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The Choice is Yours

The sales are here! Time to pick up a bargain! Or is it?

Love or hate them sales have become a way of life, offering us lower prices to encourage us to part with our money. Which would be great if we could buy what we really needed. Instead we tend to find things for sale that couldn’t be sold at normal prices – larger or smaller than average sizes; outdated fashion and technology items; end-of-line stock; seasonal overstock and the plain unwanted.

Sales are now an essential part of a retailer’s business plans, partly to encourage us to part with our money and buy from them but also as a way of selling as much of the overstock they have left on the shelves, at the end of a ‘season’, as possible. Stock held to ensure that they can meet demand and stop us going somewhere else to shop.

But of course, we can’t just blame the sales, it happens throughout the year. The larger retailers now stock thousands of line items, to ensure we are given the choice they believe we want - when we want it, in order to be competitive, which inevitably means an overstock of many items, and in the case of food it leads to products being sold off cheaply or more worryingly becoming waste, when the ‘sell-by’ date is reached, on every day of the week.

There is of course a cost associated with this overstocking and it’s not just about money. All goods have a carbon cost, as well as a financial cost, regardless of whether they are wanted or unwanted, which comes from the carbon emissions produced during manufacture, shipping, storage and in the case of unwanted products, disposal.

Some of the monetary cost associated with this overstocking is recovered by the retailer by charging a premium on the goods that we do buy, making them more expensive than they should be. We actually buy part of an unwanted item when we buy one we really want - without owning any of it.

Unfortunately recovering some of the carbon cost of these unwanted items is not quite so easy. Yes, there are suppliers, like Bettys & Taylors of Harrogate, who offset their carbon costs by planting millions of trees but there are many who take no action at all, and we can never plant enough trees to offset all of the associated carbon emissions - we need to stop them happening in the first place.

The problem of course lies in that word ‘choice’. Suppliers and retailers believe we want choice and that they need to give it to be competitive. There is no denying, we all like choice and in some cases, it is essential but we are entering a decade where we need to consider our choices very carefully, if we are to address the climate crisis we face.

We will need to accept less choice in some areas of our lives and give greater thought to the choices we do make if we are to secure a sustainable future for generations to come, who will have no choice at all if we fail to act.

We must make it clear to suppliers and retailers that we don’t want choice at the expense of climate destruction. What we do want is the ability to make sensible choices based on clear facts. We want to know what the carbon cost of producing the products we buy was. We want the choice to buy from suppliers who use sustainable materials or services.

Buying seasonal goods from local suppliers, wherever possible, is a good start and why not begin 2020 by checking where your electricity comes from – is it from a sustainable provider?

Use your choices to make a difference. Take a look at our Ten Pledges and see how many you can choose to adopt this year.


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