Our top tip is perhaps a bit obvious… buy less new stuff.
We have been under constant and increasing pressure to keep up with the latest in fashion, tech, cars, furniture… everything. Consumerism is a huge contributor to climate change – the more you can resist the pressure to consume, the more you can reduce your carbon footprint.
And it’s not just the carbon impact. Fashion produces 20% of global wastewater and, according to WWF, it can take 2,700 litres of water to produce the cotton needed to make a single T-shirt, enough for one person to drink for 900 days.
But the tide might be starting to turn on this rampant consumption. So, the next time temptation comes knocking, ask yourself whether you really need that new item!
2. Rent, borrow or share
There are more opportunities than ever to rent, borrow or share items that are used rarely, tie up cash and space and do not earn their keep. Take cars, for example. In the UK, private cars are used on average for less than 5% of the time (RAC). Check out our travel guide for information on car sharing as an alternative to owning your own.
Hiring items such as specialist tools, construction equipment and black tie and tails is a no-brainer, but virtually anything can be hired. You may find opportunities in your local community to lend or borrow items and there are plenty of options online. For example, Fat Llama is a peer-to-peer sharing platform where you can ‘rent (almost) anything’. It’s worth checking out before splashing out.
3. Don't buy new
OK, so you’ve decided you need it. Does it have to be new? Re-using a secondhand item is generally best from a climate change point of view, because most of the carbon emissions in products are caused by making them in the first place. The more they can be re-used, the better.
There are so many ways to find good quality secondhand goods these days, with buy-and-sell groups on Facebook, websites like Gumtree and eBay, charity shops, shops selling upcycled goods and antiques and salvage yards.
Here in Cumbria we’re also lucky to have a thriving Freegle network. Freegle is a website and app where you list things you don’t want any more or ask for things you need.
4. Repair more
Getting broken items fixed is a great way to avoid buying a new product, while also earning double green points by keeping goods out of landfill.
These days, the cost of a repair can be almost as much as buying a new product (or sometimes even more!), so it’s tempting to swap old for new.
But all is not lost! Visit our section on reducing waste to find out more about repairing things, including free services here in Cumbria.
5. Choose sustainability
Choose suppliers who have sustainability at heart and who produce items that are harmless, timeless, durable, repairable and upgradeable, and preferably local.
When you’re deciding between suppliers, have a look at their sustainability policy. Some will even have a link to their sustainability or ethics policy on their homepage, as they know it can make them stand out from the competition.
Some examples of good practice to look out for are companies using recycled materials in their products (such as Adidas Parley), producing modular repairable electronics with components that are ethically sourced (such as Fairphone), designing for disassembly and remanufacture (such as Timberland), and who have take back schemes for used items (such as Ikea and Currys).
The Ethical Consumer website is also a great source of information about companies and products – see the Ethical Shopping box above. Eco Stylist provides a really useful guide to sustainable certification and labelling.
Can you find a local supplier for the product you want?
There are lots of good reasons for shopping locally, including from a climate change point of view. If we make the assumption that a local supplier’s manufacturing processes are no more carbon intensive than anyone else’s, then there’s an opportunity to reduce the miles your product is transported.
7. Be wary of greenwash!
As shoppers grow more savvy about the environmental impact of the products they buy, there’s increasing pressure on manufacturers to respond.
You’ve probably seen a big upsurge in product ads on TV and in glossy magazines claiming they’re ‘eco-friendly’ in one way or another, and unfortunately some of this will be greenwash.