This usually means taking the cheapest, fastest options when it comes to packaging, labour and materials. It’s why Coca-Cola make a hundred billion unrecyclable plastic bottles every year. It’s why several high street clothing brands pay their Bangladeshi workers less than $3 a day. It’s why supermarkets sell mass-made, plastic-wrapped produce that’s neither organic nor local. Is this something we really want to support?
Sustainable brands act differently. We at Almond & Co. partner with them because they prioritise quality and ethics over quantity and speed. They pay their workers fairly, invest in durable, reusable and responsibly sourced materials, and ensure their packaging is plastic-free and recyclable — if there’s any packaging at all, that is. You vote with your money, and your money doesn’t just go towards the product and its usage but everything it represents.
The cost of sustainable goods and produce reflects the cost of their production. They tend not to be as cheap as their unethical alternatives because, well, they’re not made as cheaply. But overall when more quality and care is taken for production it lasts you so much longer, reducing waste and saves you money in the long run.
Let’s look at food as an example.
Organic farmers don’t protect their crops by spraying artificial chemicals on them. Instead, they tackle weeds and pests manually. These long hours — the ones pesticides were made to save — need to be factored into the sale price to make the juice worth the squeeze.
Natural fertilisers also cost more. Instead of using synthetic fertilisers and raw sewage sludge (which are cheap to buy and transport), organic farmers favour higher quality, environmentally friendly alternatives like compost and animal manure. This protects the food you eat, the flora and fauna around the crops, the soil health and the farmers health too!
And most locations aren’t fit for purpose. Soil quality is essential, but a lot of agricultural land in Britain has been chemically tainted. In 2020, only 2.8% of British agricultural land was suitable for growing organic food. This is crazy when you consider 2021 saw a 12.6% rise in sales of organic produce in Britain — the highest year-on-year growth since 2005. Demand outweighs supply, which farmers recognise when calculating their prices.
Ultimately, supermarkets sell fruit and veg at low prices because they can buy in extraordinary bulk from suppliers whose unsustainable methods mean they can keep up with demand, they also force the farmers to reduce their own prices leaving them severely underpaid leaving government tax funds having to support them so they continue to run.
But that’s not the world Almond & Co. wants. We want a fair and sustainable world that doesn’t sacrifice quality for profit.
As an independent zero-waste shop, we can’t possibly match the buying power of global corporations. Per item, we spend more than supermarkets on the food we stock, and shrink our profit margins to keep it affordable for you.
Even so, you’ll often find that, gram for gram, ethically sourced foods — and products — are more expensive than their unethical counterparts. But believe me you will be able to taste the difference!
So how can we afford to live sustainably?
Most of us can, comfortably. It just requires a different way of thinking.
Firstly, we should aim to buy our food loose. Supermarkets pre-pack far more fruit and veg than we can feasibly eat. It’s cheap stock, and they want to get rid of it, but inevitably creates 1/3 of your food (and money) going to waste.
Bulk stores like Almond & Co. offer you a chance to buy only what you need, spreading costs out and not making food go to waste in your fridge or cupboards. If you want 100g of polenta for a cake? You can just buy 100g of polenta and not an entire pack that will inevitably sit at the back of the cupboard for years.
There are now loads of apps that allow you to buy perfectly good food at a reduced price that would otherwise go to waste!
Olio - local businesses and people giving away food they won’t be able to consume.
Too Good to Go - Restaurant, cafes and shops offer “magic bags”
Earth and Wheat - Wonky Bread Boxes
It explains why the UK produces around ten million tonnes of food waste every year. That’s about £19bn of food, and roughly twenty-five million tonnes of greenhouse gases.
Buying loose gives us total control of our expenditure, saving us money and preventing us from adding to the food waste mountain. We won’t have as much to show for our money, but that’s okay because we’ll have exactly what we need, and it’ll be ethically sourced, organic and far more nutritious, and better for your health too.
But what about non-consumables like clothes, containers and razors?
The solution here is to keep reusing the things you already have until they’re no longer usable. Then, when you need to, buy durable, ethical replacements.
A key aspect of sustainable living is extending the lives of everything we use as much as possible. We can do this by investing in high-quality items that we won’t need to replace as often, if at all.
Take razors, for example. Here at Almond & Co., we sell metal recyclable safety razors for £24 that should last you your whole life. All you need to do is replace the blade every so often (we sell a Pack of 10 for £3). Alternatively, you can buy a plastic “disposable” razor online for £5, which you’ll need to replace regularly. Our razors, although more expensive upfront, will save you an estimated whopping £6,000 in a lifetime of a safety razor (if not more for multiple lifetimes).
Our Make Up reusable pads set of 5 can potentially save you £300 over a lifetime.
Reusable Nappies cost £14.95 per nappy but will save you £1475 per child and on average 5000 nappies going to landfill.
A Stainless Steel Water Bottle we sell insulated ones for £20 can save someone up to £10,000 over a lifetime if you frequently buy bottled water.
With these kinds of figures it’s almost impossible to ignore!
When you live sustainably, you’ll discover higher upfront costs are counterbalanced by significantly fewer purchases. The idea is to buy what we need when we need it and make it last — not to buy what we’re told to want when we can and replace it frequently. As soon as we think to ourselves, do we really need this, can I fix this instead, can I reuse this, is there a reusable version of this? Your spending significantly reduces.
How can I start living sustainably?
The easiest way to start is by making a few simple switches here and there.
If you’re about to run out of loo roll, for instance, consider ditching the plastic-wrapped multipacks and buying Bumboo toilet paper from us, made from 100% bamboo.
Or if you fancy porridge but need oats, why not visit us with a container you already own? Just weigh it when it’s empty so you don’t pay for the container, then fill it up with our organic oats.
At Almond & Co., all our food is loose, organic and locally sourced where possible. You can pop in, grab a basket, and help yourself to whatever you need — from fruit and veg to pastas, flours and spices.
We also stock a hand-picked selection of personal hygiene, household cleaning and homeware products, all made sustainably and sold without plastic.
It isn’t always easy, but for our planet to heal, we need to change the way we consume. And that’s why Almond & Co. exists: to help people transition to a cleaner and more sustainable lifestyle. Use what you have and conscious spending is key towards living more sustainably. It doesn’t always work straight away like everything, it's a journey and small changes make a world of difference!
If you want to give it a go or get some advice, come and chat with us. We don’t put anything on our shelves before trying it ourselves, so we’re in the best possible position to make recommendations. And if you can’t make it to us, don’t worry — you can give us a call on 01202 280 303, or message us on Facebook!
There's even books, online articles and blogs to give you tips on saving money by going green!