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The UN’s ‘code red’ warning on the climate emergency this week highlights the urgent need for everyone to act now to end the everyday waste behind the crisis

The warning from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was “code red for humanity” piled pressure on governments worldwide ahead of the upcoming COP26 climate crisis summit in Glasgow.  

Iain Gulland | 17 Aug 21

He made no bones of the fact that to end the climate crisis we depend on global leaders to agree and enact urgent change. As he said, ‘we owe this to the entire human family, especially the poorest and most vulnerable communities and nations that are the hardest hit despite being least responsible for today’s climate emergency.’ 

He is absolutely right. But while tougher policies and legislation can and do help, we can’t afford to sit and wait for COP26. We all need to act right now by doing things differently each day at home and work. We already have the power to help save the planet and those in direst need who suffer the consequences of our lifestyle choices.  

A shopping list might sound irrelevant or insignificant but it can make a real difference. So can choosing to reuse, repair or rent everything you can instead of always buying new.

That’s because in Scotland, the single biggest cause of the climate crisis is everything we produce, buy and then bin, too often after just one use. Our wasteful mass consumption habit consistently accounts for around 80 per cent of our national carbon footprint. Around half of all that stuff is imported from other countries who are left to deal with the environmental fallout we’re creating. 

We can prevent that by collectively ditching our throwaway society and make things last longer by using them again and again instead of wasting stuff.  

Shopping smarter means choosing reusables instead of disposables, buying secondhand instead of new. Hiring things like DIY tools that commonly lurk unused in cupboards because we don’t really need them.  

A simple shopping list really helps too by enabling us to waste less through planning what we really need. Food waste costs households, businesses and the planet dearly both economically and environmentally. It not only wastes the food itself but all the precious, carbon-intensive resources used to produce, deliver and prepare it. And if wasted food then rots in landfill, it also produces one of the most potent greenhouse gases. 

We’ve estimated that on average Scots waste around £460 per household per year on food they don’t eat, while companies across Scotland collectively lose millions of pounds per annum on wasted food.  

So, while the latest IPCC report prompted fresh concern that consumers faced higher prices for flights and electricity and gas bills to beat the climate crisis, we can save cash and the planet just by wasting less.  

Our experts have already helped hundreds of Scottish businesses find ways to cut their food waste which typically save firms around £5000 per year. 

person putting food peelings into a food waste caddy

There has been an understandable desire to support companies and communities as we emerge from the lockdowns imposed to combat the COVID-19 crisis. But saving the planet and the economy are not mutually exclusive. We can do both, and we must. 

Kicking our mass consumption habit will support the growing number of innovative companies which we help to pioneer Scotland’s vital sustainable revolution, bringing much-needed greener jobs. 

Everyone can help by choosing to give their custom to these firms, such as leasing refurbished IT equipment for their business from Re-Tek in East Kilbride or renting everyday clothing from firms including Sioda in Stirling. 

The climate crisis is still the greatest challenge of our lifetime. And while it does show the urgent need for governments to do more, it also highlights the opportunity for us all to act now to end the everyday waste behind the crisis.

And we can’t afford to wait until COP26 in November. We must act now.

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