Is it cheaper to shop zero-waste?
Accessible for whom?
The conversation of financial accessibility come up often in sustainable consumption conversation - particularly when folks first encounter the prices in refill and low-waste living shops that can often be higher than their conventional alternatives. My follow-up question in these conversations is often, “Accessibility for whom?” If we’re only talking about the ability of the average consumer to afford a product, we’re missing the bigger picture. I want to talk about the accessibility of living (and thriving) wages for everyone who contributes to the creation of a product, all along its supply chain.
We will never make the claim that our shop is cheap or inexpensive, but neither will we compromise on the components of the business that contribute to higher prices. We sell products that are highly effective and made by small companies (read: made in small batches) paying competitive wages in the US while sourcing ingredients with discerning scrutiny.
For instance, Fillaree, the brand that makes our dish soap, sources the NC-grown, non-gmo, cold pressed, sunflower oil from Carolina Gold Farm in Harrelsville, NC for many of their products. All of those practices are rather expensive. Ware is also Living Wage Certified and paying commercial rent in Asheville - not an inexpensive endeavor. We also pay for recycling, composting, and responsible disposal of any waste material from our products.
Just one way to do it
There are many different ways to operate a refill shop with integrity. One metric for measuring that can be price accessibility for the consumer, and that is a just cause. However, the accessibility that Ware focuses on is creating financial accessibility for the people involved in our business and all of the small businesses we work with. From a demographic perspective, that will inherently mean that our target market is smaller than if we sourced differently.
Considering the markets we’re operating within, the prices of our products are not likely to go down in the near future. Even so, I'm quite proud of all of the work we've put into Ware that just so happens to result in the prices you see. I'm not under the impression that the information here changes the feasibility of a given person shopping at Ware with regularity, but I hope it does add some insight into small business pricing (ours and others') and the myriad factors that contribute to it. We will never be competing with grocery store prices if we're also staying true to our mission, which goes far beyond waste reduction.