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How Can Consumers Make Better Consumption Choices To Help Preserve Our Planet?

Content warning. Please note the topic being discussed including phrases being used, statistics, and images could trigger or upset readers. Reader discretion is advised.

Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash

How have our consumption habits affected the planet?

Consumption. What is it? Consumption comes in many forms, but, consumption in regards to consumers is 'the act of using up a resource' and this is often to satisfy our needs and wants at the time. It can be the usage of, the loss of or the waste of: fuel, food or drink, clothes, and other physical items.

Consumption has increased significantly not only in the UK but around the world, energy being the thing we consume the most. Globally the top 5 countries who consume the most energy, according to Statista, are: China with 157.65 exajoules of primary energy being consumed, United States of America, India, Russia and Japan with 17.74 exajoules of primary energy being consumed. In comparison to the UK being 14th with only 7.18 exajoules, which is currently struggling through a Cost of Living Crisis.

Reduced human activity due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, has taken consumption of natural resources back to pre-2006 levels, according to the Guardian. This caused not-seen-before impacts in Europe and places around the world, reducing what we made, ate, and used back in 2020 flights had halved and the amount of road users was down by around 70%. A noticeable difference was that wildlife was thriving, hunting and poaching declined, and satellites showed reduced smog in China and Italy.

Research has shown that our consumption over the years of lockdowns reduced our overall ecological footprint by 9.3%. As a population we saved 1.5-2.5 metric tonnes of Co2 pollution.

Unfortunately, this was short lived when life resumed, alongside the growth of developing countries and our addiction to consumption of almost everything.

So, how can we become more conscious as consumers?

Do you want your local streets and parks to look like this? No-one does, so it's time to step up and learn how you can be more conscious as a consumer. Below are 6 steps on where to start.

1. Only buy what you need

Buying less will save money, reduce household waste, as well, as improving your ecological footprint. This can be done by supporting eco-friendly companies that produce products which are less damaging to our planet.

2. Go Digital (if you haven't already)

The waste produced by paper-related industries conflicts a lot of harm into our ecosystem. Instead add news apps to your devices and switch to digital magazine and newsletter subscriptions, which will all reduce energy consumption long term.

3. Shop in second-hand or charity shops

Everyone can do their part in being more conscious of what we buy and where we buy from. Not only do charity shops up-cycle clothes, also, books, games, household items and more. They are able to use around 90% of what gets donated to them and stop that from going into landfill.

4. Shop sustainably/use eco-friendly products

Every product we buy has an ecological footprint and could end up in landfill. Supporting eco-friendly shops you are encouraging the companies you don't shop at to ensure their goods are ethically sourced and produced meaning more goods will be ethical and sustainable.

5. Use re-usable shopping bags

Is vital for cutting down on single use plastics and reducing waste. Supermarkets have helped by not giving bags out for free, and by selling re-useable ones. The impacts on plastic pollution in our oceans is already known to be damaging the marine life so, by recycling, reducing, and re-using what we can means we are helping our oceans.

6. Plan your meals

What we eat contributes for around a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. planning your meals reduces household waste which ends up in landfill and by cutting down on the amount of meat and dairy can consume can also reduce the amount your weekly shop comes to.

The Sustainable Development Goals

What are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's)? These were created by the United Nations at the 'United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development' in 2012, and there are 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

In order the SDG's are: no poverty, zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, quality education and gender equality. As well as, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry innovation and infrastructure and reduced inequalities. Sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, life on land. Lastly, peace, justice and strong intuitions and partnerships for the goals.

Under goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. Sustainable production and consumption not only benefits us but also the environment. It includes specific policies on the management of materials that are toxic to the environment.

How do the SDG's ensure we preserve our planet? The goals all focus on different factors but goal 12 focuses on reducing waste generation, achieving management of chemicals, halving food waste, and rationalising fossil-fuel subsidies.

Even though there are implementation schemes nationally and internationally to help combat climate change, we need to be more proactive in stepping up and being more environmentally conscious. This begins with what we consume, so see what you can reduce today.


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