With the cost of living crisis worsening in the UK, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to make ethical decisions when shopping lately. Our energy bills are sky high, our fuel bills are through the roof, food shopping is noticeably more expensive and it’s hard to see where it’s going to stop. Working in education in quite a deprived area, I know that a lot of our families have been struggling for some time. If we, as a two parent family with a decent income between us, are starting to feel the pinch, how on earth are those already struggling going to cope?
Whilst I still believe it’s possible to source some products that are both cheap and environmentally friendly, the fact of the matter is that when people are desperately worried about surviving day to day, they aren’t going to be in a position to make ethical decisions about the products they consume. When people are skipping meals, unable to afford the gas or electricity to cook food, unable to afford dental care or prescriptions, unable to maintain levels of hygiene, the environment is not high up their list of priorities, even if they’d like it to be. When people are relying on foodbanks, they aren’t going to look in a bag of donated food and request a more environmentally friendly version. Zero waste is a privilege.
And yet, the climate crisis hasn’t gone away any more than the cost of living crisis has. The climate crisis is more urgent than ever. But still we have a government refusing to make drastic changes. They are still hand-in-hand with fossil fuel companies, still allowing water companies to pollute our waterways whilst leaks go unfixed (during a drought!). And they aren’t helping the cost of living crisis either. Energy companies and water companies are reporting profits in their billions, whilst some public sector wages haven’t risen in ten years. Any wage increases that have been implemented are actually not a rise when inflation and cost of living increases are taken into account.
The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer under this capitalist government, which is no surprise when capitalism focuses on economic growth above everything else. What is really needed is big change. And I mean BIG! Change of government, change of systems, change of attitudes. I think the energy, transport and water companies need to be re-nationalised and their profits taken from them and put back in to lowering bills and subsidising public transport. The back door privatisation of our National Health Service needs to stop and instead there should be a huge injection of funds for training and maintaining staff. And this is just a start!
When people are finally seeing increases in income and decreases in outgoings, perhaps zero waste won’t be such a privilege. Until then, we can only do what we can do, just as when I wrote about refusing to feel guilty for medical-related waste.
If you’re in the fortunate position that you can make a few changes to be more environmentally friendly or you can encourage some eco changes in your workplace or school, then Zero Waste Week 2022 is coming up. This year it runs from the 5th to the 9th of September and the theme is Refill and Reuse.
I’ll hopefully be sharing some tips on my Facebook page and on Twitter, but I’m going to try to be sensitive to the financial difficulties people are experiencing at the moment. So I’ll be focusing on refill and reuse that can save you money, either in the short term or the long term, and that don’t require a lot of effort and energy (your own or your household). You can sign up for Zero Waste Week here and we’d love to see you joining us in any way you can.