I once posted this question on our Instagram feed: “What do you want to learn about natural skincare, aromatherapy, and living your happiest, healthiest life?” We got loads of great responses, but one that really got my wheels turning was from a customer who asked why natural and organic products cost so much. She said:
“I know it’s not glamorous to say this, but sometimes it just feels like health is for the wealthy.”
I made myself stop and think about this question from a more neutral position than that of a physician and a green beauty brand owner. What if I were a single parent, struggling to support my family? What if I were a young person having a tough time in the job market? What if I were nearing retirement, and had to plan for life on a diminishing income? What if I had grown up in an environment that did not emphasize “natural” or “organic”, and these labels had little meaning to me, other than a higher price tag? Considering all these angles, I’ll try to answer the question.
Organic food and products cost more because they’re harder to grow and more expensive to make. It’s really that simple! There’s a significant cost to become certified organic, but that’s not the biggest hurdle. Organic farmers have lower crop yields and smaller crops, and have to manage pests with time-consuming, natural methods like crop rotation, interplanting, and the use of ladybugs, rather than simply spraying a plant with toxic pesticides. Animals raised by organic standards are fed higher quality food, handled more humanely, and grow more slowly without growth hormones—a vastly more expensive way to raise animals.
As for the products you use on your skin and at home, I can tell you that my jaw sometimes drops when I see the cost of our raw materials. Don’t believe me? Google “organic rose otto essential oil” and check out the price for one little ounce. (When you’ve recovered from fainting, you can keep reading.) In order run our company without compromising quality, we have to pass some of that cost to our customers, or we will end up as a failed business with a huge heart that did not make meaningful change for people and the planet. We don’t want that.
So, that’s an overview of why organic products cost more. But let’s move on to how you can still make healthier choices, even if your budget doesn’t allow a fully organic lifestyle.
There are so many ways to choose health—diet, exercise, cleaning products, personal care, meditation—and there’s a cost spectrum in each category. Here are some inexpensive ways to maximize wellness.
- Cook more, eat out less. When you start with real ingredients, you end up with real food in your belly, and you can use the leftovers for other meals later in the week.
- Michael Pollan says it perfectly: “Eat food, less of it, mostly plants.”
- Even if you can’t afford organic produce, you can still eat more produce, and cook it with healthier methods (steamed, not fried). Frozen produce is a great option; the vitamins and minerals are preserved and it's often relatively inexpensive. Brown rice, whole grains, and healthy fats can often be fairly affordable!
- Make your own kefir or kombucha—it's not super expensive, and cultured foods are amazing for your digestion and your skin.
- Invest 30 minutes a day in walking briskly. You don’t have to join a gym. Got kids? Walk with a stroller.
- Try something like glo.com. It's relatively inexpensive with endless options, even if you’re a total beginner.
- Strengthen your core. It costs $0, and so many problems (like back pain) stem from a weak core.
- Make your own! Baking soda, lemon juice, and white vinegar will clean your whole house, and are incredibly cheap!
- Branch Basics makes a concentrate that you can use to make all sorts of products, from cleaning sprays to laundry detergent.
- At the very least, use unscented laundry detergent. You’d be wise to get rid of sodium laureth sulfate, as well, since it causes terrible skin problems (like perioral dermatitis and eczema) for so many folks. But if you can’t afford a natural brand, at least stop using the hormone-disrupting, petroleum-based fragranced ones.
PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS
- Make a lovely body oil from sunflower (50%), olive (30%), almond (19%), and vitamin E (1%) oils. Use it on wet skin—you’ll never need lotion again!
- Grow a pot of your own lavender, and infuse it in oil for some natural, gentle aromatherapy in your products.
- Make your own deodorant with coconut oil and baking soda.
- All you need is a chair or a pillow, and 5-30 minutes. Try a free app like Insight Timer if you need a jump start!
I know there are TONS of expensive ways to live a healthy life, but I hope this list is a good reminder of all the beautifully simple ways to do it. And, while health is not just for the wealthy, it does require an investment of your time and intention. I'm not saying it's easy. But, if it's important to you, then it's within your reach, no matter what's in your bank account.
With love and (affordable) healthy habits,