Posted at 6:00 am
Stephanie Bérubé The press
Ecological often rhymes with economical
“We see that people are thinking about what they are buying. That’s very positive for us,” says Andréanne Laurin, co-founder of organic grocery store Loco, which now has four branches in Montreal.
The price increase would therefore lead to a questioning of the consumption habits of a part of the population.
“You see people trying tempeh for the first time because it’s so much cheaper than meat. They appreciate every dollar spent,” she says.
Some decisions are easier to make than others, like going back to cooking at home instead of going to a restaurant.
Adopting a greener lifestyle encourages cooking at home with wholesome, more nutritious foods.
Andréanne Laurin, co-founder of organic grocery stores Loco
The grocer also notes that fall makes you want to cook. Since the beginning of the school year, she has noticed the return of her customers who, after two years of the pandemic, had really spoiled themselves on trips and in restaurants in the summer.
Ecological gestures in consumption are often the most economical, explains Nathalie Ainsley, spokeswoman for the Quebec Association Zero Waste, member of the Mothers on the Frontline collective.
The calculation is easy to understand: “Reducing consumption also leads to a reduction in expenses,” she says.
A very simple example: store your things longer.
“Am I making this purchase because I need it? asks Nathalie Ainsley. Do I have anything else at home that would do? »
The same applies to transportation. “Keeping your vehicle longer is a great ecological gesture,” she says.
Especially since the transport, in addition to the food, puts a heavy strain on the wallet and the individual energy balance. By saving on this page, we free up the budget for expenses that are heavily impacted by inflation but are close to our hearts.
“With all the money I save by consuming less, I have enough to buy my organic! ‘ says Nathalie Ainsley.
Another simple idea: replace what’s disposable. “That would have a gigantic economic impact on the family budget,” she says.
Ask good questions
First, we need to reassess our overall consumption, explains sociologist Laurence Godin, professor in the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at Laval University.
Which means, yes, buying less, but also changing certain habits that we never question. Laurence Godin took part in a research project in Switzerland a few years ago. People were asked to halve the amount of laundry in a week and turn down the heat in the house. “The idea wasn’t to be cold, but to be comfortable,” she explains.
In addition to reducing water and electricity bills, the participants saved a lot of detergent and time. None of this had any negative impact on their well-being.
UQAM’s Responsible Consumption Observatory confirms that we tend towards sober consumption. His 2021 watch measured the impact of the pandemic on our consumption habits. “Health measures appear to be squelching the pull towards hyperconsumer values: 81.2% have made a habit of shopping less in the past month,” the report tells us.
Please no eco-guilt
“Our values have changed dramatically over the past 20 years,” said Rory Smead, associate professor in the philosophy department at Northeastern University in Boston and a specialist in the evolution of consumer behavior.
“In particular, we’ve found that our purchases have an impact on the workforce, which has led to the popularity of Fairtrade-certified products,” he gives as an example.
And how is the price increase now affecting these beautiful stocks?
People react differently, and the way they react greatly influences decisions, he says.
For some who are already concerned about behavior, too much economic pressure can make commitment questionable, the American professor explains: “How much do I care? Does my small gesture really have an impact? »
For many it is no longer a choice. If the green purchase is more expensive, it will not be made. “When you’re in the grocery store and you’re faced with the choice of fair trade coffee or no coffee at all, it’s an easy choice to make,” adds Rory Smead.
Even if it contradicts behavior built on years of thought.
“Are people morally responsible for these great problems? asks Rory Smead. There are two schools of thought in philosophy: yes or no! »
For Nathalie Ainsley, the answer is no, the individual is not responsible, but yes, every gesture counts.
The individual gesture is not enough, but it is essential.
Nathalie Ainsley, spokesperson for the Quebec Zero Waste Association, member of the Mères au front collective
“We don’t ask for more to be done for those who don’t have the means,” says Nathalie Ainsley.
When some people have to give up sustainable practices for lack of funds, guilt must be avoided, stresses Professor Laurence Godin from Université Laval.
