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February 12, 2019

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Goal 12: responsible consumption and production. What changes can you make?

February 4, 2019

 

 

What I love about Goal 12 is that it is the epitome of sustainability - doing more with less.

 

It results in all kinds of cool changes, from innovation and design to communities coming together to be more resourceful. Increasing economic growth and improving quality of life but not compromising our environment is the key to sustainability. And, ultimately that means reducing the amount of natural resources we currently use.

 

If we think about what we consume and the way in which we produce it (from cradle to grave), we can: reduce social, environmental and economic costs; strengthen economic competitiveness; and reduce poverty. We need to promote energy efficiency, sustainable infrastructure and provide access to basic services (such as health and education), as well as create green and decent jobs for a better quality of life.

 

If we continue the way we are then by 2050 we’ll have 9.6 billion people and need 3 planets to service our needs. We might be occupying 3 planets by then, China has started growing plants on the moon, so who knows what’s next? 30 years ago we barely had the internet, smartphones, electric cars and solar panels were only just being made on a commercial level - so it’s fair to say that a lot can happen in the next 30 years.

 

At the moment we’re not using our natural resources at a sustainable level, especially in the East and the knock-on effects cause problems with the quality of air, water and soil as a result of waste. By focusing on the supply chain we can improve these processes but we need to engage with all stakeholders, which includes educating consumers. This can be from really cool to really sad ad campaigns or just simple labelling and setting standards and accreditations across industries, such as BCorps.

 

We have to engage with all stakeholders to meet the United Nations SDGs as each pillar plays such a vital role towards a sustainable future. It’s the ‘people’ that dictate the trends of the market through consumer behaviour, as this affects the way businesses operate who in turn can put pressure on the local governments by setting industry standards and regulations. Likewise, the opposite can take place, whereby governments introduce such policies, which business adhere to and consumers change their purchasing behaviour.

 

So let's look at one of our most important natural resources...WATER

 

Only 3% of the world's water is fresh (drinkable) but 2.5% of that is frozen, leaving only 0.5% available.

 

#FUN FACT - 3% of the ice in the Antarctic Glaciers is Penguin pee.

 

We’re polluting this water faster than we can filter it and we still have 1 billion people without access to clean water - so it’s quite an issue.

 

We use around 150 litres a day but in developing countries, this can be as low as 20 litres or even 10 litres in some areas - thats one flush of the chain. The UK declared drought areas in 2012 and in 2005 groundwater levels were the lowest they’ve been in 20 years, affecting many important species that occupy the rivers and wetland areas. So it’s fair to say that we have to start using less. If we carry on the way we are we’ll also start to have restrictions, like South Africa.

 

What gets me is the amount of water we waste through habits and bad practice and it's a no brainer, as the less you use the more you save, whilst having a positive impact, so it's a win-win.

 

This includes simple actions like turning off taps whilst brushing your teeth, taking shorter showers, reporting leaks as opposed to thinking that someone else will deal with it. Buying eco appliances...And, using their eco settings - I wonder how many get drawn into the eco badge of an appliance but don't use it correctly? What a waste! Then there’s flushing the toilet unnecessarily, like when you throw away a tissue, why not just leave it next time? Or boiling too much water in the kettle, when you just want one cuppa - are you doing any of these things?

 

You probably are and that's okay as maybe you weren’t to know and it was just out of habit but now you do know and now you realise that it makes a difference. We all need to realise that we’re responsible and whilst many think that one person doesn’t have an impact, it’s that exact behaviour and attitude that inhibits change as collectively we can achieve a great deal. This is summed up really nicely from a quote by The Dalai Lama:

 

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

 

So, a third of our water we flush down the toilet, another third is lost before it even reaches us and only 3% of that final third is used for drinking. The good thing is by using less water, we use less energy as we don’t have to heat it, which accounts for 25% our energy bills.

 

So how can we reduce our most precious and most wasted resource? I did a few online tests and found out what my consumption was:

 

Household = 48,000 litres per year

Bathroom = 37,000 litres

Kitchen = 11,000 litres

Energy = 795 KWh

Money spent on water = £120

 

Now I was pleased to discover that I'm better than the average household but there is still room for improvement:

 

- 120 litres per day compared to 140 national average

- 132,541 litres per year vs 183,708 national average

-  2,037KWh per year vs 2,957KWh annual energy per household

 

Here are some quick easy wins:

  • Turn off the tap whilst cleaning your teeth

  • Fit more economical taps, shower heads, and toilet flushing devices

  • Have fewer baths and when you do have a bath why not use that water for your plants.

  • Make sure you have a full load when using the washing machine and dishwasher

  • Make sure you use energy efficient modes

  • Repair any dripping/leaking taps

  • Only fill the kettle for what you need

  • Collect rainwater

 

"Remember, little things can lead to little changes, and little changes can lead to new habits, and new habits can lead to big results."

 

Resources:

  1. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-consumption-production/

  2. http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=E/2017/66&Lang=E

  3. http://www.oecd.org/about/membersandpartners/list-oecd-member-countries.htm

  4. https://www1.wfp.org/zero-hunger

  5. https://www.anglianwater.co.uk/environment/how-you-can-help/calculate-usage.aspx

  6. https://www.uswitch.com/water/how-much-water-use/

  7. https://www.savewatersavemoney.co.uk/