How often have you reminded yourself, ‘You get what you pay for’ when you chose the budget option only to regret it later?
Usually, it’s not a big deal. We learn from our mistakes and buy better next time. But what if poor quality goods could cost us our health, the health of others or that of our planet?
That’s the risk we take when compromising on quality to cut costs.
What happens when we buy budget goods?
In a bid to save money, we reject high-quality products that are built to last in favour of cheaper alternatives. In the long-term, we end up spending more money on regular replacements as they inevitably break or wear out.
Just like we’ve seen with the fast fashion industry, this wasteful attitude to consumption endangers our fellow humans and our planet. And that’s not all. By choosing cheap, we’re also compromising our own health.
Low-cost goods are often made in developing countries where the standard of materials isn’t as consistent, resulting in lower-quality products. In some circumstances, manufacturers take a ‘money over morals’ approach and allow bribery and corruption to further damage the calibre of their output.
But far more importantly, cheap goods can be a major health and safety risk. Testing laws are not always as stringent as in Europe, allowing for sometimes lethal mistakes to occur.
Back in 2006, drywall in some American homes was found to be radioactive. In 2009, toxic sofas were responsible for several deaths in the UK. They contained a harmful substance called DMF which was later banned.
Meanwhile, highly poisonous lead has been found in taps, children’s toys, and fabrics.
Humans are getting sicker every year due to our unhealthy exposure to chemicals in food, pollution and home and workspaces. Our toxic lifestyles contribute to mental illness, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, autism, and ADD.
The Social Cost
And it’s not only the end-user who’s in danger from the trend for cheap products.
Often, countries which offer inexpensive manufacturing services have low worker welfare standards. Many employees have no choice but to expose themselves to harmful toxins and dangerous processes in farm and factory jobs to feed their families.
And for the global West, it’s a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. We like cheap products and don’t mind paying other countries to do our dirty work for us. If we were exposed to the brutal reality of what cheap manufacturing looks like, would we still buy the goods? Would we accept these kinds of working conditions on our own shores?
The other lives we risk when we outsource cheap manufacturing are those of animals. Many animal-derived products are cheaper to source from developing nations with few if any animal welfare laws. This means we have no guarantee of how the animals are treated or if they are endangered.
The environmental damage doesn’t end there. The chemicals used in budget production pollute groundwater, destroy ecosystems, harm plants and animals and impact workers’ health. Plus, all those cheap replacements we buy end up in landfill, polluting the Earth once again.
And that’s before we consider air pollution. What’s the carbon footprint of the product? And how damaging is shipping it from the other side of the world?
How can we make better choices?
We need to change our consumption habits and pave the way for change across the rest of the world. Once the demand for cheap, toxic products has abated, manufacturers will look to develop more sustainable habits to keep customers spending.
For now, buying locally guarantees a higher standard of worker rights and greatly reduces the environmental impact of the goods we buy. Plus, we safeguard our health by selecting products that comply with the strictest regulations in the world.
Let’s pay a little more for safe, high-quality products which will cost us far less in the long run when we aren’t paying for them with our health.