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Financial education 10 Dec 2019

The Madrid Climate Change Conference: How to consume in a more sustainable and economical manner

With the slogan “Time for Action”, the goal of the 2019 Madrid Climate Change Conference is for the countries to present their commitments and finalize the rules needed to implement the Paris Agreement in 2020. On an individual level, this conference is a good time to reflect on our own consumption habits and look at how to manage our personal finances in a sustainable, eco-friendly manner.

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Shopping habits

This is one of the main categories in any personal budget. Choosing what to eat and where to shop may seems inconsequential, but it’s not. Why?

  • Excess plastic

According to Greenpeace data, in 2020, the amount of plastic generated will surpass 500 million tons per year – a 900 percent increase compared to 1980 levels. The massive production of this contaminant has devastating consequences for the environment, especially in marine ecosystems. It is prevalent in shopping  carts in the form of containers, bags and packaging. Reducing the use of plastic is beneficial for the environment, and also for your wallet.

Buying in bulk in specialized stores where customers bring their own bags is a good way to reduce the presence of plastic in homes. These types of establishments mean savings for consumers, as they can purchase the exact amount they will consume, and also prevent food waste. Other measures such as replacing mineral water in plastic bottles with filtered water, or replacing coffee capsules with ground coffee would eliminate some  “ant expenses” and help the environment.

  • Local products

Buying local products that are in season is much more sustainable than acquiring products from other continents whose transportation causes considerable damage to the ecosystem. The environmental organization Friends of the Earth has created a calculator that informs consumers of the emissions produced by the imported food they purchase. Supporting local production and buying products that are in season costs less and is more sustainable.

  • Reducing waste

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), over 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted around the world every year.  In order to avoid this, everyone should make a weekly meal plan; purchase only what they need and not get carried away with impulse buys; prevent food from spoiling by storing it appropriately and/or freezing it; and take advantage of leftovers to make other recipes.

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Transportation

This is one factor from everyday life that emits the most CO2 in the atmosphere. In 2018, CO2 emissions reached a record level of 33.14 billion tons, according to the International Energy Agency Energía (IEA). Reducing these figures is something we all need to work on with simple acts to minimize our carbon footprint.

Everyone needs transportation, but if it isn’t possible to walk or bike, vehicle choice makes the difference. Reducing the use of private cars and using public transportation instead can save money while also helping the environment. If this isn’t possible, you could always consider car sharing with other colleagues for the commute to work or through companies for longer trips.

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Energy consumption

This is another aspect of everyday life that can produce savings in an environmentally friendly way. There are a wide range of options. One of them is choosing renewable energy sources like those Greenpeace suggests. In any case, little things like buying energy efficient light bulbs, optimizing air conditioning, taking shorter showers or turning off electric appliances to prevent the energy used in “stand-by” mode can all save energy.

As the slogan of the 2019 Climate Change Conference says, it’s time for action. It may seem like an individual gesture doesn’t make a difference, but consuming in a responsible, sustainable manner makes a huge difference for the environment and the economy. Now, more than ever before, every little bit counts!

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