Although trying to be ethical and sustainable consumer can seem like hard work, there are a few simple actions that can be taken to reduce your carbon emissions and create a better world for future generations with very little effort.
Your Energy Supplier
Big oil companies like Shell and BP have been held accountable for their actions in the sourcing and distribution of fossil fuels, but they're not the only ones that are making a profit from harming the planet. Many of the large energy suppliers in the UK are also liable for the destruction caused by gas and oil. This includes companies like British Gas, who source a significant part of the gas they supply from gas fields in the North Sea, causing massive damage to the delicate seabed.
Because the UK's energy industry is privatised, we have a choice in how our homes are powered and heated. There are a number of energy providers that are dedicated to providing renewable energy to their customers, including Ecotricity and Octopus. These providers not only ensure 100% of their electricity is from zero-carbon sources, but they also invest in renewable energy technology, provide paperless billing and encourage the use of smart meters so you can understand the energy you're using.
How You Bank
It's not just energy suppliers that have stakes in the oil and gas industry. A number of high street banks have huge investments in oil and gas, as well as in large corporations that are complicit in the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, the release of significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and even investments in companies that sell arms and military equipment (HSBC we are looking at you).
Fortunately there are alternatives. Some banks have begun to focus on ethical banking, like the Co-op Bank, Nationwide and Starling, who practice sustainable investment with a focus on women’s rights and education. They also boycott any companies involved in the global arms trade.
There are also a number of newcomers including Triodos and Monzo who have no high street presence, but focus on transparency with a list of all their investments published on their websites. These banks put people before profit, refusing to finance fossil fuels, fast fashion, tobacco and weapons & ammunition.
What You Eat
Watching what foods you buy and where you get them is an important step in reducing your carbon footprint and eating ethically. This includes:
Consider the miles your food has travelled to arrive at your supermarket when deciding what to buy. Locally sourced seasonal products have a far lower carbon impact. A great example of this is strawberries - British strawberries are delicious in the summer months, but in the winter most supermarket strawberries are grown in North Africa and Spain in heated greenhouses, producing a huge carbon footprint.
So much of what we find in supermarkets is wrapped in unnecessary plastic, particularly fruit and veg. Hassle-free alternatives include delivery boxes like Oddbox, and farmers' markets.
Chocolate, peanut butter and ready meals often contain palm oil, which is frequently sourced unsustainably. The palm plant only grows in the Amazon Rainforest, and huge amounts of rainforest is destroyed to create plantations. Look for palm oil free alternatives - you won't notice a difference in the taste!
What You Buy
Ensuring the products you choose are from ethical companies that behave in a sustainable way can be a bit of a minefield. A lot of the smaller brands that are regular fixtures in our kitchens and bathrooms are owned by big corporations like Nestle and Unilever, who have been complicit in human exploitation, destruction of land and over extraction of water.
You can easily find out more about the credentials of the companies you buy from on the Ethical Consumer website.