Earlier this month, Changeworks Deputy Chief Executive Liz Partington shared some of the actions we can all take to play our part in tackling the global climate emergency. 

Here we look at one of those actions in more detail: reducing our carbon footprint by reducing the amount of ‘stuff’ we consume. 

Household consumption accounts for around 60 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Only a fifth of that comes from burning fossil fuels, such as when we drive our cars or heat our homes. The remaining four fifths is from indirect emissions released when the goods we buy are made or transported. 

Overconsumption has a major impact on the environment, so it’s time to think a bit more carefully about what we buy and move towards carbon-friendly consumerism. 

Individual shopping habits do make a difference 

We may not think our individual purchases make much of a difference, but when more of us make small changes the collective impact is huge. Just think of the effect of recent climate protests, where a few individuals and small groups grew to millions of people, all taking action to demand change together. 

So let’s look closer to home. Everything from tomato ketchup to t-shirts to TVs create carbon emissions during manufacturing, distribution, delivery and disposal. Choosing more sustainable products or, even better, simply buying less in general can have a major impact on our individual carbon footprints. 

Less is more: how to reduce, reuse, repair and recycle 

By taking a more mindful approach to the things we buy we’ll not only help the environment, we’ll waste and spend less overall. For example: 

  • Instead of churning through ‘fast fashion’ why not choose better quality or second-hand clothes, or re-style what you have?
  • Hold off replacing your electronic devices if they’re still in good working order
  • Support local public services that let you share items instead of buying them, such as your local library for books or tools
  • Repair shoes, clothes and appliances, so you don’t need to replace them so often
  • If an item no longer ‘sparks joy’ for you (as Marie Kondo would say), why not consider selling it to someone else who can give it a new life, or donating it to charity?

When you do need to make a purchase, try looking for ethical businesses that use sustainable ingredients and products, or supporting businesses that sell locally sourced items to cut the distance travelled by your purchase. 

Set yourself up for an easy win by taking a reusable bag, reusable cup or food container when you’re out and about, so you can minimise your environmental impact even when you do buy something. 

As we see more and more people practicing these behaviours and putting the planet first, reducing overconsumption will become the norm. Let’s lead by example! 

At Changeworks, we help individuals and organisations to live and work more sustainably.  Too Good To Waste is our A-Z guide of practical ways to reduce, reuse, repair and recycle in Edinburgh and the Lothians, and our Edinburgh Charity Shop and Reuse Map is a guide to donating and buying from charity shops and reuse projects. Get in touch for advice on what you can do to reduce waste.