General consumption and waste

 In this session we focused on our consumption. We learned how it is a big proportion of our carbon footprint and how it tends to increase in line with our total household income (the more money we have the more we spend!). There is a relationship between what we buy, why we buy it and our identity.

 Our first exercise was to relate a purchase we were pleased with: Kew membership, solar PV, a battery to go with PV, second hand clothing, bikes, evening courses. And those we regretted: books, home improvements that go wrong, bad phone contract, speed dating nights, shoes and interestingly, bikes.

Then we discussed why we buy using the exercise on p29. Thoughts that occurred to us included: purchases for comfort or enrichment, is being green denying ourselves pleasure?, purchases leading to hoarding, friends who buy to cope, purchases to celebrate traditions (Christmas, carnival), days out with children, substituting ‘experiences’ for actual gifts especially when celebrating children’s birthdays.

 Our next exercise was to design a poster exploring the differences between personal needs and wants. One group drew three concentric circles with basic needs in the centre (food, warmth, housing, ?Wifi), then a middle ring for things like special food, entertainment, enrichment, studying etc and an outer area for purchases that we felt were extravagant and not needed like weekend breaks by air (some said these were a necessity to some people), art collections, extravagant jewelry, watches etc, private heated swimming pools and so on. The other group’s poster was a collection of drawings: community giving companionship and friendship which didn’t require expenditure, a mastercard advert for a festival, choices and thoughts when making purchases, children’s expectations.

 Our penultimate exercise was to think about five ‘ways to well-being’ published by the New Economics Foundation which explored the ideas of give, connect, keep learning, be active and take notice. We all thought about whether we do these in our lives and could we make more time in our lives to do them. Generally we thought these were good principles but sometimes it can be hard to keep a balance. One particular example is how family responsibilities can take up the time we might spend on learning, being with our friends, volunteering and so on. Another is how education can give us a double bonus of spending time with others of different age groups and life experiences. And also our busy-ness can mean that we miss what is going on around us especially in the natural world. 

Finally we thought about the things we didn’t get a chance to say during the evening – being too busy in our lives, remembering to be compassionate to ourselves, working towards the NEF Five ways, paying attention, new ideas for home improvements, the carbon significance of un-deleted emails (server space and carbon footprint!), unsubscribing to unread emails.

 Thank you to Ben for hosting our group and to Peter for the wonderful cake!