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Is Zero Waste Expensive?

Updated: Feb 17, 2021

A price comparison for food and cleaning liquid refills.


To try and break down some of the misconceptions around zero waste shopping, I have put together this price comparison between the refillable food and cleaning liquids available from Earthian Zero Waste Shop and a few of the nearest shops that we have in Winchester - Sainsburys, Waitrose, Marks and Spencers and Holland and Barrett.

Can the cost really be compared?

When trying to answer the question - Is zero waste expensive? - there is a lot to consider that goes beyond the packaging of the goods. Although it is slightly cheaper to buy in bulk over prepacked portions, the packaging is still a very minor factor in how goods are priced. As a small, independent business all our overheads are dependent on just one shop. This is not the same for supermarkets which share their costs across hundreds of large shops.

Supermarkets can price their goods very competitively, often engaging in unfair practices to push other businesses out. They do not need to make every product or shop profitable. Instead they have loss-leaders, where the cost is purposefully driven down to attract customers to shop with them. These loss-leaders are propped up by other areas making it impossible for a small independent to compete. I don’t want to spend too long exploring large supermarkets, but in terms of how they price their products they are often an unfair representation of what food actually costs to grow and produce.

The second important consideration is that I have chosen to stock organic food as I believe it is better for both people and planet, but it does carry a higher cost. I also use small, UK based suppliers, such as Miniml and SESI who are both family run businesses that supply our cleaning liquids. My main food distributers are also two cooperatives, founded here in the UK. As cooperatives they pay fair wages and fair prices for everything, which is reflected in the cost to me as a retailer. I felt I should conduct the price comparison with what I deemed the closest equivalent, not necessarily the cheapest option available.

The aim of this blog post is not as simple as trying to show that Earthian Zero Waste Shop is the cheapest, although on a lot of the items listed below this is the case. The pricing is something that I have spent a lot of time thinking about. I don't believe that you should have to make a choice between sustainable shopping and what you can afford. It should be possible to shop affordably without packaging. That is why I am proud of my price points and feel comfortable sharing them with you here.

Food Price Comparison.

If an organic equivalent was not available at supermarkets at the time of researching this price comparison, I have marked it "organic not available" as the cost and quality of non-organic goods is not comparable. It is surprisingly hard to find all the staple food products as organic in the supermarket, which was a driving force in why I chose to stock organic when planning the shop. I have also highlighted which is the cheapest price, so you can clearly see where Earthian Zero Waste Shop is cheaper than conventional supermarkets.

These prices are subject to change over time in line with market forces and so I will try and review this blog regularly to keep things up to date. All the prices below are correct as of17 February 2021.

In the price comparison for "Beans and Pulses" I haven't highlighted the cheapest prices in green. Although it looks as though the organic tinned beans are the cheaper option, these are cooked and not dried. Beans can swell to twice the size, or more, when they are cooked and will take on the weight of the water when they do. So, the price may seem less but you are paying for a lot of water with your beans!

Liquid Refills

For the last price comparison, I haven't compared the liquids to the supermarket branded equivalent as these will not be made with the same plant-based, vegan formulas. Instead, I have chosen the two most well-known eco-brands you can find in the supermarket, Ecover and Method, as well as two commonly found refillables, Alter/Native and Ecoleaf.

I hope that this is a useful comparison to make between Earthian Zero Waste Shop pricing and the closest equivalent at the supermarkets. I also hope that I've been able to show that zero waste shopping doesn't need to be more expensive, or more difficult. You can easily get your food staples, without packaging and at competitive prices.

I'm very open to answering questions, please do get in touch with me through email, in the shop or on social media. I'll aim to keep this list updated as regularly as I can, but a full price list can also be found on the website and pinned to the top of my facebook page.

Take care and speak to you soon,


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