Shop for sustainability
Buying goods made from sustainable resources means that you can help prevent raw materials from running out, and keep our favourite products on the shelves for years to come.
When you go shopping, you might want to consider whether the product you're about to buy has come from a sustainable resource. In other words, has the raw material been grown and harvested in a way that ensures it won't run out for future consumers, and that doesn't permanently damage the environment?
It's brown and covers a vast majority of the UK. Yes, we're talking about soil. Okay, so it's not the most riveting topic of conversation, but just take a moment to think about how many of the raw materials required to make the items on your shopping list have to be grown from soil. When crops are harvested, some nutrients are removed from the soil. If these nutrients aren't replaced in some way, crops won't be able to grow on it in future. Our friendly, sustainable farmer wouldn't just replenish the soil with nutrients, but he'd also make sure he'd do so without using non-renewable resources, such as oil or natural gas.
The Soil Association promotes sustainable farming by encouraging crop rotation (because different crops put in or take out different nutrients), planting cover crops to protect the soil from wind, rain and nutrient loss, and adding nutrients through composted farm manure and green waste. Keep an eye out for their symbol on product labels to ensure that the food you buy has met their high standards of production.
Many of us grew up viewing salmon as a luxury food in comparison to the battered cod you could pick up in a fish and chip shop. Today, the tables are turning. While salmon are farmed in large numbers, the numbers of haddock, cod and other white fish caught by fishermen have exceeded the rate at which they can be naturally replaced. As a result, fish stocks are falling dramatically. White fish aren't the only ones at risk - it's a sad fact that a mere 3% of the world's fish stocks are underexploited. This means that entire species of fish are threatened by extinction.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - an independent, non-profit organisation dedicated to finding a solution to over-fishing - has developed an environmental standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries. Look for the distinctive MSC blue label to ensure the fish comes from an approved fishery, or check out the 'where to buy' section to find out which products are MSC-labelled in the UK
Wood and paper
Deforestation is one of the greatest environmental concerns facing the world today. It happens when trees are removed and not enough new trees are planted, or are able to be grown, in their place. A world with no trees would mean the end to the use of wood as a material for buildings, furniture, paper and other products. It would also reduce soil fertility and make it vulnerable to being washed away by rainwater, while ecosystems would be damaged because animals would lose their homes and sources of food, and global warming would be increased since trees are important for absorbing carbon dioxide. You get the gloomy picture!
So what can you do to stop this nightmare scenario unfolding any faster? Again, it's all about labels. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) - an independent, non-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting the sustainable management of the world's forests - has developed a system of forest certification and product labelling that enables consumers to identify wood and wood-based products from forests that are managed in a way that doesn't harm the environment. The FSC label can be found on over 10,000 products on the British high street alone - including garden furniture, decking, sheds, conservatories, tools, bird boxes, kitchens, paper, pencils, wall paper and furniture.
Article produced by the Choose Action Alliance.
By Sarah White
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