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Can people afford to be concerned about the environment?

In a world where one-third of households could struggle to meet the rising cost of living, it can be stressful to make the right decisions, whilst still monitoring our impact on the environment. Today more than ever, buying cheap products to cut costs is becoming increasingly more appealing.

My name is Lea and I have newly joined Inspire The Mind. As a new graduate from Gen Z, it seems that we are living through so-called ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ moments, one after the other. I write this piece from the perspective of someone who feels that they are constantly threatened by the ongoing responsibilities that they have learned to juggle, including my ecological footprint, and understanding my effects on our blue planet. But in today’s world, how can people afford to be concerned about the environment?

The ‘Net Zero’ Plan vs. The rise in costs

Many countries across the globe have finally started to consider the pressing matter, and governments are slowly increasing their efforts to become Net zero by 2050.

Ultimately, ‘Net Zero’ is a plan and commitment by governments across the world, to extract as much carbon as their countries emit into the atmosphere.

However, many households in the U.K. are facing the largest spike in cost-of-living prices in over 30 years. Due to Brexit, Covid-19, and current socio-political issues, we have now entered a recession and have started seeing food supply shortages, panic buying, and fuel price increases, among other issues. If you’re interested in reading more about the ongoing fuel crisis and the interventions that could improve health and wellbeing outcomes, check out this blog.

Ultimately, lower disposable income will mean people will start considering immediate impact before long-term issues, by choosing cheaper options such as less organic or free-range products, which usually have a lower environmental impact. According to Donvan, manager of ‘Everyday Green’, an alternative to non-sustainable products, people may avoid spending more on reusable items as they require more upfront investments than a cheap disposable alternative. Therefore, there is a real fear that pollution and emissions will increase.

‘Sustainable living’ has become somewhat of a luxurious trend, as organic and sustainable food, clothing, and other products are often more expensive.

But what if I told you that living more eco-friendly is possible even during times of hardship, and it might even help you save money in the long term?

Being better for the environment to save money

In the short term, the rising costs will inevitably affect our environment, however, there are some long-term silver linings. Currently, the rise in costs will provoke consumers to seek cheaper, less sustainable options that will allow them to save money immediately. Yet, in a couple of months’ time, the constant financial pressure will lead many people to seek more sustainable ways of living.

When looking at the issue from a business perspective, other than following trends, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their personal environmental impacts and use that judgement to make purchase decisions. From this shift in priorities, many businesses are having to include Corporate Social Responsibilities in their mission statements.

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

However, despite the efforts, most companies will be seeing their own internal costs increase and will try to save where they can. Unfortunately, this may lead to a compromise in their eco-friendly processes and material sourcing.

Williams, founder of Greenpark, thinks that “whilst the companies that are already using sustainable practices are unlikely to reverse, as they would risk losing a loyal customer base, companies that have not yet started would be discouraged and are unlikely to start prioritizing sustainability”.

You may have often thought “But I am only one person, I am not going to make a difference”. However, what if I told you that every little thing you did brings us one step closer to a greener planet?

Any positive action you can take, big or small can drastically improve your carbon footprint.

Here are a few of the things you can do as of today to save money and the planet:

  • Shop locally. Find the best prices for the least amount of travel.

  • Shop cheap and sustainably at food stores that have been ranked as top in sustainability: Lidl, Hello-Fresh, ASDA Eco, the Waitrose sale section, among many others.

  • If you want take-out, think about your footprint at: Leon, Wahaca, Dishoom, Honest Burgers, Cajuu and Chipotle.

  • If you’re thinking about your washing products, check out: Persil Bio, Smol, EcoVert refill, M&S Gently Does It, among others.

  • Decrease your food waste and store your food correctly. Invest in tupperware!

  • Ditch individually wrapped goods. Buy reusable wraps and covers for £5!

  • Decrease the use of single-use and disposable plastic. Buy a reusable water bottle and make it your own!

If you’re thinking of long-term solutions, consider:

  • Insulating your home

  • Controlling your fuel systems and heating methods

  • Using transport alternatives such as public transport, cycling or car sharing

  • Decreasing your food waste and storing your food correctly

  • Start planting and make your own compost

  • Checking your order’s delivery journey and tick the eco-friendly option before buying — it can even be cheaper

  • Getting paid and be green: Return plastic/glass, make money from recycling plastic bottles, sell unwanted items such as clothes, create new habitats and get involved in woodlands, wetlands, and grasslands.

For more inspiration, read: Everyday Green.

Overall, there is no doubt that short-term emissions will increase as people find ways to deal with the everyday complexities of rising costs. Whilst there will be hard months ahead, and fewer and fewer people will be able to afford to be concerned about the environment… just remember: any step, no matter how small, can add up to a long and positive chain in securing the longevity of our planet and all who live on it.

Header image: Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash


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