At the shops
Every time you shop you have an opportunity to make a powerful statement about what you the customer want.
Manufacturers only produce goods if people are prepared to buy them. If we won't, they have the best possible incentive to adapt.
The growth of green consumerism has already encouraged some manufacturers to change the sorts of products they make. Many of these changes have been extremely positive, but the pressure needs to be kept up.
Many supermarkets and shops are now making efforts to stock environmentally-friendly and cruelty-free products. You can support these efforts by buying such products in preference to others.
Before you buy, try asking yourself the following questions:
Mahatma Gandhi said, "The earth has enough for our need, but not for our greed." In developed countries we consume, per person per year, many tens of times as much as in the Third World.
Just thinking about these points before you buy, will really help to encourage environmentally responsible manufacturing.
The power of consumer pressure has been clearly demonstrated in recent years as manufacturers and supermarket chains have developed new ranges of less environmentally damaging products. Support these efforts, though beware of false claims. Become a compulsive label-reader and insist that products are labelled properly.
Recyclable products can be made from paper, rubber, steel, aluminium or glass. Non- recyclable products such as foam-blown trays or containers are a major source of solid and toxic wastes as well as greenhouse gases.
A receipt is all you need as proof of purchase. Don't accept bags or wrappers which are not necessary and say why you don't want them. Buy products which save on packaging, such as concentrated washing powders or refill packs of standard products.
Choose products with a long life and you will be keeping the energy used in manufacturing new goods to a minimum. Remember, if it's disposable and convenient, it probably contributes to the greenhouse effect. Cloth nappies, razors with replaceable blades and glassware are examples of durable products. If you must use disposable nappies then make sure the manufacturing process does not involve chlorine bleaching. Maintain and repair your possessions so that they last as long as possible.
Buy in bulk. Many products, such as washing powders and detergents, toilet paper, grains and nuts, can be bought in large quantities saving on packaging and energy-consuming shopping expeditions and money! Whenever possible, share a car when going to the supermarket. Perhaps you could arrange to split bulk purchases with friends and neighbours?
Buying locally-grown produce reduces the energy and air pollution caused by transporting and refrigerating produce grown further afield. Asking for organic produce encourages and supports farming that is pesticide and chemical-fertiliser free.
To produce and transport food stuffs over long distances requires enormous amounts of energy. These products are often contaminated with preservatives, pesticides and herbicides or have been irradiated or gentically-engineered to increase their shelf-life and enhance their appearance.
Always take your own bag keep it by the door so you don't forget. If you do have plastic carrier bags then reuse them and refuse any more. Avoiding plastics, which cannot be easily recycled, and reducing paper use are important ways of limited carbon dioxide emissions.
Become familiar with all characteristics that are potentially harmful to the environment. Do not buy food that has been heavily processed or which contains unnecessary artificial additives or preservatives. Buy free-range eggs rather than battery-produced ones battery hens spend their lives in cages not much bigger than an A4 sheet of paper. Eat organic fruit and vegetables they don't contain chemicals.
If you haven't already, try eating vegetarian food. The lower on the food chain we eat - eating vegetables, grains and pulses rather than meat the less natural resources are used in food production. Eating meat means grain is fed to livestock rather than to people. It has meant the destruction of massive tracts of forest for grazing land. If you eat meat, then make sure it is from animals that have been raised and killed humanely.
Junk foods are invariably heavily processed so a lot of energy is used in their manufacture and they are full of additives and preservatives.
Write to government ministers asking that tax incentives be used to promote organic farming methods. You could also suggest that high taxes be imposed on the sale and use of nitrogen-based fertilisers. This would reduce both water pollution and emissions of nitrous oxide. It would also stop our precious topsoil being degraded.
Led by glossy advertising, we all fall into the trap of thinking that a new purchase will make the world a brighter place. In fact, unnecessary consumption, by wasting energy and resources, will do just the opposite. Don't buy what you don't need! Rent or borrow items that you aren't likely to use often.