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Things we buy and their impact on Climate Change
When we think about the environmental impact of what we buy (eg. a house, car, furniture, clothes, tech items such as phones, TVs, computers etc.) we need to consider the full life cycle of the product – make – use – end of use – each of these has a carbon footprint. We tend to only focus on the middle – use – bit but, depending on the item, the make and end of use parts can be even more significant.
Measuring the carbon footprint of consumer goods is really hard to do and impossible to be completely accurate about but there are some useful rules of thumb which can help you make informed choices. A Fantastic source of information is the book “How bad are bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything” by Mike Berners-Lee
Our current system for consumer goods encourages us to to fuel an addiction to new things, to frequently upgrade and replace our belongings with the newest latest things. Unfortunately these rarely keep us happy for long so we are constantly seeking fulfillment and thus keep repeating the consumption cycle.
The fashion industry is a particularly good example of this. It accounts for around 10% of Global CO2 emissions annually. It also uses a lot of water and chemicals, contributes to a tremendous amount of waste which goes to landfill or incineration and causes plastic pollution through the release of microfibers during washing which find their way into rivers, oceans and the food chain. But there are Sustainable Fashion alternatives, for more information see love your clothes.
What if we were to embrace a new mindset which enabled us to find value in things from a different perspective? To slow down, to focus more on the things we do with our belongings (and each other) rather than on the things themselves. Maybe we don’t even need to own those things to have the enjoyment, perhaps we can borrow or rent them?
When we do decide we need something new rather than second hand or rented then it makes sense to buy things from suppliers which are making high quality things in an energy efficient way from sustainable sources of materials. For information on how to determine which brands are sustainable and environmentally conscious follow this link
The waste hierarchy highlights the most impactful thing we can do to reduce the carbon footprint of the things we buy and that is to prevent waste. To design things to last longer and be more easily repaired. When they are broken to make them easier to recycle and recover the precious components so that very little ends up going to waste at all. The so called Circular Economy is focused on changing the way things are made so that we can do just that.
For an excellent overview of the Circular Economy and how it can impact every aspect of consumption see The Ellen Macarthur Foundation website.
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