(International-261) August 31 – To reduce emissions, we must reduce consumption!

bicyclesirian

PERSONAL NOTE: THIS is the main message of Sir Ian, on how to save our lives in the years to come: “We’ve got to reduce demand to a much greater extent than we have in the past, and if we don’t reduce demand we’re not going to reduce emissions.”Emissions are a symptom of consumption and unless we reduce consumption we’ll not reduce emissions.”

The 2nd article below is about one person response in England to Sir Ian’s message…from the perspective of a female in England and what she thinks the message means to her and what she must do to save the world!

Peace, steve, usa august 31, 2019    stephenehling@hotmail.com   blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com

Climate change: Big lifestyle changes ‘needed to cut emissions’

By Roger HarrabinBBC environment analyst

 

People must use less transport, eat less red meat and buy fewer clothes if the UK is to virtually halt greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the government’s chief environment scientist has warned.

Prof Sir Ian Boyd said the public had little idea of the scale of the challenge from the so-called Net Zero emissions target.

However, he said technology would help.

The conundrum facing the UK – and elsewhere – was how we shift ourselves away from consuming, he added.

In an interview with BBC News, Sir Ian warned that persuasive political leadership was needed to carry the public through the challenge.

Asked whether Boris Johnson would deliver that leadership, he declined to comment.

Mr Johnson has already been accused by environmentalists of talking up electric cars whilst reputedly planning a cut in driving taxes that would increase emissions and undermine the electric car market.

 

Sir Ian said polluting activities should incur more tax. He believes the Treasury should reform taxation policy to reward people with low-carbon lifestyles and nudge heavy consumers into more frugal patterns of behaviour.

It was vital, he said, for the changes to be fair to all parts of society.

He also believes Net Zero won’t happen unless the government creates a Net Zero ministry to vet the policies of all government departments in the way the Brexit ministry vets Brexit-related decisions.

Emissions won’t be reduced to Net Zero while ministers are fixed on economic growth measured by GDP, instead of other measures such as environmental security and a relatively stable climate, he argued.

Asked why the UK should take the lead when China’s emissions are so high, he answered that the Chinese government was very worried about the climate and was taking it very seriously.

Ian has been in his post as the government’s chief environment scientist for seven years

Sir Ian, a polar expert with a chair in biology at St Andrews University, suggested that the UK was in a good position to show the world how to achieve Net Zero. But he agreed that similar radical action was ultimately needed by all nations.

He said that on broader issues the government had produced (or was in the process of producing) impressive strategies on the environment, waste, air pollution, marine and food.

Some ministers were enthusiastic to translate these into firm strategies, but they needed support from the public, he said. He confessed that he was not optimistic about the future of the planet because so many systems of government needed to change in a short time.

Sir Ian, who leaves Defra on Thursday after seven years in post, said: “The way we live our lives is generally not good for the environment.

“We like to consume things, but the more we consume the more we absorb the resources of the planet.

“That means we have to grow those resources or we have to mine them – and in doing that we generate waste. And consumption is going up all the time.

“(There’s) a conundrum – how do we shift ourselves from consuming? We need to do more about learning to live sustainably. We talk about sustainability but we don’t really know what it means.

“We need to make major technological advances in the way we use and reuse materials but we (also) need to reduce demand overall – and that means we need to change our behaviours and change our lifestyles.

“We certainly won’t be able to travel so much as we have in the past, so we have to get used to using modern communications methods.

“Moving material round the planet will be more difficult so we’ll have to do more with 3D printing; that sort of thing.

is required of new technologies such as 3D printing

“We’ve got to reduce demand to a much greater extent than we have in the past, and if we don’t reduce demand we’re not going to reduce emissions.

“Emissions are a symptom of consumption and unless we reduce consumption we’ll not reduce emissions.

“It will very rarely come down to a direct message like ‘sorry, you can’t buy that but you can buy this’. But there will be stronger messages within the (tax) system that make one thing more attractive than the other.”

He said UK government strategies were in place on air, environment, resources, waste, marine, and food. “[Ministers] need to be persuasive.”

Asked if he was optimistic about the future of the planet, he said: “We have the intelligence to do it; we have the potential to develop the technologies to do it… I’m doubtful that we have the governance structures to make it happen at the speed it needs to happen at.”

