Impact of the Cost of Living Crisis on the Environment

by Kate Donovan

Households in the UK are facing the largest hikes in the cost of living in over 30 years. In the last year we have seen shortages and panic buying, fuel price increases, food supply issues and increased food costs. 

One third of households could struggle to meet rising costs, and in times like this, can people afford to be concerned about the environment?

Lower disposable income will mean people having to make choices. Choosing cheaper options while food shopping is one way to do this. This may mean choosing less organic or free range produce. These products usually have a lower environmental impact. 

People may also avoid spending on reusables as they require more of an upfront investment than cheap disposable items like wipes, water bottles and sandwich packs. So there is a real fear that single use and therefore waste and pollution will increase.

The main impact the current crisis could have on the environment, however is derailing the plan to be 'Net-Zero' by 2050. Net -Zero is the UK Government's commitment to extract as much carbon as it emits into the atmosphere, halting our impact on climate change. If the Government cannot afford to invest in large projects to achieve this - will it fail?

The truth is, this needs different thinking.

We cannot afford to keep going the way we are, so things need to change.

And financial incentives are the greatest motivators for changing human behaviour! Energy efficiency in our homes and business, changing how we travel and waste reduction will all lead to lower carbon emissions. All will bring us closer to our goal of Net Zero.

As costs of heating your home increases, it will become more cost effective to insulate homes or change fuel sources and heating methods. Government and local council help for upgrading boilers/heating systems or changing to low carbon systems does already exist, and it needs to improve. These methods will reduce bills by reducing fuel use which in turn reduces our emissions. As more people invest in renewable heating sources, their prices come down and more people will be able to afford them.

The Government needs to ensure that the 'Future Homes and Buildings Standard' is fully implemented. This is a set of standards to ensure new homes built from 2025 will produce 75-80% less carbon emissions than homes delivered under current regulations.

Rising cost for petrol and diesel will mean people will try and use their car as little as possible. Public transport or alternatives such as cycling and car sharing will become more attractive. There will be an increased interest in electric cars which will push the technology forward and the prices down. All these will lead to lower emissions.

Food waste is a big waste of money in many households, and if disposable income is lower it will incentivise people to reduce this waste, which will lead to a huge reduction in environmental impact.

Purchasing single use and disposable may seem like a cheaper option, but it is only over the short term. We can help people understand the savings that they will make over a longer period of time if they switch to reusable items in their daily lives. And make sure that these swaps are affordable to start with.

Whilst it seems like we are being pushed away from our path towards sustainability, this current crisis might be the biggest driver for environmental change this century.

If you are looking for inspiration for changes yourself, have a look at our new Green Guide to Saving Money + the Planet. With over 100 tips to save you money whilst reducing your environmental impact, it is a good place to start!



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