Brits want a sustainable economy

Britons are disenchanted with consumerism, preferring to donate their money to charity and recycle unwanted items than gorge themselves on unnecessary retail therapy, according to Women's Environmental Network (WEN).

Figures released by the British Retail Consortium this week showed that January sales did little to boost retail trade after “the worst Christmas in a decade”, but by contrast, charity donations, as well as sales and events where people can swap unwanted gifts and other items, have seen a big increase.

Among these, three recent “give or take” days organised by WEN and local authorities alone attracted over 700 people. From these events alone, more than 2.5 tonnes of waste was diverted from landfill after people were given the opportunity to exchange hundreds of items.

However, this does not mean the British public is no longer willing to spend, as the huge response to the Tsunami appeal (see related story) showed, with over four-fifths of people in the UK giving cash donations.

Oxfam also reported a 10% increase in shop sales over the Christmas period, as well as a huge income boost from its Unwrapped catalogue, offering consumers the chance to purchase alternative gifts such as goats and chickens to help others, rather than buying unnecessary gifts to indulge themselves.

“People are happy to put their hands in their pockets for good causes but are fed up with wasteful consumerism,” WEN’s waste prevention officer, Charlotte Walker said. “Our current economic model isn’t sustainable. People want durable good and services that improve the quality of life for everyone.”

She said that figures showed support in the UK for movements like Make Poverty History (see related story), fair trade, farmers’ markets and local, organic food had never been higher, and Britons were now far more interested in buying special gifts from companies offering services or experiences, rather than “stuff”.

“We’re through with being told the only hope for a healthy economy is for us all to buy more unnecessary stuff. Many people feel uncomfortable about that when there’s so much poverty and inequality in the world,” she continued.

“People want to consume differently and build a sustainable economy that’s fair and equitable for all. It’s about time the economists caught up with the public mood.”

By Jane Kettle

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