Richard Black, from the think tank Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said Sir Ian’s words were “somewhat surprising”.

He added: “They appear to contradict the mass of evidence assembled on getting to Net Zero, including the major report from the government’s statutory adviser the Committee on Climate Change.”

I understand that the Confederation of British Industry, the CBI, accept there will have to be behavioural change to meet Net Zero.

A source in the organisation said they were frustrated that government climate policies were currently too weak.

Given the very broad nature of Sir Ian’s comments, we approached Downing Street for a comment.

They declined and passed us back to Sir Ian’s department, Defra. But their statement didn’t address any of his key questions about governance, leadership and consumption.

It said: “The impact of climate change is clear and demands urgent action from countries around the world. The UK has already shown global leadership by becoming the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions by 2050 – but we know there is more to do.

“That’s why we’re reforming farming policy to reward environmental actions, reviewing our food system to ensure it is more sustainable, taking steps to accelerate tree-planting and peatland restoration, and introducing a flagship Environment Bill to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age.”

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin

 

 

Shop less, live more – save the planet. It doesn’t sound that bad to me

 

Gaby Hinsliff

A sustainable environment means consuming less, not differently. With retail therapy losing its appeal, that should be easy

Sat 31 Aug 2019 THE GUARDIAN

Women love shopping, don’t they? Everyone knows we were born to do it; that left to our own devices we like nothing better than spending all day in some changing room, leaving our menfolk slumped outside in abject boredom, praying for it to be over. Except it’s not true, or certainly not for all women, and almost certainly never has been. Only 29% of women actually say they enjoy shopping, according to the retail analysts Mintel; for most of the rest it’s somewhere between actively anxiety-inducing (especially for anyone uncomfortable with stripping in front of a mirror) and merely rather boring.

 

Too much advice about going green involves pushing slightly less toxic alternatives to things we don’t particularly need

Women have been conditioned to envisage shopping as a lovely treat, a guilty pleasure so intense we must sneak around and lie about how much we spend, even though the reality of trudging round shopping malls falls far short of the dream. But while the idea of retail therapy as the ultimate drug is so embedded in female culture that it often goes unquestioned, on reflection I don’t love shopping any more; in fact I don’t love it at all.

When did a Saturday mooching round the shops stop feeling like a luxury, and start feeling more like bad sex; something you thought you wanted at the time, but which swiftly congeals to regret and self-loathing? I can still remember the teenage thrill of trying on everything in Miss Selfridge, but it’s years since I got any kind of real high from the high street. Now the sheer scale of choice feels exhausting, while the business of piling up stuff at home for the sake of it – yet another cushion, dress or lipstick – increasingly borders on the obscene.

Perhaps this odd, deflated feeling is just a middle-aged thing, a sign of having acquired more than enough over the decades. It’s almost certainly a rather spoilt thing, when those watching every penny can only dream of having all the stuff they need. But for whatever reason, this week’s warning from Sir Ian Boyd, outgoing chief scientific adviser at Defra, that getting to zero emissions means not just consuming differently – switching to sustainable cotton T-shirts, say – but consuming far less, strikes a chord. Too much advice about going green involves pushing slightly less toxic alternatives to things we don’t particularly need, to distract us from thinking about whether they were necessary in the first place.

Sure, a reusable metal straw is better for marine life than a plastic one. But who honestly needs a straw? (And yes, I know some disabled people need one to drink; but let’s not pretend the vast majority of straws aren’t used by perfectly able-bodied kids at parties, or to avoid smudging lipstick, or to slurp up milkshakes so stiff with ice-cream they must be vacuumed out of the cup.) Making and shipping a metal object halfway across the world for no particularly good reason is a demented use of carbon, a solution to a problem that for most people doesn’t exist. Going green has to be about reducing what we buy, reusing what’s already there, and reimagining our habits rather than just rebranding them.

The counter-argument, of course, is that this kind of mindless shopping might not be pretty but it keeps people in jobs every step of the way; from manufacturing to distribution, marketing, managing, taxing and selling. When Boyd talks about privileging a sustainable planet over economic growth, that’s a polite way of describing a future where living standards (in the economic sense at least) will be lower than they would have been; a world of prosperity foregone, with real consequences for real people, and especially those on low incomes. If you want to know what lower, slower growth feels like in reality, we’ve just lived through a decade of it, thanks to the banking crash.

