Sustainability

The role of consumers in the clean economy

  • 06 January 2022
  • 5min read

The threat of climate change has been increasing rapidly due to many reasons. One of which is growing populations and their increasing wealth, which puts greater pressure on the earth’s natural resources by increasing demand for energy, transportation, food, water and more. As governments set net-zero targets1 to tackle climate change and transition to a low carbon economy, innovative solutions to reduce greenhouse gases and cut pressure on scarce resources are necessary.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)2 Special Report on global warming predicts that temperatures could reach 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels as soon as 2030 – which likely increases risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, economic growth and more. The report marks a significant milestone and solidifies the importance of addressing the climate transition. It also acknowledged the need to transition from fossil-based fuel reliance towards greener, renewable alternatives.

In the race to net zero, individuals are taking on an increased responsibility to help protect our planet, and here are a few of the ways that they are participating in this trend:

Heating your home

Nearly two-thirds (64%)3 of household energy consumption in the European Union in 2019 went on heating homes. That’s significant given that according to one EPA study, we spend on average 90%4 of our time indoors. From having a smart meter to monitor your energy usage to choosing a provider that generates power using renewable resources, there are several steps you can take to heat your home in a more environmentally friendly way.

On your breakfast table

More than a third5 of the food that is produced in the US is lost or wasted each year. This is a huge problem globally, and one that requires efforts across government policy, corporates and consumer behavior. One example of a company making inroads into this issue is Christian Hansen*, which provides solutions for extending the shelf life of dairy products.

Agriculture is causing damage to oceans– for example, excess fertilizer run-off is threatening oceans and waterways6. Shop with precision agriculture companies aiming to enable more crops to be grown using less water and fewer chemicals – kinder to the environment and improving harvests such as the wheat used in your cereals.

Household waste and out and about

Up to 50 million tons7 of electronic and electrical waste is created every year, but electronics recycling companies can help people to recycle their old computers, televisions and more.

In addition, by 2030, more than half of US car sales are expected to be electric vehicles (EVs). Choosing to purchase an EV instead of a petrol or diesel one is a way of helping combat climate change and this is a growing area of interest.

Leisure time

Companies operating leisure and entertainment facilities are increasingly looking at how they can make their premises more sustainable. For example, due to Alfen*, The Hague football stadium8 in the Netherlands can generate its own energy from solar panels, which are then stored during the day to light the stadium at night. The energy also powers EV chargers for the cars the spectators use to travel there.

Sports fans who have something to eat and drink while they watch the match can also make positive changes that help the environment. Certain foods such as beef have a much higher carbon footprint9 than other plant-based alternatives. US food company Beyond Meat* commissioned a study that found its plant-based burger generated 90% less10 greenhouse gas emissions than a quarter pound of beef.

When it comes to soft drinks, choosing an aluminum can rather than a plastic bottle can be much better for the environment as they are 100% recyclable. Some 370 billion cans11 are sold globally each year, and more than 100,000 aluminum cans12 are recycled in the US every minute, according to Wastecare Corp*.

New areas of potential

Consumers are swiftly changing their consumption habits and are playing a more active role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions – from the provenance of ingredients and raw materials to the environmental impact of finished products and packaging. Meanwhile, governments and corporates are increasingly committed to net-zero targets and are adapting accordingly, seeking clean energy, storage and energy efficiency services.

*All stocks mentioned are for illustrative purposes only and should not be considered as advice or a recommendation for an investment strategy.

  • www.cnn.com/2021/12/08/politics/biden-executive-order-net-zero-government-2050-climate/index.html
  • www.ipcc.ch/2021/08/09/ar6-wg1-20210809-pr/
  • https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=Energy_consumption_in_households
  • https://www.epa.gov/report-environment/indoor-air-quality
  • https://www.usda.gov/foodlossandwaste/why
  • https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/27/climate/nitrogen-fertilizers-climate-change-pollution-waterways-global-warming.html
  • https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/un-report-time-seize-opportunity-tackle-challenge-e-waste
  • https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/un-report-time-seize-opportunity-tackle-challenge-e-waste
  • https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/un-report-time-seize-opportunity-tackle-challenge-e-waste
  • https://css.umich.edu/publication/beyond-meats-beyond-burger-life-cycle-assessment-detailed-comparison-between-plant-based
  • https://www.wboc.com/story/44195113/beverage-cans-market-size-2021-with-a-cagr-of-research-by-business-opportunities-top-companies-report-covers-market-specific-challenges-globally
  • https://www.wastecare.com/Articles/Aluminum_Cans_Recycling.htm

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