Cost of Living Crisis v Sustainability
Since the beginning of the year, experts have warned of a cost-of-living crisis in the UK as inflation is at its highest since 2009, and wages remain disproportionately low. The stark increase of energy prices, along with taxes, food and everyday costs has put financial pressure on most UK households. The Big Issue reported that “experts warned that Britain was heading for the worst fall in living standards since the 1950s, with 1.3 million people facing “absolute poverty”. Due to this, the cost-of-living crisis has become a top concern for people in the UK. Maintaining a sustainable lifestyle is viewed by many as being expensive and time-consuming, so it seems that the cost-of-living crisis will cause sustainability to take a backseat as people prioritise paying for basic necessities such as rent and fuel.
The independent reported that “a poll of 2,000 adults found 64 per cent want to be eco-friendly but are fearful the increasing cost of living will make such a thing impossible”. In this survey, “26% of respondents said they wouldn’t buy organic/ethical products if they were more expensive” and “33% said chipping away from their sustainable living budget would be one of two principal sacrifices – along with expensive/luxury products – that they’d be prepared to make” (Fortoak). This reveals that as costs rise, many consumers feel that sustainable living is unaffordable and will understandably prioritise the price of products over their environmental impact. This spans across all products, from food to clothing.
Many people avoid shopping from sustainable fashion brands due to the price tag. A poll in Cosmopolitan found that from their respondents, two thirds of people don’t buy from sustainable fashion labels “and of those who don’t, 80 per cent said it was because they’re ‘too expensive’” (The Independent). Equally, the Considerate Consumer writes that “findings from a study of 913 American and Australian respondents had shown that the high prices of eco-friendly products were considered a barrier to a ‘greener’ lifestyle by nearly 83% of the surveyed people”. While it is generally fair to assume that items from sustainable fashion brands have a higher price point, it is important to consider other factors such as how long the item lasts compared to cheaper alternatives.
“There are lots of reasons sustainably-made clothing is more expensive than fast fashion; from paying workers a fair wage to sourcing eco-friendly fabrics, sustainable brands strive to create fairly-made, ethically sourced, and sustainably produced clothing - at a 'fair' price in terms of what it costs to produce it.” – Welcome to a Considered Life.
Therefore, the higher price tag of sustainable brands must be weighed against the benefits for the planet and garment workers. However, despite these environmental benefits, the prices are simply out of reach for many and with costs of almost everything increasing due to the cost-of-living crisis, they may become inaccessible to even more people.
More positively, Fortoak found that in their survey, of the people who had already implemented sustainable changes in their lifestyle, 91% “said they would continue to live sustainably despite the rise in living costs”. This shows that while the cost of living is rising, there is still a strong remaining desire to develop more sustainable habits. This means that consumers are opting for more budget-friendly ways to help the environment, and some of the most popular sustainable habits are recycling clothing and shopping second-hand (Internetretailing.com).
Living Sustainably on a Budget
Vogue writes that, as we spend multiple hours on our phones and social media every day, we are exposed to advertising which tells us that we constantly need new things, promoting fast fashion and over-consumption. If we want to live more sustainably, we should limit our exposure to this messaging wherever possible, and instead follow accounts who value sustainability and being environmentally-friendly. When looking for sustainable brands, it is a good idea to look for certifications such as B-Corp, which “is a general seal of approval for brands that have proven their commitment to sustainability and transparency”- Vogue. This provides the consumer with assurance that the brand is committed to sustainable values, and not using greenwashing as a marketing tool. Additionally, as consumers we can look for items which are multi-functional, meaning less waste is created as there is less need to purchase multiple products. Bond Morgan creates with this in mind, designing products which have multiple uses and can be adapted to suit the consumers’ needs.
While the cost-of-living crisis is placing a barrier to a more sustainable lifestyle, whatever small changes we can all make to our lives make a difference to the environment. Whether that be shopping second hand, taking public transport, buying from sustainable brands or simply consuming less, all efforts contribute to reducing our carbon footprint and caring for our planet.
Bank of England raises interest rates as it warns of recession and 10% inflation | Interest rates | The Guardian
Cost of living crisis UK: 5 ways prices are rising - and where you can get help - The Big Issue
Cost of living crisis is 'top concern' for families as stress over financial distress intensifies | Business News | Sky News
How To Shop Sustainably On A Budget | British Vogue
How expensive should fashion be? The true cost of our clothes isn’t decided at the till | The Independent | The Independent
The Cost Of Sustainable Fashion — Welcome to A Considered Life