But Boyd puts his finger on an awkward truth, which is that we can’t go on blundering towards environmental disaster while telling ourselves that this is what makes us happy, when that simply isn’t true. Too much shopping is, like comfort eating, little more than a means of filling the emptiness inside. Once the sugar rush wears off, a faint feeling of nausea remains, followed by the urge to purge. Fast fashion fixes that get worn a few times and then thrown away are arguably forgivable in 19-year-olds, who still aren’t sure who they are yet and want to dress up as someone new every Saturday night. But for those of us old enough to know better, who could eke out what’s in our overstuffed wardrobes for the rest of our natural lives if only we weren’t cowed by the fear of falling behind fashion – well, something has to give.

 Australia recycles paper and plastics. So why does clothing end up in landfill?

Graham Ross

For those who can’t bear going without something new, Oxfam has launched a Second Hand September challenge to buy no new clothes for a month; one way to capitalise on the virtuous, beginning-of-term feeling that autumn always brings. If you don’t want to contribute to the already precipitous decline of the high street, then another way of stemming the tide of junk is to shop locally or physically rather than online, and be stern about how much you really need anything that can’t be found that way.

Spending on experiences not tangible possessions is another form of economic compromise, since research suggests it’s the former that actually makes people happy. Personally I’ve never regretted a penny spent on cinema tickets (even if the film is terrible there’s always the joy of ruthlessly postmortem-ing it afterwards), anything done with friends or, to be brutally honest, cocktails. I would add books, if it weren’t for a few mistakes with overhyped titles that weren’t worth chopping down trees for; but really, each to their own. What matters is accepting both that going green means more than an excuse to go shopping, and that shopping less may not actually be the hardship it sounds. In the end, a life is made up of the things we have done, not the things we have bought. Understand that, and there is suddenly so much more of it waiting to be lived.

  • Gaby Hinsliff is a Guardian columnist

 

Climate change: Big lifestyle changes ‘needed to cut emissions’
By Roger HarrabinBBC environment analyst
• 29 August 2019

People must use less transport, eat less red meat and buy fewer clothes if the UK is to virtually halt greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the government’s chief environment scientist has warned.
Prof Sir Ian Boyd said the public had little idea of the scale of the challenge from the so-called Net Zero emissions target.
However, he said technology would help.
The conundrum facing the UK – and elsewhere – was how we shift ourselves away from consuming, he added.
In an interview with BBC News, Sir Ian warned that persuasive political leadership was needed to carry the public through the challenge.
Asked whether Boris Johnson would deliver that leadership, he declined to comment.
Mr Johnson has already been accused by environmentalists of talking up electric cars whilst reputedly planning a cut in driving taxes that would increase emissions and undermine the electric car market.

Sir Ian said polluting activities should incur more tax. He believes the Treasury should reform taxation policy to reward people with low-carbon lifestyles and nudge heavy consumers into more frugal patterns of behaviour.
It was vital, he said, for the changes to be fair to all parts of society.
He also believes Net Zero won’t happen unless the government creates a Net Zero ministry to vet the policies of all government departments in the way the Brexit ministry vets Brexit-related decisions.
Emissions won’t be reduced to Net Zero while ministers are fixed on economic growth measured by GDP, instead of other measures such as environmental security and a relatively stable climate, he argued.
Asked why the UK should take the lead when China’s emissions are so high, he answered that the Chinese government was very worried about the climate and was taking it very seriously.
Ian has been in his post as the government’s chief environment scientist for seven years
Sir Ian, a polar expert with a chair in biology at St Andrews University, suggested that the UK was in a good position to show the world how to achieve Net Zero. But he agreed that similar radical action was ultimately needed by all nations.
He said that on broader issues the government had produced (or was in the process of producing) impressive strategies on the environment, waste, air pollution, marine and food.
Some ministers were enthusiastic to translate these into firm strategies, but they needed support from the public, he said. He confessed that he was not optimistic about the future of the planet because so many systems of government needed to change in a short time.

