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A personal mission to reduce carbon emissions
June 24, 2022
Making more sustainable choices has always felt to me like the more expensive, inaccessible option. For that mindset, I blame persistent marketing from the early adopting brands, steadily building an association between an ’earth-friendly’ sticker and a higher price point. Leading us to believe that the only way to save the planet is to buy these premium ‘eco’ products & drive an electric car. Options that, amidst a cost-of-living crisis, feel as though they must take a back seat in favour of cheaper alternatives.
But, as I sit with colleagues on a train from Paris to Cannes to attend the Lions Festival, making a journey by rail that we’ve historically flown, I’m reflecting on what I’ve learned of the reality of making more sustainable decisions in my personal life. Much of which I wouldn’t have learned, were I not in the advantaged position of working for a company, and immersed in an industry, focused on progress in sustainability. I’ve learned that some of the most impactful changes we can make, as individuals, are those that can also save us money in the short term. So, a drastic change in perception is needed. Lest we continue to avoid what feels like a privilege due to this historic association with a higher cost. Our industry is responsible for changing the public mindset. A few brands have made recent positive noise, with unique campaigns, working to subvert the precedent and show consumers that sustainability doesn't always need to cost more.
Attending Cannes Lions in years past, I've been sure to buy myself a couple of crisp new shirts, and a pair of boat shoes, to look the part. This year, I’ll only be wearing pre-loved shirts to meetings & events in Cannes. Inspired by eBay’s partnership with Love Island, who this year decided to ditch their existing fast-fashion partners in favour of a ’pre-loved marketplace’, and some in-house research we produced to share with our retail clients. This brought to my attention terms like ’retail bracketing’ (the harmful consumer practice of buying multiple sizes and colours of an item, online, with the intention of returning those you choose not to keep - most of which goes straight to landfill) and the arguably under-reported impact of the fashion industry on the environment; estimated to contribute 10% of annual global carbon emissions.
Learning this, I’d already found myself on eBay, a brand for whom sustainability is hugely important, and in vintage shops, pre-Cannes. If I can source the same branded items, cheaper, with less harm to the environment, why wouldn’t I? So, when the eBay x Love Island partnership was announced, I knew it was a significant one. A powerful example of two brands, with enormous reach and influence, raising awareness of a sustainable, and cost-effective, practice amongst a younger audience. Delivering a message in complete contrast to their existing one. If the Islanders can do it, why can’t all of us?
Having also learned about the impact of food waste on the environment, again as part of internal research for clients, I found myself hugely conscious of wastage at home. In addition to being a social and humanitarian concern, the estimated 36% of wasted food that goes to landfill produces harmful, and avoidable, greenhouse gases. Our research brought me to the shocking statistic that, in the UK, if we could bring our food waste to zero, we could save the equivalent of at least 17 million tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. The environmental equivalent of taking one in five cars off UK roads.
With more days spent working from home, and in an effort to reduce wastage after reading these stats, I introduced my own version of a MasterChef invention test when cooking lunch or dinner, once a week. Tesco have taken this concept many steps further, with their ‘Use Up Day’ campaign. Encouraging shoppers to schedule a regular day, delaying their next big shop, to create a meal with what’s left in their cupboards and fridges. Not only making each grocery shop last that little bit longer, creating a regular saving, but with an overt focus on reducing harmful food waste.
Tesco are setting the example for other brands by selflessly investing their media budget to promote another sustainable, cost-saving practice to the public. This campaign, and the many pages within their website (further ideas to reduce food wastage, how to offer up spare food via sharing app Olio, recipes for leftovers) show just how committed Tesco are to driving tangible change and altering the public mindset.
Finally, I learned how surprisingly inexpensive carbon credits are (starting around £10 per tonne) and how easy it is to off-set residual emissions, using the approach we take at Mobsta to ensure all our media campaigns are climate positive. So much so, that I could off-set one month of my estimated household emissions (around 1 metric tonne) with the money I saved buying a pre-loved shirt, rather than a new one, and introducing a weekly use up day at home. We needn’t neglect sustainable choices in the interest of avoiding an additional cost. It doesn’t have to cost anything to reduce your carbon footprint, or even end up net zero at the end of a month. In fact, making more sustainable choices can save us money. The issue is one of awareness. An issue that some brands are already tackling in a great way.
As an individual, these may only be marginal gains but gains, nonetheless. And right now we can all do that little bit more to make a big difference.