If there have been two subjects that dominated headlines in the last couple of years, it is the cost of living crisis and the environmental crisis from the damage we are doing to the planet.
In recent years, households around the UK have been feeling the effects of higher food prices, higher gas prices, higher fuel prices and a stagnation of wages. All of this is hitting our pockets hard but the more unseen and, for future generations more catastrophic consequences, from this is the damage it is doing and will do to the environment.
How can the cost of living effect the environment?
It sounds a strange link but the tougher people are finding the ability to afford the essentials such as warmth, food, fuel and gas, the less consideration, quite naturally, maybe given to the source of essentials and the damage it can do.
It has been suggested that greener products cost 50% more than their unsustainable counterparts. In a time of national financial crisis, many people will naturally choose the cheaper option to ensure that they can afford everything they need.
Sustainable products are more expensive because they have a lot higher manufacturing costs, higher processing costs and the materials are far scarcer. For example, the cost of growing and processing organic cotton is a lot higher than growing and processing conventional cotton. According to a study by the Agricultural Economics and Social Research Institute, the overall cost of labour per unit of land appears to be 35% higher in organic cotton farming than in conventional cotton farming and mechanical labour costs are 35% higher in organic farming compared to conventional farming too.
These initial costs then are passed on from the farmers to the production companies, then to the business selling their goods and finally on to the customer. Compared to conventionally made goods, it is far more expensive.
If less people are buying greener, organic or more sustainably made goods because of the price of it, the knock-on effect to environment will be greater. More unsustainable and potentially cruel practises will continue to be used just because it is cheaper. For example unsustainable cattle farming in the Amazon Rainforest contributes up to 80% of deforestation and the cattle farming is releasing 340 million tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere which in turn is contributing to a warmer climate, severe weather changes, rising water levels and extinction of plants and animals that are vital to the stability of nature.
Can organic and environmentally friendly products ever be affordable?
In short, yes. It is well known that you pay a premium on organic products but there are ways of living sustainably without breaking the bank. According to Only Organic, there are multiple ways to live sustainably for less. For example only buying things when you need them, shop locally (if possible), grow your own fruit and vegetables, buying clothes in charity shops and walking or cycling where possible.
Of course there are draw backs on all of these ideas, but there are ways that you can start to live more sustainably for less.
What can I do to be more sustainable without spending a lot of money?
There are some really simple ways to become more sustainable in your everyday life. Small things that you wouldn’t expect to help, really do have an impact. According to Giff Gaff, there are some very simple ways of being greener without breaking the bank. For example:
Cut down on the plastics that you use. Plastic products are not only harmful to nature and the environment after they have been thrown in the bin, but they are also harmful when they are being produced because of the amount on toxic chemicals that plastics create. Even buying a bag for life and actually using it means that there is one less throw away plastic bag going into a landfill.
Get active. Not only is getting active by walking or cycling good for your mental and physical health, but it also cuts back on the number of cars on the road and the amount of CO2 emissions being produced. Plus, who really wants to be stuck in hours of traffic anyway? Really not good for your mental health!
Recycle your clothes and shop second hand. There are literally thousands of charity shops in the UK who not only give you brownie points for donating to a good cause but also ensures that the is a reduction of the millions of tonnes of textile waste that ends up in landfills each year. A lot of charities also offer free clothes collections too! So if you don’t want to, you don’t even have to leave your house! Charity shops are also cheaper to buy something new for yourself, you never know what hidden treasures can be found in them either!
Turn off your lights. Very simple, very easy, very effective. Make sure lights are turned off when you are not in the room and even better switch to LED lights (Light Emission Diode). In fact, all electrics, if they aren’t needed on in use, turn them off. It is just wasting electricity. Even when your electronics have become obsolete for you can help the environment by recycling them or donating your unwanted electronics to a charity who will do something good with them.
Who is helping with the cost of living and the environment?
Because of recent reports and news on how we are all damaging the world we live in, there are now hundreds of environmental charities, organisations and campaigns that you can work with to help the reduce the damage to the planet.
Even charities that you wouldn’t expect are now working with their partners and the people they support to do more to help the state of the world. Children charities are teaching the next generation about the importance of caring for nature, recycling, reusing and being less wasteful. Car companies are pledging to make their cars, the production and use of their cars greener and clothing companies are vowing to reduce the wastefulness of their clothing.
There are also hundreds of local charities and organisations that are helping people through these tough times by giving small grants to use for shopping, groceries at food banks, emotional and mental support and help with school supplies for children.
As you can see, the impact on our pockets and the impact on the environment go hand in hand. Though it is hard at the moment and looking after the environment may be one of the least of your concerns, it is easy to change small habits that can make a big difference.