Image of a shopping bag with black smoke pouring out of it

Everything we buy has a carbon cost

09 Sep 21 4 minute read

Perhaps it’s time to shop differently? Watch our video to find out more...

You’ll be surprised how much your purchases cost...the planet

Around 80% of our carbon footprint in Scotland comes from consumption: from all the goods, materials and services which we produce, use and in the case of products, often throw out after just one use.

Every time we buy anything, be that a new laptop, lamp or loofah, we are heating the planet and using up its scarce resources - climate change is linked to what we buy because there is a carbon cost to everything we consume.

Our research showed that only one-fifth of people in Scotland are fully aware of the negative environmental impacts of our consumption of new products [1].

Only 1/5 of people in Scotland are fully aware of the negative environmental impacts of our consumption of new products but with everything we buy, be that a new laptop, lamp or loofah, we are heating the planet and using up its scarce resources.

What can I do to help reduce my carbon footprint?

When it comes to everything we consume – from flights to food and fashion to furnishings – buying and wasting less would help to reduce our carbon footprint.

We need to change from a ‘make, use, dispose of’ culture, referred to as the linear economy, to a more circular economy where we maximise the value of the products and materials we use to make them last as long as possible.  

Take a laptop for example - we’re not saying don’t buy laptops, rather in a circular economy reuse, repair and remanufacturing options would be prioritised instead of replacing with a brand-new machine after a short period of use. 

Businesses can lead with innovative new models such as leasing products to build long term relationships with customers, or redesigning technology to be modular allowing for ease of upgrade without the need to replace the entire device.

You can help by considering whether you really need what you are shopping for and thinking about the processes that products go through before reaching the shop floor or by making product choices based on how easy they are to reuse or repair. Reducing our demand for raw materials and new products would reduce global emissions that are speeding up climate change.

Our consumer research told us that many people know they can reduce their carbon footprint by flying less but only one fifth were aware that buying new products contributes to climate change.

Everyone can make small changes right now to reduce their carbon from consumption…

  1. Shop second-hand instead of buying brand new - clothes, furniture, electricals, toys, garden tools - you can pretty much get anything second-hand.

  2. Repair and reuse rather than throwing out.

  3. Take a reusable tub and cup to work for your lunchtime takeaway and hot drink. 

  4. Choose reusable products over single-use - reusable period products, washable wipes and safety razors are a great place to start!

Of course, it’s not just down to us as individuals to change how we consume, system change is required. Everyone must play their part if we are to create cohesive, innovative change in the timescales required.  

Politicians, policymakers and governments need to be engaged and prepared to act and set direction; businesses need to be primed to act and drive innovative change; and individuals need to be willing to change behaviour to create new demand for sustainable ways of living.

  • [1] Awareness Survey conducted by 56 Degree Insight for Zero Waste Scotland.1,017 adults aged 16+ in Scotland took part in online interviews between 24th and 31st March 2021.