To avoid feelings of guilt, the sociologist advises grabbing the bull by the horns.
“The answer to eco-anxiety, she says, is action. »
Specifically, someone who has to put their organic chicken aside because it’s too expensive might be interested in getting involved in a community project, she says.
A communal kitchen, for example, that would allow taking back control and being in the action.
“It’s about integration into sustainability groups,” says Laurence Godin.
Stay true to your principles
toiletries and household products
When Les Mauvaises Herbes launched the Les Trappeuses blog in 2014, we started talking about Zero Waste. Homemade products have become increasingly popular. In a few years, the blog became a virtual store and in 2019 a physical store. “We saw the excitement,” explains Marie Beaupré, co-founder of the company. We were constantly asked where we could buy the ingredients for our recipes. We saw a business opportunity there. »
The pandemic has arrived. At Les Mauvaises Herbes there was an explosion in online sales: people stopped going to the shops and looking for activities. Result: The young company tripled its turnover.
But this meteoric rise was incidental. And now the economic context is turning all that on its head. It requires a stabilization phase.
Inflation faces headwinds at Les Mauvaises Herbes. One can start making preparations with natural ingredients, for the sake of economy, for the home or for the body. That would bring in new customers. Conversely, current customers can do without non-essential products because somewhere they have to cut back.
“I think if we were in a 100 percent cosmetics market,” explains Marie Beaupré, we would have been more affected by inflation. »
However, in order to continue growing, the group had to adapt its offer. Essential products take up more space as the most superficial products sell less.
With declining purchasing power, how can customers remain true to their consumption principles when there is little money at the end of the month?
The alternative question, I think, is why do we stay in an economic system that forces individuals to deviate from their values just to survive?
Marie Beaupré, co-founder of Les Mauvaises Herbes
For Marie Beaupré, the great luxury of self-made is time.
“It’s there, the boundary of the general public,” she continues. You have a layer of people who don’t have the energy, the structure, the time to make this ecological transition. It’s good to talk about nice principles, have lots of nice ideas and methods to ease the transition and put them into practice, but if you don’t have time because you work for minimum wage and have a child to support, I I won’t make you do your deodorant. It is okay that you choose the one that is discounted at the pharmacy. »
When Alexandrine Beauvais-Lamoureux wanted to buy clothes in line with her consumerist principles, she thought it would be easy.
First the important values are determined, then the needs and means are assessed.
First observation: it’s very difficult to find clothing consistent with your eco-conscious values at low prices, especially when you want them to be designed here and even better made here.
The Bachelor student in International Relations and International Law at UQAM then turned to the ethics range of a large international chain.
The price was good, as were the brand’s claims. And then H&M’s eco-conscious clothing failed the test: the Swedish company was sued in the United States by a customer who claimed to have been misled by its Conscious Choice products. The company’s green ambitions are widely disputed among the general public. H&M has just announced it will be withdrawing this range in the Netherlands after a government agency ruled that the approach behind this label was unclear.
H&M sells their clothes for about an eighth of what I would pay in a boutique on the Plateau. But in reality none of this is true. I realized it was just greenwashing.
Alexandrine Beauvais-Lamoureux, Bachelor student in International Relations and International Law at UQAM
The young woman was not discouraged.
Next step: Turn to second-hand clothing. The offer is rich and the prices are good, both online and with organizations such as Renaissance or the Village des Valeurs.
This raises a new question: Can the increased purchasing power in a thrift store be intoxicating and lead to overconsumption?
Yes, answers the student, who is also the founder of the organization for education in the scene of sexual violence and saves.
For Alexandrine Beauvais-Lamoureux, ethical and sustainable consumption must go hand in hand with a certain social conscience.
“Clothing is also a right to dignity,” she says. If the excessive consumption of some limits the purchasing power of others and encourages unnecessary purchases, then we are nowhere near.
The student found the option that suited her best: buy her second-hand clothes, but in independent stores where the pieces have been carefully selected. There are more and more of these in Montreal.
“It allows me to strike a balance, she says, between an environmental awareness, a social conscience and my wallet. »