Why Eco Products Aren't Always A Good Thing

By Ethically Kate

Coconut bowls. Glass drink bottles. Bamboo straws. Wooden cutlery. Stainless steel containers. Cotton hankies. Metal chopsticks. If you don’t have all these ‘eco gadgets’ are you even saving the planet? Do you even think about your waste? Can you even be in the club?

This mentality is growing strong in the eco world; the world where reusable cups are worshipped and sporks are super cool. But it’s not healthy. It’s not sustainable. It’s not accessible. It’s not good.

I’m here to explain why. Why I think there are too many eco products in the world, why we shouldn’t feed the culture of excessive eco product consumption, and ultimately why eco products should exist  - but in a different way.

It may be ‘eco’, but it’s still consumption.

I’m in the firm belief that one of the main issues facing our world today, is consumption. Humans cannot get enough of ‘stuff’. We have a desire to own excess, far beyond the essentials and nowhere close to what we simply need. This includes eco products.

Consuming things that are more eco friendly does not automatically make over consumption okay. Non-smoothie-drinking-people have smoothie straws, because they wanted to complete their sustainable cutlery set. Smoothie straws take resources to create, produce waste in the manufacturing process, and just because they’re a praised item in a zero waste tool kit, does not mean they’re exempt from falling into the ‘you don’t need it’ category.

If humanity were to truly address the problem of overconsumption, eco friendly products might not exist. In their place would be a raging movement that encourages anticonsumerism. Although there are heroes out there advocating for anticonsumerism, their voice isn’t as strong as the thousands of eco shops selling their eco friendly gadgets in the same way everything else is marketed: buy this, your life won’t be complete without it! That’s a dangerous business model; no matter what you are selling.

They’re stopping us from using what we have.

Sure, you could pay $20 for a bamboo cutlery set… or you could carry one from your home utensil draw. Is that handmade hankie really necessary when you already have a pile of unused cloth napkins sitting beside the tea towels? Or maybe you should rethink getting a brand new lunchbox when the Tupperware your mum passed down to you works just fine.

Eco friendly tools are exciting. They are so exciting that they stop us from using what we already have. The positive feelings of success and pats on the back of ‘I’m doing something really good for the environment’ that eco friendly products always arrive coated in, tend to mask our rational thinking of ‘hold on, I think I already own something that fits this purpose.’ See, they’re just more ‘stuff’.

It’s unattainable.

Not all of us can afford $50 drink bottles, $80 metal ice cube trays or the $5 extra for the straw carry bag. The idea that you must have eco friendly gadgets in order to care for the planet, is exclusive. The second someone of a lower socioeconomic situation looks at the cost of eco friendly gadgets, is the second they cross off a low-waste lifestyle from their to-do list.

Eco products are moving towards the spotlight in not only the ‘eco-world’ but mainstream too. Although potentially good for the planet, they fuel overconsumption, stop individuals from using what they already have, and make sustainable living look like an inaccessible lifestyle when it’s totally not.

Now that I have potentially frustrated eco product store owners and offended avid eco-product connoisseurs (myself included; my bamboo cutlery set told me it feels ridiculed), I’ll leave you with this.

I believe eco products still have a place in the world. They just need to look different.

There’s no doubt that when someone has paid money for a new product, they are more likely to remember to use it. When your reusable mug is super cute and made by a local potter, you are more likely to ditch single-use disposable cups. Some eco products are more practical than using what you have. Many retailers who sell eco products use their position to advocate for a sustainable world. I could go on.

Eco products help us boycott single-use and side step a whole lot of waste, but their rising fame has meant they’re adding to over consumption and falling into the category of waste themselves. Let’s not let it get that way.

Buy it if you need it. If you sell eco products, consider the strategy you use to sell them. And if you are wondering if you need another reusable cup, you probably don’t. Try drinking from a repurposed jar instead.