Shopping for Satisfaction


At Carbon Savvy we are always looking for ways to enjoy life every moment at the same time as saving CO2.  Shopping can be a chore or a guilty pleasure, so how can we make it a feel-good experience?  And how can we buy things that deliver long term satisfaction?  Here are our pointers:


  1. Purchase quality, long lasting products.  Whether it’s a kitchen implement, clothing or a tool, a well made item is a joy to use every time. They sometimes cost more on the day you buy them (although not always) but they can end up costing much less over their lifespan.  And not having to replace them so often means you save on shopping time over the years, so you can do something more enjoyable.


  1. Use local shops.  Small shops run by local people are often the most enjoyable places to shop because you know their faces and they often care more about their clients.  Knowing that your money will benefit your local community is also satisfying.


  1. Buy handmade.  Crafted items in your home become treasured objects.  They are beautiful and have a personal touch.  And they often have a lower carbon footprint than factory-made items. 

All about presents

With Christmas on the way we all do more shopping than usual, so let’s take a moment to consider whether our loved ones will get the most from quantity or quality.  One great solution is to give food and consumables which don’t hang around and clutter people’s lives. There are more and more locally based shops selling exquisite chocolates, soaps and health products that can really hit the spot.  You can also give an activity; a course, a crochet needle and a ball of wool, or an experience doing something outdoors and in the local area. 


Four aspects of a product’s carbon footprint:

1  Efficiency – how much energy does it use in the home 

2  Manufacturing emissions – how much CO2was used to make it

3  Lifespan – how long before you have to replace it  

4  Product miles – how far has it travelled, both the parts to make it and the finished product


How long will it last?

If your toaster lasts three years you will have to buy 20 of them in your lifetime. If it is better made and lasts 15 years, you’ll only need four in your life.  And if it lasts five times as long it will have just 20% of the CO2 emissions. 


Saving time

Most homes have around 25 electrical appliances.  If it takes two hours to buy a product, that’s 50 hours of shopping time.  Buying low quality products takes up 50 hours of shopping time every 3 years, whereas if you buy long lasting products you only have to do this every 15 years.  That saves you a lot of time to do more enjoyable things.


Quality of life

We also get more satisfaction from using well made things, which we can get quite fond of over the years.  And long-lasting products save us time and money, so improve our quality of life. 


Tips for feel-good, low-carbon shopping 


1) Use shoppers’ guides, like Ethical Consumer, Which? magazine and online reviews to find products that last longer.


2) Shop in places that have a good knowledge of their products and brands. Ask which product has the longest lifespan.

3) Buy second-hand to cut the CO2 from manufacturing, and get high quality for less money. 

4) Repair rather than replace.  A high-quality repaired item can last longer than a new, low quality one.  Supporting a local repair person also creates employment. 

5) Buy British. Goods made in this country have not had to travel as far so less CO2is used for transport. But a long lifespan usually saves more CO2 than the transport, especially if the product has travelled by rail or ship.

6)  Do you really need it?  Sometimes it saves time and money to do without!

Table showing CO2 of different household items

Household products  Short life products  Long lasting products
   Lifespan (years)  Cost per year CO2 per year (kgs)  Lifespan (years)  Cost per year CO2 per year (kgs)
Washing machine             3.5 £57 71           10.5 £38 24
Cooker             9.0 £22 64           15.0 £33 38
Mattress             4.0 £25 27             8.0 £25 16
Curtains             3.5 £29 7           17.5 £14 2
Carpet (50sqm)             3.0 £333 67           11.5 £174 26
Flooring (50 sqm)             7.5 £133 33           32.5 £77 9
Average             5.1 £100 45           15.8 £60 19
Sources:  Tenancy deposit scheme, Which?, Product Sustainability Forum,, Bath ICE, Furniture Re-Use Network