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Materials and Products

The UK’s material footprint (total raw materials extracted for consumption as goods or services) was estimated as 971 million tonnes in 2018, equivalent to 14.6 tonnes per person. A lot of what we consume is now imported from elsewhere in the world, having catastrophic impacts on both the land there, and the associated demands of transportation. To live sustainably, it is important to both buy LESS and buy BETTER; only replace what we need to, with high-quality, sustainable alternatives.

How to make a change

  • Buy products which are certified ‘sustainable.’ For example, Fairtrade products ensure that standards around sustainability, fair pay and working conditions have been upheld. When sourcing wood and paper products, look for those certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Support sustainable and equitable businesses, who’s values align with being environmentally friendly.
  • Avoid products which are known to be unsustainable, for example pesticides, cleaning products damaging to aquatic life, or single use plastics.
  • Buy second-hand wherever possible, to minimise the demand for new items. Utilise swap shops to get rid of items you no longer need, as well as find those that you do.
  • Look out for greenwashing, where companies make themselves or their products seem more environmentally friendly than they are. For example, many fast fashion companies may now have a ‘conscious’ or ‘eco’ line, made in part from recycled materials, but have done nothing to address other sustainability issues such as over production, or poor working conditions. Avoiding greenwashing can mean putting a lot of effort into researching the claims companies make, but for companies with environmental commitment, the evidence should be readily available on their websites.
  • If you must make any purchases, and you can afford to, choose higher quality products over cheaper and less durable items, to prolong their lifetime. Often more expensive items come with warranties or have associated repair services in place to ensure you get the most for your money.

Example Actions

  • Replace purchases of (x) products with Fairtrade or sustainable certified products
  • Buy only second-hand clothes for (x) amount of time
  • Stop buying harmful cleaning products, and replace with eco alternatives

Useful Links

Streetbank is an online sharing community, where you can post your own items to share or borrow from your neighbours. With apps like this, the more people that use them the better they become.

Gumtree and Freecycle are online platforms for either giving away or selling unwanted goods, where you can list or find items that you need. /

Traditional platforms such as Ebay are still an excellent way to find second-hand goods.

The FairTrade Foundation can help you identify products it is possible to source ethically, and explains the advantages of shopping FairTrade.

Download an Action Plan so you can set your own goals!

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