Sir Ian, who leaves Defra on Thursday after seven years in post, said: “The way we live our lives is generally not good for the environment.
“We like to consume things, but the more we consume the more we absorb the resources of the planet.
“That means we have to grow those resources or we have to mine them – and in doing that we generate waste. And consumption is going up all the time.
“(There’s) a conundrum – how do we shift ourselves from consuming? We need to do more about learning to live sustainably. We talk about sustainability but we don’t really know what it means.
“We need to make major technological advances in the way we use and reuse materials but we (also) need to reduce demand overall – and that means we need to change our behaviours and change our lifestyles.
“We certainly won’t be able to travel so much as we have in the past, so we have to get used to using modern communications methods.
“Moving material round the planet will be more difficult so we’ll have to do more with 3D printing; that sort of thing.
is required of new technologies such as 3D printing

Climate change: Big lifestyle changes ‘needed to cut emissions’

By Roger HarrabinBBC environment analyst

 

People must use less transport, eat less red meat and buy fewer clothes if the UK is to virtually halt greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the government’s chief environment scientist has warned.

Prof Sir Ian Boyd said the public had little idea of the scale of the challenge from the so-called Net Zero emissions target.

However, he said technology would help.

The conundrum facing the UK – and elsewhere – was how we shift ourselves away from consuming, he added.

In an interview with BBC News, Sir Ian warned that persuasive political leadership was needed to carry the public through the challenge.

Asked whether Boris Johnson would deliver that leadership, he declined to comment.

Mr Johnson has already been accused by environmentalists of talking up electric cars whilst reputedly planning a cut in driving taxes that would increase emissions and undermine the electric car market.

 

Sir Ian said polluting activities should incur more tax. He believes the Treasury should reform taxation policy to reward people with low-carbon lifestyles and nudge heavy consumers into more frugal patterns of behaviour.

It was vital, he said, for the changes to be fair to all parts of society.

He also believes Net Zero won’t happen unless the government creates a Net Zero ministry to vet the policies of all government departments in the way the Brexit ministry vets Brexit-related decisions.

Emissions won’t be reduced to Net Zero while ministers are fixed on economic growth measured by GDP, instead of other measures such as environmental security and a relatively stable climate, he argued.

Asked why the UK should take the lead when China’s emissions are so high, he answered that the Chinese government was very worried about the climate and was taking it very seriously.

Ian has been in his post as the government’s chief environment scientist for seven years

Sir Ian, a polar expert with a chair in biology at St Andrews University, suggested that the UK was in a good position to show the world how to achieve Net Zero. But he agreed that similar radical action was ultimately needed by all nations.

He said that on broader issues the government had produced (or was in the process of producing) impressive strategies on the environment, waste, air pollution, marine and food.

Some ministers were enthusiastic to translate these into firm strategies, but they needed support from the public, he said. He confessed that he was not optimistic about the future of the planet because so many systems of government needed to change in a short time.

Sir Ian, who leaves Defra on Thursday after seven years in post, said: “The way we live our lives is generally not good for the environment.

“We like to consume things, but the more we consume the more we absorb the resources of the planet.

“That means we have to grow those resources or we have to mine them – and in doing that we generate waste. And consumption is going up all the time.

“(There’s) a conundrum – how do we shift ourselves from consuming? We need to do more about learning to live sustainably. We talk about sustainability but we don’t really know what it means.

“We need to make major technological advances in the way we use and reuse materials but we (also) need to reduce demand overall – and that means we need to change our behaviours and change our lifestyles.

“We certainly won’t be able to travel so much as we have in the past, so we have to get used to using modern communications methods.

“Moving material round the planet will be more difficult so we’ll have to do more with 3D printing; that sort of thing.

is required of new technologies such as 3D printing

“We’ve got to reduce demand to a much greater extent than we have in the past, and if we don’t reduce demand we’re not going to reduce emissions.

“Emissions are a symptom of consumption and unless we reduce consumption we’ll not reduce emissions.

“It will very rarely come down to a direct message like ‘sorry, you can’t buy that but you can buy this’. But there will be stronger messages within the (tax) system that make one thing more attractive than the other.”

He said UK government strategies were in place on air, environment, resources, waste, marine, and food. “[Ministers] need to be persuasive.”

Asked if he was optimistic about the future of the planet, he said: “We have the intelligence to do it; we have the potential to develop the technologies to do it… I’m doubtful that we have the governance structures to make it happen at the speed it needs to happen at.”

Richard Black, from the think tank Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said Sir Ian’s words were “somewhat surprising”.

