We as consumers in the last 300 years have become addicted to growth and consumption. In the 1900’s words like “conspicuous consumption” and “built-in-obsolescence” appeared. Conspicuous consumption is buying things we do not really need to “show-off” our wealth. Built-in obsolescence is buying things designed to break down, and force us to buy new. The problem is that each time we buy things the factories where they make them will possibly be emitting carbon dioxide, and when they are destroyed they may enter landfill, where methane is emitted into the atmospheres.

So we need to change our buying habits in favour of thinking about the impact on our planet.

The following video, from a TED talk by Kate Raworth brilliantly illustrates the problems that our economies face with the addiction to growth:

Kate Raworth talks about “Doughnut Economics”

Domestic Appliances

Under this category we mean TV’s, Washing Machines, Mobile phones and all sorts of electrical goods that we buy from time to time. A key component of Fridges, Washing machines, and Tumble Dryers is steel, and steel comes from iron ore. Steel is made in China and India, who rely on coal in its manufacture. Hence if we make sure that we buy less often (look to make them last longer) we can make an impact on the emissions of CO2 .

Which? magazine has created reports on “Eco-Buys”. You can look up their recommendations for Washing machines, Dishwashers and Kettles by clicking on the following button, before you buy.

Clothes

We buy clothes to protect ourselves, and show off fashions. But the production and distribution of clothes, and then disposal has a huge impact on the climate. Fashion is estimated to cause around 10 % of the world’s carbon emissions. The carbon emissions come from the production processes in China and India and also the transportation across the world. Polyester, used widely in making clothes, uses around 70 mn barrels of oil a year in their manufacture. All of this leads to some fairly simple actions:

  1. Buy less and wear more, and buy what you need.
  2. Read the label. Avoid Polyester, and buy cotton instead – that halves carbon emissions, and gets rid of fossil fuels
  3. Buy brands committed to recycling and making clothes, for instance, from recycled polyester
  4. Don’t throw clothes away. Donate to shops which recycle clothes. Use less more times.
  5. Hire clothes, rather than buy new ones for a special occasion (like wedding). But beware of transportation costs.
  6. Watch your washing. Washing can release fibres into the environment.

Click on the following button to find a useful article on making fashion climate-friendly.

Consumables

We buy all sorts of products for daily consumption, normally bought in plastic or similar packaging, which we then throw away. The packaging causes carbon dioxide emissions in their manufacture, but also end up in landfill or the sea causing further damage to the environment and sea-life.

Also many personal care and similar products contain palm-oil in their production, which has dramatic impacts on palm oil forests in the Far East.

Simple actions to take when buying products are:

  1. Avoid products in (single-use) plastic containers
  2. Check the labels for products which are not environmentally-friendly
  3. Buy locally from shops which sell concentrated products that can be refilled.

Click on the following button to find a fantastic guide to shops in Shrewsbury (selling consumables and much more besides) that will help you buy in a climate-friendly way

Circular Economy

Our society is set up to take natural resources, make them into things, and then dispose of them when they’re no longer deemed useful. This is known as the linear economy.

People talk more and more about the circular economy. This means creating and using products which are designed to go from earth to earth with minimum impact on the environment.  It’s about keeping materials and products in use for as long as possible by making them durable, repairable and upgradeable. When they are finally no longer wanted, the ‘waste’ material is used to make new products or, for organic material, returned to the soil. And everything is powered by renewable energy. The following video is a great explanation on the fundamental change required.

Scribit and Ellen MacArthur foundation explain the circular economy.