Amid soaring energy costs we're guilty of being soft on ourselves

With soaring electricity bills what sacrifices will people be making to cut the cost? So asks Colette Sheridan
Amid soaring energy costs we're guilty of being soft on ourselves

We always switch on the heat at the first hint of coolness. But whatever happened to wearing an extra jumper or two? Picture: Stock

WHILE we’re all wondering how we’re going to manage with energy and fuel costs spiralling, there is something about the unsustainable way we live that is going to make deprivation very difficult.

Every angle on how to cut heating and electricity bills is being examined. We’re told we should submit meter readings before electricity and gas prices soar. That makes sense. But what people probably don’t want to hear is this: we’re too soft on ourselves.

Yes, it’s an unpopular thing to say. We have always switched on the heat at the first hint of coolness inside our houses. But whatever happened to wearing an extra jumper or two?

A friend who is on a tight budget goes to bed at night in her unheated flat under the weight of two duvets, blankets, PJs, a jumper and a woolly cap. She wouldn’t recommend it, but she has no choice.

The refusal to turn on the heat for more than a short while, even during bad weather, allows her to have a social life. It’s a question of weighing up one’s priorities. Freeze but make it to the warm bar down the road to meet friends and have a drink or two? Or cocoon at home in high temperatures but have no life to speak of? It’s that stark.

And for some, there isn’t even the luxury of choice. They put up with the cold and live lives of quiet desperation.

But for many people, there is a hell of a lot of waste being expended. Whatever happened to children and teenagers walking to school? What is this need to drive kids everywhere, from football training to play dates?

Fine, if you’re living far away from all the action that makes up your children’s lives, but for those who grew up in the suburbs, walking used to be the norm.

And there is always the bus. We give out about public transport but it’s actually not all that bad.

Yes, there can be a bit of waiting involved. But since when did we dispense with the luxury of just doing nothing at all?

Not that kids are without their distractions in the form of smart phones. There is always something to do even while waiting for the bus. That’s if you consider mindless scrolling to be an activity.

Perhaps the high cost of living that’s facing us will be an opportunity to actually get more serious about the climate crisis. Maybe we’ll be forced to cut down on the consumption of fashion.

We really should eschew new clothes in favour of accessorising or cheering up something old in the wardrobe. Because unthinkingly buying new items every time we feel like it contributes to ludicrous amounts of waste, damage to the environment - and human misery, given that workers in the clothing industry are routinely abused in terms of poor pay and conditions.

The statistics tell their own cataclysmic story. According to United Nations figures, it takes almost 8,000 gallons of water - what one person drinks in seven years - to make one pair of jeans. When those jeans are discarded, they join the 21 billion tonnes of textiles that end up in landfills every year.

Of 100 billion items produced annually (14 for each human on the planet), three in five will be dumped within the year, and 15% of all clothing fabric is wasted at the cutting stage of production, before it even has a chance to get into the shops.

Can we really justify that new top for a night out? Is every night out an occasion of sin (in terms of adding to the detritus once we tire of the cheap item)?

We are far too fond of ourselves. We’ve lost the meaning of enjoying a treat. We think we’re worth ‘treats’ every day.

There is an electric sewing machine in a cupboard in my house that I used to make clothes with when I was a student on a tight budget.

While I’d be loathe to start making clothes again (it’s labour intensive and my repertoire was limited), who knows, maybe it will become a thing?

Perhaps we’ll be swapping patterns and seeking bargains in fabric shops instead of haunting Penneys and splashing out in Brown Thomas when the store has a sale. (There is nearly always ‘a sale’ in stores these days. Just like ‘treats,’ we’ve come to expect them all the time.)

Fashion needs to inform consumers about manufacturing details, including the origin of raw materials.

Consider these facts: 20% of global water waste is caused by the fashion industry. One in six people in the world works in a fashion job. Some 80% of fashion workers are women. And 93% of surveyed fashion brands do not pay their workers a living wage. It’s a dirty business.

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