Business as Usual or Willing to Change? – Emerging Trends – Where We Are Now
A Business as Usual or Plan A approach to consumption and waste assume that economics will guide the consumption levels such that commonsense and carrot and stick pricing and waste charges will affect our habits. However since UK society is hooked on over consumption this is unlikely to change without some severe interventions. Similarly, while Totnes is recapturing some of the energy potential of some sewerage waste, there is a vast amount of organic matter and other animal effluents that are simply going to waste and causing pollution. Collectively we are throwing huge amounts of money at a problem that is getting worse and we are very unprepared for increasing energy costs and depleting supplies of oil. The ‘I Will if You Will Report’ of the Sustainable Consumption Roundtable found that a significant shift towards more sustainable lifestyles is possible and positive, concluding that people are ready and willing to change but need strong leadership and support from central Government and business.
If we are willing to change our way we can very quickly improve matters. We need to fully reflect the environmental impact of production of goods in the price and cost of disposal in waste charges, i.e. implement the polluter pays principle through various resource taxes. This will create a strong deterrent to excess consumption. Reduction in consumption reduces energy use and will prepare us for coming changes. Resource efficiency measures high in the waste management hierarchy such as reuse, repair and recycling maximise the energy efficiency of products already in the system, reducing consumption and disposal for as long as they are in use. Reclaiming energy from organic waste and sewerage effluents through anaerobic digestion reduces greenhouse gases and produces vehicle fuels, piped heat for local district heating and agricultural materials to return to the land. Minimising and localising our consumption and waste and increasing resource efficiency will create more jobs, increase innovation and competitiveness, change values towards better quality goods, reduce our impact on the environment and increase global equity whilst saving money and energy, and we can enjoy being creative and resourceful with less.
Rather than seeing Totnes and District as a linear system, one which imports goods, uses them, and throws the waste away, this Plan advocates a more cyclical approach, creating as many cycles as possible.
What follows is one version of how consumption and waste might become more localised and sustainable over the next 21 years.
It’s strange to think of a time
Of the early part of the century for instance
When we learn that there were these big stores
Full of foods from every country
Brought to us by giant trucks and aeroplanes
Packaged in cardboard and plastic to appeal to tastes
Whole forests were cut down in order to make these presentations
Which were then discarded
And taken away in black sacks
To giant rubbish dumps.
What a crazy way to live!
From Wondermentalist Transition Cabaret workshop January 2009
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