Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Cheap, cheaper, dead

At least 75% of the times when I talk to someone about an ethical lifestyle the other person argues that it's simply too expensive to shop ethically. Honestly: I'm tired of this argument. Of course a t-shirt made with organic cotton and under fair conditions is more expensive than one that is made with toxic materials (polluting the earth, the workers and your own good self) and paying the workers just enough to buy petrol to set themselves on fire. It would be strange if the organic and fair shirt was cheaper, right?

Sometimes I get the feeling that people think it's easy for me to talk about ethical shopping decisions because, naturally, I'm rich. And you gotta be rich to buy organic broccoli, how else would it be possible? But guess what: I'm not rich.

There are a few people who can use the money argument, like a single Mum with three kids on benefits, struggling every day to get by. For a person like this I feel sorry that society has evolved into a system that produces these dire situations. Everyone else: Are you seriously trying to tell me that you don't have money to buy organic food (healthy for the planet, the farmer and the one eating it) but you have enough money to get drunk every week? What kind of priority is that? And before anyone is calling me a smartarse again, no, I'm not perfect.  Every time I end up choosing something non-organic I also ask myself that question of priorities. And the more I ask, the more often I choose the wiser option.

Here's another example: My ethical bank just obliged me to open a business account because there is a tiny bit of business movement on my private account. Stupid regulations and inflexible minds, but c'est la vie. For a moment I was considering to change back to my old bank, I'd save over 50 Euros per year. But my old bank invests money in arms companies and other dubious business models. Didn't I say I was against war? What would I say to a guy who lost his legs from a German-made bomb, financed by me? “Sorry mate, I preferred to spend the extra € 4,50 per month on big bags of crisps to get fat.” Like that?

The real problem is that ethical products aren't too expensive but all the toxic shit is far too cheap! We start thinking it's normal that everything costs so little; we are misled by shiny advertisements telling us that we're still buying quality stuff when really more money is spend on the ad campaign than on the actual product. But hey, if everything is getting cheaper all the time it means I can have more of everything, and more, and more, all for me! Paradise?, not quite.

If all products and services carried a price tag with the true cost, taking into consideration polluted rivers, disappearing soil, bombed cities and starving families, what you'd have to pay for food and clothes and bank accounts would be very different. Really it's quite simple: For most of the stuff we spend our money on, the less we pay, the more damage we do. But here's the twist: In a hyper-connected world, sooner or later we'll get the bill... Cheap, cheaper, dead!


  1. "the less we pay, the more damage we do", that´s true. Thanks for this new entry Claus, full of sense! I would love to hear more about your ethical bank. How does it work?

    1. There are several ethical banks around. Have a look at TRIODOS for example, and in Germany also GLS Bank. They're still banks, so not perfect, but they're very transparent and invest in green and sustainable projects.