He added: “They appear to contradict the mass of evidence assembled on getting to Net Zero, including the major report from the government’s statutory adviser the Committee on Climate Change.”

I understand that the Confederation of British Industry, the CBI, accept there will have to be behavioural change to meet Net Zero.

A source in the organisation said they were frustrated that government climate policies were currently too weak.

Given the very broad nature of Sir Ian’s comments, we approached Downing Street for a comment.

They declined and passed us back to Sir Ian’s department, Defra. But their statement didn’t address any of his key questions about governance, leadership and consumption.

It said: “The impact of climate change is clear and demands urgent action from countries around the world. The UK has already shown global leadership by becoming the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions by 2050 – but we know there is more to do.

“That’s why we’re reforming farming policy to reward environmental actions, reviewing our food system to ensure it is more sustainable, taking steps to accelerate tree-planting and peatland restoration, and introducing a flagship Environment Bill to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age.”

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin

 

 

Shop less, live more – save the planet. It doesn’t sound that bad to me

 

Gaby Hinsliff

A sustainable environment means consuming less, not differently. With retail therapy losing its appeal, that should be easy

Sat 31 Aug 2019 THE GUARDIAN

Women love shopping, don’t they? Everyone knows we were born to do it; that left to our own devices we like nothing better than spending all day in some changing room, leaving our menfolk slumped outside in abject boredom, praying for it to be over. Except it’s not true, or certainly not for all women, and almost certainly never has been. Only 29% of women actually say they enjoy shopping, according to the retail analysts Mintel; for most of the rest it’s somewhere between actively anxiety-inducing (especially for anyone uncomfortable with stripping in front of a mirror) and merely rather boring.

 

Too much advice about going green involves pushing slightly less toxic alternatives to things we don’t particularly need

Women have been conditioned to envisage shopping as a lovely treat, a guilty pleasure so intense we must sneak around and lie about how much we spend, even though the reality of trudging round shopping malls falls far short of the dream. But while the idea of retail therapy as the ultimate drug is so embedded in female culture that it often goes unquestioned, on reflection I don’t love shopping any more; in fact I don’t love it at all.

When did a Saturday mooching round the shops stop feeling like a luxury, and start feeling more like bad sex; something you thought you wanted at the time, but which swiftly congeals to regret and self-loathing? I can still remember the teenage thrill of trying on everything in Miss Selfridge, but it’s years since I got any kind of real high from the high street. Now the sheer scale of choice feels exhausting, while the business of piling up stuff at home for the sake of it – yet another cushion, dress or lipstick – increasingly borders on the obscene.

Perhaps this odd, deflated feeling is just a middle-aged thing, a sign of having acquired more than enough over the decades. It’s almost certainly a rather spoilt thing, when those watching every penny can only dream of having all the stuff they need. But for whatever reason, this week’s warning from Sir Ian Boyd, outgoing chief scientific adviser at Defra, that getting to zero emissions means not just consuming differently – switching to sustainable cotton T-shirts, say – but consuming far less, strikes a chord. Too much advice about going green involves pushing slightly less toxic alternatives to things we don’t particularly need, to distract us from thinking about whether they were necessary in the first place.

Sure, a reusable metal straw is better for marine life than a plastic one. But who honestly needs a straw? (And yes, I know some disabled people need one to drink; but let’s not pretend the vast majority of straws aren’t used by perfectly able-bodied kids at parties, or to avoid smudging lipstick, or to slurp up milkshakes so stiff with ice-cream they must be vacuumed out of the cup.) Making and shipping a metal object halfway across the world for no particularly good reason is a demented use of carbon, a solution to a problem that for most people doesn’t exist. Going green has to be about reducing what we buy, reusing what’s already there, and reimagining our habits rather than just rebranding them.

The counter-argument, of course, is that this kind of mindless shopping might not be pretty but it keeps people in jobs every step of the way; from manufacturing to distribution, marketing, managing, taxing and selling. When Boyd talks about privileging a sustainable planet over economic growth, that’s a polite way of describing a future where living standards (in the economic sense at least) will be lower than they would have been; a world of prosperity foregone, with real consequences for real people, and especially those on low incomes. If you want to know what lower, slower growth feels like in reality, we’ve just lived through a decade of it, thanks to the banking crash.

