It’s expensive to shop green

Since the airing of Blue Planet II there has been much talk and debate about the extent of our use of plastic.

Theresa May has given the token politician’s speech about abolishing all ‘avoidable’ plastic waste by 2042, a move that has drawn criticism from environmental groups for lacking detail and having too long a timescale. She has spoken about supermarkets having ‘plastic free’ aisles which, if was brought into reality, would be a great thing but public education needs to correlate to these actions.

Supermarkets and independent grocers already sell loose fruit and vegetables and there is really no real reason other than convenience that we then put them in plastic bags. On comparing the price between packaged and loose vegetables it was found that there was no real difference in price per kilo, other than with parsnips which were 50p more expensive loose.

The difficulty came when looking to buy loose organic vegetables in a supermarket. It doesn’t appear to be readily available so the consumer would have to choose between organic food and plastic packaging or non-organic with no packaging. Unless they ordered a box from an organic company such as Riverford, where the cardboard boxes are re-used and they take any packaging of theirs back to the farm to be recycled.

Ethical shopping is a mine field. After a group of Dartmoor residents decided to do what they could to reduce their own use of plastic, some research was carried out as to the cost of Green Living. A local deli could grind your coffee and put it in your own container but the price would be double per 100g what you would pay for packaged coffee from a supermarket.

One might be able to cope with that, it’s not a huge expense, but if you then extend your ethical mind to other areas of your life, the cost soon mounts up.

For a small family to sit down and eat an entirely organic, supermarket bought roast chicken dinner with homemade Yorkshires, a dessert of mixed berries and cream and a bottle of wine, the cost for all the ingredients would be £44. For the same ingredients bought from the same supermarket that aren’t organic, the price would be £24.

The washing up liquid you’d need for the dishes can cost you three times as much for the eco-friendly bottle, the surface spray to clean the kitchen with can be more than double and the bin bags, if you wanted to reduce your plastic usage here and go for degradable ones, can be up to four times the price of standard black bin bags.

The consumer needs to be aware of the changes they can make to their shopping habits that mean they are making a difference where they can. For example, eco-friendly washing powder might cost £12 for 3kg as opposed to standard supermarket powder that would cost £6.

A family might think they couldn’t possibly afford to make that change, but another option would be something like the Eco Egg, £20 for up to 3 years’ worth of washing with no chemicals and very little packaging. The washing up liquid that was rather expensive can in some places be refilled for a much lower price, and the bottle is not now single use but re-used.

Eco-friendly shampoo could cost you around £5.50 a bottle – too much for some compared to the £1 a bottle stuff. But shampoo bars are available and most of these are chemical and packaging free. They cost around £6 but will last for around 80 hair washes.

And because there is no real downside to organic food other than the price, if you should choose this to be one of your ethical shopping choices, a price comparison between Riverford and a major supermarket showed that Riverford was only marginally more expensive on average per kilo. Riverford are a local company that have great ethics, look after their staff, suppliers and customers alike and always provide top quality, ethical produce.

Laura White

Author: Laura White

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