Sustainably Produced Crib by Kalon StudiosThe Green Movement and sustainable living are often accused of being only accessible to those with a higher level of socioeconomic status. In some ways this statement is true, but in other ways it is false. Many families simply cannot afford to buy organic food and clothing, wooden toys, sustainable children's furniture, etc., because they do not earn living wages. However, these families often make sustainable choices, such as purchasing clothing from thrift stores, based upon their economic needs. Other families are used to megastore prices and go into sticker shock when they see what sustainability costs. Still other families can afford to buy expensive, sustainable products as they make choices to live greener lives. The real question is not how expensive sustainable products are, but how our purchasing habits affect the global population and environment.
Houston's Bike Shop: Photo Credit: The Bike ShopIn many ways, sustainable living is about returning to simpler, less expensive model of living used by families of lower socioeconomic status. For example, many families must use public transportation and bicycles to get around, because they cannot afford vehicle and fuel costs. The choices these families make may be driven by economics, but these choices reflect a more sustainable global lifestyle. In addition, programs have sprung up in poor neighborhoods to help residents maintain and repair their sustainable practices. For example, The Bike Shop of Houston conducts youth programs and promotes recycled bicycles as "an affordable means of transportation in the Third Ward…..Our youth and adult programs focus on hands-on self-directed education as a path to self empowerment." Such programs include Open Shop, where residents fix their own bikes with help from volunteer mechanics, and Earn-A-Bike, where participants receive their own bike by salvaging and repairing a bike for the community, then repairing a bike for themselves. The Bike Shop was recently featured on PBS NOW.
On the other end of the spectrum, Kalon Studios is a new company offering "design for a sustainable culture." Yes, their prices may send you into sticker shock. Their explanation: "In today’s world, sustainability is more than just being green. Rather, it has evolved into a belief system, an approach to living, being." Kalon Studios uses renewable, raw materials and food-grade oil finishes on their products. Although the prices are high, the company's children's products are designed to be versatile and multifunctional. For example, the Ioline Crib converts to a toddler bed, and the Ioline Changing Trunk can be used as a toy chest or reading bench. Kalon Studios believes that loss of aesthetics, chaos, and clutter do not have to rule family life, but sustainability and beauty can go hand in hand with parenthood. Their products are locally made in southern California.
Are sustainable products really more expensive? There are many costs not reflected in the prices we pay for products and services. When looking at a price tag, we are not seeing the true impact of our purchases reflected in the price. As Tom Kemper of environmentally responsible office supply company Dolphin Blue explains,
Please also consider the cost of the loss of resources like habitat; native forests being replaced by mono-cultural species of trees; loss of air quality because we use more energy and create more tons of emissions to make virgin-material products; loss of clean water because of unnecessary and excessive bleaching of paper; excessive reliance on oil because every time we don’t recycle and remanufacture a toner cartridge we use another pint of oil; and then, the associated costs to all of us through increased disease caused by pollution, and the transference of cost to each of us through healthcare premiums and medical care. The list goes on. Unfortunately, our balance sheets don’t account for these costs. So, if we now measure all these costs, which are only a portion of the true costs of 'business as usual,' then what are the costs of that cheap paper, or that non-recycled and non-remanufactured toner cartridge? And, with global population increasing by approximately 90 million people each year, accompanied by eco-systems and resources in severe decline, in what state are we leaving the planet for our children and their children?”
Remember the mantra "less is more": If we buy less, we can afford more expensive, sustainably produced products and services for our families and live with a clear conscious. The prices of sustainably produced products and services reflect the true cost of our purchases.