But Boyd puts his finger on an awkward truth, which is that we can’t go on blundering towards environmental disaster while telling ourselves that this is what makes us happy, when that simply isn’t true. Too much shopping is, like comfort eating, little more than a means of filling the emptiness inside. Once the sugar rush wears off, a faint feeling of nausea remains, followed by the urge to purge. Fast fashion fixes that get worn a few times and then thrown away are arguably forgivable in 19-year-olds, who still aren’t sure who they are yet and want to dress up as someone new every Saturday night. But for those of us old enough to know better, who could eke out what’s in our overstuffed wardrobes for the rest of our natural lives if only we weren’t cowed by the fear of falling behind fashion – well, something has to give.

 Australia recycles paper and plastics. So why does clothing end up in landfill?

Graham Ross

For those who can’t bear going without something new, Oxfam has launched a Second Hand September challenge to buy no new clothes for a month; one way to capitalise on the virtuous, beginning-of-term feeling that autumn always brings. If you don’t want to contribute to the already precipitous decline of the high street, then another way of stemming the tide of junk is to shop locally or physically rather than online, and be stern about how much you really need anything that can’t be found that way.

Spending on experiences not tangible possessions is another form of economic compromise, since research suggests it’s the former that actually makes people happy. Personally I’ve never regretted a penny spent on cinema tickets (even if the film is terrible there’s always the joy of ruthlessly postmortem-ing it afterwards), anything done with friends or, to be brutally honest, cocktails. I would add books, if it weren’t for a few mistakes with overhyped titles that weren’t worth chopping down trees for; but really, each to their own. What matters is accepting both that going green means more than an excuse to go shopping, and that shopping less may not actually be the hardship it sounds. In the end, a life is made up of the things we have done, not the things we have bought. Understand that, and there is suddenly so much more of it waiting to be lived.

  • Gaby Hinsliff is a Guardian columnist

“It will very rarely come down to a direct message like ‘sorry, you can’t buy that but you can buy this’. But there will be stronger messages within the (tax) system that make one thing more attractive than the other.”
He said UK government strategies were in place on air, environment, resources, waste, marine, and food. “[Ministers] need to be persuasive.”
Asked if he was optimistic about the future of the planet, he said: “We have the intelligence to do it; we have the potential to develop the technologies to do it… I’m doubtful that we have the governance structures to make it happen at the speed it needs to happen at.”
Richard Black, from the think tank Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said Sir Ian’s words were “somewhat surprising”.
He added: “They appear to contradict the mass of evidence assembled on getting to Net Zero, including the major report from the government’s statutory adviser the Committee on Climate Change.”
I understand that the Confederation of British Industry, the CBI, accept there will have to be behavioural change to meet Net Zero.
A source in the organisation said they were frustrated that government climate policies were currently too weak.
Given the very broad nature of Sir Ian’s comments, we approached Downing Street for a comment.
They declined and passed us back to Sir Ian’s department, Defra. But their statement didn’t address any of his key questions about governance, leadership and consumption.
It said: “The impact of climate change is clear and demands urgent action from countries around the world. The UK has already shown global leadership by becoming the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions by 2050 – but we know there is more to do.
“That’s why we’re reforming farming policy to reward environmental actions, reviewing our food system to ensure it is more sustainable, taking steps to accelerate tree-planting and peatland restoration, and introducing a flagship Environment Bill to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age.”
Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin

Shop less, live more – save the planet. It doesn’t sound that bad to me

Gaby Hinsliff
A sustainable environment means consuming less, not differently. With retail therapy losing its appeal, that should be easy
Sat 31 Aug 2019 THE GUARDIAN

Women love shopping, don’t they? Everyone knows we were born to do it; that left to our own devices we like nothing better than spending all day in some changing room, leaving our menfolk slumped outside in abject boredom, praying for it to be over. Except it’s not true, or certainly not for all women, and almost certainly never has been. Only 29% of women actually say they enjoy shopping, according to the retail analysts Mintel; for most of the rest it’s somewhere between actively anxiety-inducing (especially for anyone uncomfortable with stripping in front of a mirror) and merely rather boring.

