Cycling and green transport, energy, Food & sustainable production, general, Health, Recycling, textiles

Can we, should we, buy less stuff?

A short question that is not easy to answer. Here I discuss if, and how, we can reduce the amount of ‘stuff’ we buy and consume and argue that we should campaign to promote a better quality of life.

This is an EXERPT FROM CARBON CHOICES CLICK to read the full blog.

It is relatively easy to calculate your direct carbon footprint from heating your home, the electricity you use and from your travel. However, in wealthier countries around half of our carbon footprint arises from what we buy and consume – food, clothing, furniture, electrical goods, cars and construction and maintenance of your house. With the exception of food (a blog for another day) much of this stuff is made from steel, concrete and plastics.

This all has a huge environmental impact, ranging from mining (often overseas), processing, manufacturing and transport logistics. In fact, I argue in my book, Carbon Choices, that it is the ‘over’ consumption by wealthy people that is driving our climate and other environmental crises.

What is ‘over’ consumption?

This is difficult to define, and I guess it varies depending on your own position. It is easy to define overconsumption as extravagant displays of wealth by people richer than you (private jets for example)! But from the perspective of the Planet, over consumption is when all the people in the world use up more resources than we can sustainably grow or source from raw materials. We are well beyond that definition, with WWF calculating that we use one and a half planet’s worth of resources already (as a result our natural world is deteriorating globally). UK citizens use around three planets worth of resources – much of it imported.

I think we would be better campaigning to promote an optimistic and better quality of life – and align this message with consuming less. For example,

  • Deposit return schemes (less litter)
  • 20-minute neighbourhoods/ living streets (healthier lifestyle, more friendly community)
  • Electric cars (quieter, no local air pollution)
  • Home insulation (less fuel poverty, lower fuel bills)
  • Heat pumps (more resilient and less dependent on imported gas)
  • More vegan and vegetarian food (healthier options, animal rights)
  • Local fruit and vegetables (health and community spirit)
  • Compulsory 10-year product guarantees (better quality of product)
  • Fewer fertilisers and pesticides (healthier food, better soil, less water pollution)
  • Restore nature (less flooding, support bees for pollination, local walks)

So, rather than campaign on simple messages of fly less, don’t buy a car, eat vegan, ban this, buy less stuff – that might appeal to a minority of people (and not to politicians); try turning these into positive campaigns that will appeal to the majority – improve our society, communities and our quality of life.

Cover Photo by Zen Chung from Pexels

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