You are powerful
Across all of our shopping many of us spend thousands of pounds per year. If that money goes to supporting sustainable businesses who produce things in a way that is good for the environment, those companies will grow. Vice versa, if it goes to manufacturing processes that harm the environment, the harm will continue. A recent study from The Economist Intelligence Unit shows there has been a surge of interest in sustainable products over the last five years, and suggests that consumer buying choices may be doing as much to help the climate as governments. So how do we shop in a way that’s good for both the environment and our own wellbeing?
How long does it last?
The single biggest thing that we can do to reduce the carbon footprint of the products we buy is to buy high quality, long lasting products. For example one toaster that lasts 15 years has a much lower carbon footprint than buying 5 toasters that only last three years. It also saves money and gives you a better quality product. Sometimes this means spending a bit more up front, but on average high quality products cost at least a third less over their lifetimes. However, long lasting products don’t always cost more to buy. Which? magazine has found that some of the budget brands also last a very long time.
The Lifespan of a toaster –
Carbon Savvy founder Mukti Mitchell has just replaced the timer on his Dualit toaster after 18 years, and hopes it will last another 18 years. It also has replaceable elements, so may even last a lifetime.
What happens at the end of its life?
Is the product we are buying repairable or recyclable? Will it compost down and return to the earth at the end of its life? For example Dualit toasters are mainly metal which can go into metal recycling (and the plastic parts can be dismantled plastic). Clothes made from 100% natural materials can be composted at the end of their life Second best would be clothes made from recyclable materials.
Does it create pollution?
Can we get chemical-free versions of the things we need? For example, synthetic decorating paints put more chemicals into the air and washing out the brushes pollutes water. Paints made from natural oils are less damaging. When we avoid polluting water and land, wildlife is preserved, and thriving wildlife helps to sequester CO2.
Can I avoid packaging?
The average UK citizen produces 7 x their body weight in rubbish every year, and packaging is a large part of this. Natural, compostable packaging is always better, but trees are chopped down to make cardboard, so best of all is to avoid packaging completely. Using cloth shopping bags and buying products free of packaging is the best solution, along with buying from companies that use a minimum of packaging. More facts about rubbish here.
Shop4good 31 Oct – 13 Nov
Torridge District Council is joining other Council’s, charities and businesses across Devon in promoting low-carbon ways to shop. Take part by doing the shopping quiz and taster carbon footprint, and you could win a low-carbon prize.