Too much advice about going green involves pushing slightly less toxic alternatives to things we don’t particularly need
Women have been conditioned to envisage shopping as a lovely treat, a guilty pleasure so intense we must sneak around and lie about how much we spend, even though the reality of trudging round shopping malls falls far short of the dream. But while the idea of retail therapy as the ultimate drug is so embedded in female culture that it often goes unquestioned, on reflection I don’t love shopping any more; in fact I don’t love it at all.
When did a Saturday mooching round the shops stop feeling like a luxury, and start feeling more like bad sex; something you thought you wanted at the time, but which swiftly congeals to regret and self-loathing? I can still remember the teenage thrill of trying on everything in Miss Selfridge, but it’s years since I got any kind of real high from the high street. Now the sheer scale of choice feels exhausting, while the business of piling up stuff at home for the sake of it – yet another cushion, dress or lipstick – increasingly borders on the obscene.
Perhaps this odd, deflated feeling is just a middle-aged thing, a sign of having acquired more than enough over the decades. It’s almost certainly a rather spoilt thing, when those watching every penny can only dream of having all the stuff they need. But for whatever reason, this week’s warning from Sir Ian Boyd, outgoing chief scientific adviser at Defra, that getting to zero emissions means not just consuming differently – switching to sustainable cotton T-shirts, say – but consuming far less, strikes a chord. Too much advice about going green involves pushing slightly less toxic alternatives to things we don’t particularly need, to distract us from thinking about whether they were necessary in the first place.
Sure, a reusable metal straw is better for marine life than a plastic one. But who honestly needs a straw? (And yes, I know some disabled people need one to drink; but let’s not pretend the vast majority of straws aren’t used by perfectly able-bodied kids at parties, or to avoid smudging lipstick, or to slurp up milkshakes so stiff with ice-cream they must be vacuumed out of the cup.) Making and shipping a metal object halfway across the world for no particularly good reason is a demented use of carbon, a solution to a problem that for most people doesn’t exist. Going green has to be about reducing what we buy, reusing what’s already there, and reimagining our habits rather than just rebranding them.
The counter-argument, of course, is that this kind of mindless shopping might not be pretty but it keeps people in jobs every step of the way; from manufacturing to distribution, marketing, managing, taxing and selling. When Boyd talks about privileging a sustainable planet over economic growth, that’s a polite way of describing a future where living standards (in the economic sense at least) will be lower than they would have been; a world of prosperity foregone, with real consequences for real people, and especially those on low incomes. If you want to know what lower, slower growth feels like in reality, we’ve just lived through a decade of it, thanks to the banking crash.
But Boyd puts his finger on an awkward truth, which is that we can’t go on blundering towards environmental disaster while telling ourselves that this is what makes us happy, when that simply isn’t true. Too much shopping is, like comfort eating, little more than a means of filling the emptiness inside. Once the sugar rush wears off, a faint feeling of nausea remains, followed by the urge to purge. Fast fashion fixes that get worn a few times and then thrown away are arguably forgivable in 19-year-olds, who still aren’t sure who they are yet and want to dress up as someone new every Saturday night. But for those of us old enough to know better, who could eke out what’s in our overstuffed wardrobes for the rest of our natural lives if only we weren’t cowed by the fear of falling behind fashion – well, something has to give.
Australia recycles paper and plastics. So why does clothing end up in landfill?
Graham Ross

For those who can’t bear going without something new, Oxfam has launched a Second Hand September challenge to buy no new clothes for a month; one way to capitalise on the virtuous, beginning-of-term feeling that autumn always brings. If you don’t want to contribute to the already precipitous decline of the high street, then another way of stemming the tide of junk is to shop locally or physically rather than online, and be stern about how much you really need anything that can’t be found that way.
Spending on experiences not tangible possessions is another form of economic compromise, since research suggests it’s the former that actually makes people happy. Personally I’ve never regretted a penny spent on cinema tickets (even if the film is terrible there’s always the joy of ruthlessly postmortem-ing it afterwards), anything done with friends or, to be brutally honest, cocktails. I would add books, if it weren’t for a few mistakes with overhyped titles that weren’t worth chopping down trees for; but really, each to their own. What matters is accepting both that going green means more than an excuse to go shopping, and that shopping less may not actually be the hardship it sounds. In the end, a life is made up of the things we have done, not the things we have bought. Understand that, and there is suddenly so much more of it waiting to be lived.
• Gaby Hinsliff is a Guardian columnist

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