You've heard the complaints, maybe you've even made them yourself. "The cost of organic produce is too high. I can't afford to buy green cotton bed linens and clothing. What's the difference if I buy a supermarket brand instead of a cruelty-free product, just this once?"
The difference is that while non-eco products seem to cost less in the short-term, consumers end up paying a heavy hidden cost on the backend. While we congratulate ourselves on getting "a good deal," many of us remain unaware of the final tab.
When we buy a product or service from a company that neglects environmental and social responsibility in favor of maximizing the bottom line, we actually pay more. We will all pay the price of using non-renewable resources and contributing to habitat destruction. The loss of quality of life to underpaid workers, the price in poor health we pay for the use of pesticides, herbicides and other toxic chemicals, and the cost in lost compassion over animal testing are billed to each of us. We are captive consumers of soil depletion and air and water pollution that result from manufacturing processes that value expediency over ecological sustainability, a shareholder's fortune over the common good.
And the government makes it harder for us to do the right thing.
Konda Mason of Yoganics, a Los Angeles-based organic produce delivery service says, "The higher prices of organic, versus conventionally-grown products ARE outrageous-but only because the cost of a conventionally-grown apple would actually be HIGHER if the U.S. government didn't subsidize the farmers' use of chemicals." The government, she points out, gives huge subsidies to the chemical industry by way of its support of the conventional farmer-and the public gets a cheaper apple.
"But just look at the money we pay for clean up of chemical pollution," Konda points out. "A conventional apple would cost MUCH MORE when you consider the subsidies and clean-up costs." Unfortunately, there is no law that forces advertisers to tell us what they've left off the price tag.
The fact is, when we pay a bit more for organic apples, better made and more fuel-efficient transportation, natural foods and drinks, products made from recycled and reclaimed materials and clothing made not from animals, but renewable resources, we are paying a special price for the special privilege of contributing as little as possible to the degradation of our society and the environment.
When we allow ourselves to be traditional consumers in thrall to the American corporate mainstream, we are telling the rest of the world to pick up the tab. But by making the choice to buy green products, we acknowledge the true cost of their creation, use and disposal. We pay more now, rather than a great deal more, later.
Written by: Catherine Roberts Leach,
Country Connections Journal
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