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by Ian Gulland
15 September 2021
Associate Feature: We need to re-think consumption to tackle the climate crisis

Associate Feature: We need to re-think consumption to tackle the climate crisis

Scotland needs a system-wide change that enables us all to choose more sustainable ways to live. We know that a circular economy is one of the solutions as it promises to maximise value from the goods we already have in circulation while relieving pressure on finite natural materials, like oil and precious metals. When we dispose of a product, particularly a new one, we are wasting the embedded carbon emissions, not just the physical item itself.

Our tendency to rely on overconsumption and waste in this way is the main driver the climate crisis. The average Scot consumes 18.4 tonnes of materials every year – that’s the equivalent of 50kg per day on average.

A sustainable level of material use, which would still allow for a high quality of life, is about eight tonnes per person per year. Flying less, driving electric vehicles instead of petrol or diesel, and switching from oil and gas power to wind and other renewables are important but most of the damage we’re doing is caused by everything we consume and throw out.

Obviously, we can’t live on thin air. But we can make better choices about everything we choose to use. Behaviour change will be a key parameter in success, with fundamental changes needed in most facets of day-to-day life around how we travel, what we eat and the way we do business. This isn’t easily governable through policy or law.

It will be down to us to adopt and adapt to a net zero future that tackles the climate emergency. The appointment of Lorna Slater as Minister for Green Skills, the Circular Economy, and Biodiversity brings these important issues into the heart of government, and her portfolio reflects our objectives as we work to help Scotland and the planet both survive and thrive in the future.

Ian Gulland is chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland

This article was sponsored by Zero Waste Scotland

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