The world is dying and we need to make changes to the way we live. But sadly our world is divided and wealth has become a large factor in the changes that are needed and can be made. "Vote with your wallets" is the saying used at the end of each and every ethically minded opinion pieces and calls to action. The reason for such sayings are clear, the Western World is only just waking up to the impact of over-consumption and the value of products in a supply chain.
Since the 2008 financial crash, average weekly wages have stagnated, failing to return to pre-crash levels despite the economy returning to growth. 14 million people (22 per cent of the population) live on incomes below the poverty line, while one in 14 adults in the UK have had to use a food bank.
Clearly, while ethical buying might be high on the agenda for some, for others it is far from a priority. So what can be done for helping people have a sustainable home, meal and lifestyle.
Leo's Box has always had the ambition of making it easy and affordable to live in a sustainable way. We have a lot of improvement to be made in regards to both; but are far from being entirely affordable for all. Every box always saves money and is a step towards making eco products cheaper. But compared to non eco alternatives, we are still sadly more expensive. What we choose to support is the artisanal smithery of our British brands and hope that as these amazing brands grow, they can become cheaper and more accessible for all. In the long term, it is cheaper to buy spray bottles and then soluble sachets such as our wonderful Iron and Velvet cleaning pods. But the appeal of cheaper and chemical filled products is still strong and for good reason that they do the job and are a chunk cheaper.
Our addition to 'fast fashion' is having a detrimental impact on our environment. According to the WWF, one cotton t-shirt can use up to 2,700 litres of water and jeans about 11,000 litres. To achieve a £3 t-shirt, companies must and do cut corners. With large retailers like Boohoo exploiting workers and the planet. Sustainability includes both environment and a social aspect which is why fast fashion can never be sustainable. So the cost of achieving cheap products is to rip off and destroy others. But brands that are truly sustainable, through production, supply and distribution are always more expensive. So it would appear that for fashion, there is no middle way.
A very successful start up - Tala - is attempting to achieve the middle way. As a new brand, it is fractionally more expensive than mainstream highstreet companies and yet pays people a proper wage and uses sustainable materials. It isn't the perfect solution yet, but shows that there is the chance for change and that being sustainable can be for all.
Speaking at the Food Matters Live conference at the end of last year, food writer and activist Jack Monroe, said: “I think a sustainable diet means different things to different people. My concern with these broad-brush definitions is a lot of people don’t have these choices. I think we’ve got to be very careful that we don’t marginalise a whole segment of society.”
For Monroe, whose latest cook book collected her best recipes using tinned food with the proceeds going to food banks, it must come down to price. “I think that incentive and subsidy is a much more effective strategy than taxation. The sugar tax, for example, all it does is penalise those who are taking quick fixes,” she says. “Subsidising plant-based suppliers and encouraging innovation would be a much better use of government power.”
A new report by the Food Foundation found that low incomde families would currenlty have to spend 74 per cent of their disposable incomde on food to meet the government's recommended eat well diet. The think tank also worked out that calories from unhealthy food are three times cheaper than those form healthy foods.
We hope that with the passion of environmental communities, change is possible and being sustainable is achievable for all. The mission is growing and more people are searching for sustainable solutions. Cost is and will always likely be an impact on the ability for people to start, but through purpose led changes we know that an eco future is possible.