Sustainability actions and the prospect of What if…?

By Dan Pratt
30th May 2023

Having taken a close look at the sustainability sector in our most recent report there were some key findings that really stuck out. To instigate change there are two big steps that need to happen:

1. Consumers need to know where to start and be able to make significant and impactful changes in their lives.

2. Organisations need to implement solutions that accelerate change.

I’ve attempted to outline the most pressing and impactful actions you can take with practical steps to incorporate into everyday life. I’ve also attempted to answer the question “What if?”. What if the solutions were in place for us to take steps more easily.

Naturally, the actions and ideas are focused on digital activity and how we can use digital to instigate change.

Taking action

Many consumers are stuck on where to start when wanting to make a lifestyle change to impact the environment. Some potential changes are very visible in the public eye, reducing plastic as an example, others are less visible including the impact of food consumption. Many of the major contributors to climate change are getting more press coverage but it’s difficult to have clarity amongst the noise. Lifestyle changes need commitment with means time and energy to change one’s consumption habits. To change every aspect of your lifestyle takes willpower and commitment and is often easier to do when wider choices are removed.

A good place to start is to understand what elements of consumption impact the environment the most and then work out what choices there are to reduce your individual impact. Taken directly from the UN website, the main causes of climate change are:

  • Generating power from burning fossil fuels.
  • Manufacturing goods which require energy (from fossil fuels) and produce emissions.
  • Cutting down forests to create farms or pastures which causes emissions as trees release the carbon they have been storing.
  • Using transportation as most cars, trucks, ships and planes run on fossil fuels.
  • Producing food causes all kinds of issues for the environment from deforestation, release of emissions, the use of fertilisers and chemicals and the use of energy throughout the production cycle.
  • Powering buildings for lighting, heating and cooling as well as powering what we consume within them causes carbon-dioxide emissions.
  • The general rate of consumption. The richest 1 per cent of the global population combined account for more greenhouse gas emissions than the poorest 50 per cent.

So, these are all whopping issues, how can individuals help? The global economy is powered by demand and consumerism, if these were reduced or cut off the emphasis would shift to more of what matters to the planet. Here are 5 things you can do now to help make a change for yourself and for everyone else:

1. Bank Green – Make sure your money goes towards positive change. A good place to start is switching your money away from funding climate chaos. Green helps you to do just that.

2. Positive Future Finances – Ensure that your pensions and financial investments are ethical. This article by Jocelyn Timperley for the BBC talks through the steps you can take to ethically save for retirement.

3. Travel Sustainably – Electric cars maybe being touted as the future but to make a more impactful difference challenge your travel decisions. This map by Chrono Trains shows how far you can travel in 5 hours by train. Europe is pushing forward domestic train travel of flying and investing in the infrastructure to support it. In the UK the team at Slow Ways are creating a national walking network. This is a mindset change, how do we uncouple ourselves from the car. Even electric cars have tyres which do not decompose and can release harmful chemicals into the environment.

4. Clean Energy – Outside of wholesale changes to our energy infrastructure there are ways to reduce energy use at home but it can be costly. Insulation and upgrading windows is a good place to start followed by looking into heat pumps and solar panels. This area maybe the most immediately costly but will pay in the long run if energy costs remain high. There are a myriad of resources to advise on saving energy, a good place to start is the Energy Saving Trust.

5. Consume Less – Again, this is a mindset change, consume with a conscience. A useful place to start is to breakdown your monthly outgoings and then tackle areas one at a time. You build up more and more awareness as to how to consume less and more sustainably with practise. Some categories and brands to help you to get started:

Fashion:
  • Vinted By from and give to the circular economy. Not everything needs to be new.
  • Reskinned Some of our favourite brands are joining the pre-loved revolution.
  • Tentree Regenerate as you buy
Household:
  • Smol Replace your supermarket laundry and dishwasher essentials with a more conscious choice
  • Method Less volume, less chemicals, less cruelty, less waste, everything’s still clean.
  • Ethical Superstore A one stop alternative shop, moving away from the supermarket.
  • Buy Me Once Quality over quantity, learn to love things that last.
Health Essentials:
  • Wild Deodorant has well thought out and beautifully branded products making switching one essential an easy decision to make.
  • Suri electric toothbrushes result in a better clean that is better for the environment.

Consuming less also translates to digital choices. Choose less emails, less notifications and less interactions. Every action online has a cost, do you know the carbon cost of an email?

What if…?

Now, what if this was made all the more easy for us based on the decisions corporations and governments make. Here is a wishlist of what ifs:

  • Green Search – What if Google had a filter that just served sustainable results? No more carbon fuelling banks, no more unethical fast fashion brands, no more all-encompassing retail behemoths draining the life out of the planet.
  • Green Supermarkets – What if you could walk the aisles of your local supermarket and they were plastic free and stocked with sustainable products?
  • Green Travel – What if there was a focus on providing green, affordable and reliable public transport that put walking, cycling and trains at the centre of our system?
  • Green Energy – What if homes were subsidised to help owners invest in insulation, solar panels and heat pumps?
  • Green Food – What if more emphasis was placed on a more diverse and localised food production? Putting emphasis on growing communities including orchards, food forests and community gardens.

The solutions exist, what if a more sustainable future becomes our main priority over capitalist growth? So far, I’ve switched banks, changed my car, invested in making my home more energy efficient, reduced consumption and added more into the circular economy. I’ll continue to work to do more and hopefully this will help others to accelerate impactful change.

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