The Carbon Files (Part Four)- Don’t shop ’til you drop

I recently saw an interview in which a celebrity was asked what she would do in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Her reply was: ‘I’d lock myself in a supermarket, where there’s everything I need to survive.’

Supermarkets really do seem to sell absolutely everything we need for day-to-day life. It makes our life easier, and means that all the essential supplies we need are right next to each other. Supermarkets are a huge part of our life- according to the Daily Mail, an average woman spends eight years of her life shopping.

In carbon terms, this is bad news.

Making anything we buy, especially electronic devices like smartphones, uses resources like crazy. Electronics particularly need metals which take a huge amount of energy to extract and then use. Everything from the battery to the plastic casing uses materials to make and takes energy to produce.

According to the Ecologist, the iPhone 5S has a carbon footprint of 70kg including the carbon produced during its lifetime. That’s pretty significant, and if you’re buying every new phone on the market, the waste adds up quickly. So try to ignore the siren call of the newest gadget- chances are you don’t need half of the fancy things it can do- and stick with your tried-and-tested old phone.

But it’s not just electronic devices we need to watch out for. Everything we buy from the supermarket has a carbon footprint. That bag of organic apples in a plastic bag does, even if the packaging is the main killer. One kilo of plastic has a six kilo carbon footprint, and I’ve not even added the carbon emitted in transporting the apples to be packaged and then sold.

So the three main things the woman escaping the zombie apocalypse, but wanting to preserve our planet at the same time, should be looking out for are: Carbon emissions from product manufacture (there are some carbon neutral companies, watch this space), distance the product has travelled and packaging used.

If you live in Europe, you don’t want the South American grapes and the pyjamas from Japan. Wherever possible, avoid packaging: you can buy loose fruit and put it in your own bag, for instance, and buy in bulk where you can. That one might seem a little contradictory, but squash a huge cereal pack, say one kilo, and a kilo’s worth of little packs, spread them out flat and see which side has less packaging.

Also, multipacks suck. You know, the bag of individually-wrapped sweets? Avoid them like the plague, because that’s unnecessary packaging gone mad.

And for when you leave the shop, take your own long-lasting bag along with you and say no to the plastic bags. Come on, cloth bags are way cooler.

~ this whole wide world

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