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February 12, 2019

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

February 12, 2019

 

“It's been reported that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions but let's not forget that households contribute towards 30% of global energy consumption and 21% towards CO2 emissions”

 

Last week we introduced Goal 12: responsible consumption and production and started to look at one of our most valuable and wasted resources - water. We uncovered that 25% of our energy bills are used to heat water, so I thought this week it would be good to look at the energy we consume in more detail.

 

It’s good to break these things down so that we can understand and relate to it, and also see where we can make changes, as quite often there are small easy wins. The transportation and industrial sectors are going to be a lot harder to conquer so it’s good to start at the home and focus on the domestic and service areas, in which we can have a greater and quicker impact. Households contribute towards 30% of global energy consumption and 21% towards CO2 emissions. So that's a good place to start as this will change our behaviour and social norms and create a positive ripple effect. For example, it's now quite common to pull out your reusable water bottle but just a few years ago it certainly wasn't a social norm...so what else can change?

 

  • When will it be the norm to be a vegetarian and ask for the meat dishes?

  • When will petrol stations disappear as we’re all using electric vehicles?

  • When will supermarkets have a special plastic aisle? As everything else has no plastic as standard.

  • When will we all be wearing the likes of Patagonia and Finisterre? Brands that focus on sustainability and positive social & environmental impact, over glitz and glam?

  • When will all companies have to report on their externalities?

 

Everything we do consumes energy, so how can we reduce our own impact?

 

My typical day would start with an alarm (electricity), followed by turning on a light or two (electricity), before jumping in the car to head to the gym (oil). Then a quick smoothie when I get back (electricity/food/water), a shower (electricity/water), brush my teeth (water), more lights (electricity), get dressed (think about the brands we buy), and a walk to the station to get on the tube (electricity) to work. In work I’m using everything from gas, to heat the building; electricity to power the lights; and appliances, food and water to keep me going.

 

The important thing is, I’m not saying that we should all grow our own veg, hunt our food (if eating meat), walk around in hemp and bamboo clothes and use solar panels to power the items we use throughout the day.

 

These changes need to be convenient and sustainable and by that, I mean sustainable for us in our day to day lives that will create a long term change in behaviour. 

 

It needs to be easy!!!

 

Maybe we could mix gyms and offices and power our lights and appliances whilst on the running machine or spinning bike? This has actually been done in the states and the gym reduced its carbon footprint by 90%. It's this kind of innovation that makes a difference and such changes to technology (increasing efficiency) means that we’ll be using the same amount of energy in 2030 as we did in 1970, despite the population increase.

 

What is the low hanging fruit that we can pick?

 

Food:

  • What am I eating?

  • How local is the food?

  • Where was it sourced?

  • What was the packaging?

  • What was it’s journey?

  • What’s the brand like?

  • Are they a BCorp?

  • Did I use everything I bought?

  • Did I take my own bag?

 

If we start to think about these we’ll start to buy differently, we’ll look for the better, more conscious brands, the more locally sourced food and go for options that have little to no plastic, if possible. Now, we need to be realistic here, as certain products go bad if not packaged incorrectly and we already waste far too much food.

 

The point is to think about it - don’t just throw something in your basket and think it doesn’t make a difference because it does - it makes a huge difference. Right back to the farmers and producers whose lives you impact.

 

Travel:

  • Do I need to drive for certain journeys?

  • Can I use public transport?

  • Can I walk, cycle, run?

  • Can I car share?

  • What vehicle do I use? What fuel?

 

Again, everything has an impact but we need to be realistic and make SUSTAINABLE changes. Ones which are also convenient or we’ll boycott the whole movement.

 

A sustainable change is a long term change, that will bread long term behaviour. I know that I won’t drive to the gym as it’s too early and too dark, and will stop me wanting to go (affecting my health) but I use public transport and walk/run in most situations to offset this and actually then have a more positive impact on my health too.

 

Clothes:

We’ll come on to fashion in a few weeks so I don’t want to give too much away just yet but what questions do you think we should be asking? (TIP: similar to ‘food’ above)

 

Energy:

  • Firstly, where does it come from and who is your energy supplier?

  • Do they use renewable energy?

  • Are they a BCorp like Bulb?

  • Can I reduce the amount I use?

  • Can I install better, more efficient devices?

  • Am I using the eco setting?

 

We all have a huge impact every day and if you think one light left on in one room doesn't make a difference, what about 27million households across the UK? 

 

The power of consumer behaviour and a community of people is limitless. You can dictate where the market goes, which can change the way businesses operate, who in turn can change governments.

 

Resources:

  1. https://sustainablebrands.com/read/defining-the-next-economy/a-week-of-globalization-4-0-sustainability-lessons-from-the-wef-2019?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=newsletterweekly&utm_campaign=feb04

  2. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/energy-consumption-in-the-uk

  3. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/jul/10/100-fossil-fuel-companies-investors-responsible-71-global-emissions-cdp-study-climate-change

  4. https://b8f65cb373b1b7b15feb-c70d8ead6ced550b4d987d7c03fcdd1d.ssl.cf3.rackcdn.com/cms/reports/documents/000/002/327/original/Carbon-Majors-Report-2017.pdf?1499691240

  5. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/world-of-change/decadaltemp.php

  6. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24823641

  7. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/729317/Energy_Consumption_in_the_UK__ECUK__2018.pdf