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14 October 2014
In Pictures (image: camera lens)Religion & EthicsIn pictures

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The ethical consumer

First half: Duck swimming in water filled with empty, dirty plastic bottles. Second half: Clean water from a tap.

Bottled water
It takes 2,000 years for one plastic bottle to breakdown in a landfill. Bottled water is transported long distance via lorries and energy is also used by on board refrigeration methods.

There is no noticeable difference between most bottled water and tap water, either in taste or quality, so it's much more sustainable to get your water straight from the tap.

Photos © iStockphoto/Millanovic/Martijn Gouman

First half: close up of remote control's 'standby' button. Second half: Finger flicking light switch off

Electricity waste
Not switching off electrical equipment over night from the main socket wastes a huge amount of energy - enough to run a small car for 100 miles. A report from Wiltshire College says leaving a PC monitor on all night wastes enough energy to microwave 6 dinners.

If everybody switched off their television at the mains each night we could save enough energy to power a small town.
Photo © iStockphoto/Jeff Gynane

First half: Lorry on a motorway. Second half: Freshly picked strawberries in season

Food transportation
10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide were emitted in the UK in the course of getting our food to us in 2001. According to a 2005 DEFRA report these food miles cost £9bn a year in terms of traffic congestion, wear on the roads, ill health caused by air and noise pollution and accidents caused by food transport. Over 70% of organic food is imported and this figure rises to 80% for fruit and vegetables.

Buying locally sourced, in season food means that less carbon dioxide is emitted through its transportation and food is fresher.
Photos © iStockphoto/Christian Lagereek/Fanelie Rosier

First half: Boat showing large catch of fish in net: Second half: Raw salmon on bed of herbs

At the current rate of fishing cod (around 120,000 tonnes a year in Britain alone), the world's stocks could be wiped out by 2020. Too much cod, caught before they are mature enough to breed has caused this problem.

Eating a variety of fish and ones that are marked mature may help the current situation. Looking out for the Marine Stewardship Council seal of approval will help promote the use of sustainable fisheries.
Photos courtesy Wikimedia Commons (left)/© iStockphoto/Alicja Bochenek (right)

First half: Front nose of a plane. Second half: Image of forest offsetting pollution from aeroplane emmissions.

A plane uses about as much fuel, and therefore produces about as much CO2, as would every passenger driving one car the same distance. In addition to this, aeroplanes produce NOx which removes the protective layer of ozone from the earth's atmosphere and contributes to global warming.

Many organisations offer services to offset the cost to the environment, but a simple solution is to holiday more in the UK and to use alternative transport where possible.
Photo © iStockphoto/ADAM Stéphane

First half: Traffic jam. Second half: Line of cyclists race on bridge

The average car commuter drives 19 miles a day, but sharing your car with one other person can save 640kg of carbon dioxide from polluting the atmosphere every year. A car with a warm engine burns fuel more efficiently than one with a cold engine so consider cycling, walking or taking public transport to places a short distance away.

Photos © iStockphoto/Steve Lovegrove/Kenneth C. Zirkel

First half: Pile of polystyrene plates and cups. Second half: Ceramic plates

Today, the world's annual consumption of plastic materials is nearly 100 million tonnes. In 2001, 4.7 million tonnes of that figure was used in the UK alone. Disposable plates and cutlery, while convenient, simply add to the nearly 3 million tonnes of plastic waste that is generated each year.

Using ceramic crockery and metal cutlery is much less harmful to the environment.

First half: Landfill with hundreds of birds swirling around sky. Second half: Blue recycling bin filled with cardboard.

Approximately 100 million tonnes of waste is landfilled each year and space set out for this is set to run out in five to ten years. About two thirds of this is biodegradeable compost waste, producing between 200 and 400 metre cubes of landfill gas per tonne.

Up to 40% of housewaste can be composted at home, saving 20% of the UK's methane emissions. Almost 10% of landfills are filled with paper and card products, so recycling these could save a huge amount of landfill space.
Photos © iStockphoto/Brasil2/Petr Nad

First half: Thermostat turned to a high temperature. Second half: Man wrapped in scarf and warm clothes.

Britain has a cold climate, but a lot of heat energy can be used more efficiently in the home. Turning the thermostat down by one degree not only saves energy, but could also save you up to 10% on your heating bill. 70% of the heat from a radiator is used to heat the wall behind it, so consider fitting a reflective panel behind it and insulation in the loft could save you up to £400 a year. Alternatively, just wear warmer clothes!

Photos © iStockphoto/Bradley Mason/Steve Luker

First half: Cauliflower in its own carton. Second half: Grocer's shop with shelves of loose vegetables

Obsession with perfectly shaped and presented products has led to shrink wrapped coconuts and individually wrapped bananas. Packaging accounts for 35% of plastics used in the UK but only 7% is recycled. Fruit and vegetables usually come in their own natural packaging, so bought loose they present a significantly cheaper and environmentally friendlier option.

listen Ethical consumerism discussion (27:33 mins) from Beyond Belief. First broadcast 25 February 2008, BBC Radio 4. Photo (right) © iStockphoto/Leonid Smirnov

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