Sustainability is a term that covers various aspects of living hand in hand with our environment, and it’s one that we can all benefit from, from cheap electricity to healthier food and cleaner cities and countryside. We take a look at five of the latest trends in sustainability below.
Cutting Our Carbon Footprint
The idea of the carbon footprint isn’t new, but it is now making real inroads into the mainstream consciousness. Energy companies abound with advice on how to cut our carbon footprint – and our energy bills – in the home, while online tools and games allow us to take a closer look at how much our habit really cost us. Our carbon footprint is defined as how much greenhouse gases we emit – travel is a big contributor, while the energy and costs of transporting food across the globe is something that many people forget. Take a look at online calculators if you’re interested in calculating your own footprint and working towards better habits.
Towards Zero Waste
Many people are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of waste on our environment. Waste can mean any type of discarded material, from food waste in the home to agricultural and industrial waste, so working towards a zero waste society involves an enormous collective effort from different groups. With landfill emissions of methane a powerful contributor towards global warming – according to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), methane is 24 times more powerful than carbon dioxide – this is more important than ever. Part of the concept of zero waste is that waste has a value – rather than being sent straight to landfill, it can be recycled or re-used because it is an important resource in itself. So we need to carefully sort through our waste to be reprocessed. What isn’t conventionally recycled can be treated – for example, food waste can be treated under anaerobic conditions to produce green energy and fertilisers.
High street fashion gets a bad rap for being unethical and unsustainable. From controversial workplace practices in foreign countries to the use of chemicals that can damage the environment, many people are starting to question if the price we pay for our clothes is a price too high. Ethical fashion seeks to change this. It is a philosophy and practice where the design and manufacture of clothing translates into benefits to workers and communities and minimal impacts on the environment. According to the Ethical Fashion Forum, ethical fashion needs to be sustainable – that is, to not impinge on future needs – in three core areas: social, environmental and commercial. While social and environmental concerns are all well and good, there also needs to be a realistic business model in place to ensure the practice can support itself.
Local food sourcing offers many benefits over international sourcing, including shorter supply chains, lower delivery costs and more reliable and responsive deliveries. From an ethical perspective, it means supporting local communities and creating more jobs. From an environmental perspective, it means cutting down on the energy required to transport food. But local sourcing also needs to be cost effective if it is going to work, otherwise it will only ever be a niche market trend. Big retailers are increasingly working with local growers and manufacturers to get the balance right.
Statistics from the 2011 Census show a ten-year increase of 90,000 people using their bicycle as the primary method of commuting in England and Wales, with 741,000 taking to their bikes in 2011. With more awareness of the health benefits of cycling and higher costs involved in fuel and train fares, this figure is only set to increase.
Moving Towards Zero Waste. SEPA. http://www.sepa.org.uk/waste/moving_towards_zero_waste.aspx
Ethical Fashion Forum (2014) What is Ethical Fashion? http://www.ethicalfashionforum.com/the-issues/ethical-fashion
CTC (2014) CTC Cycling Statistics. http://www.ctc.org.uk/resources/ctc-cycling-statistics
This post was generously sponsored by Ovo Energy