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Putting the House in Order

UK households could save up to £5 billion a year on their energy bills without changing their lifestyle, according to the Climate Change Minister Joan Ruddock. Ms Ruddock made her comments while publishing progress reports on the Government’s Waste Strategy and on how it is improving the environmental impact of goods and services. 

“We know people are concerned about their effect on the environment, but they don’t get to see the full picture of what goes into producing the goods they buy – and they don’t see what happens after they’ve thrown them away. It needs to be easier for people to buy products that will save them money and reduce their impact on the environment – and that’s exactly what we’re doing.  There are real savings to be made – through this action to green the products and materials we use, UK households could save £5 billion a year on their bills.”

The report on sustainable products details the government’s progress so in terms of reducing the environmental impact of many products across their life cycle and in improving energy efficiency. Already active are plans to remove all inefficient lightbulbs from shop shelves by 2011, improving the energy performance of white goods and electronic devices (including moves to ban the standby button) and by increasing the number of recycled milk cartons.  Both reports can be found from the front page of the Defra website – www.defra.gov.uk.

However, perhaps the most important and environmentally beneficial part of the government’s strategy could be in imposing stricter rules on the way government itself procures goods and services. The UK government as a whole has massive purchasing power and yet is so behind the times that only now starting to ensure that government offices have to use recycled paper.

While it is a shame it has taken sharp rises in the cost of energy and food before the government has started talking about food and energy waste, perhaps people would take more interest in reducing their own environment impact if they can see their elected politicians taking the lead. 

It is now two and half years since then Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesman Norman Baker published his report on waste and inefficiency at the Palaces of Westminster. The figures in Mr Baker’s extensively researched report make disturbing reading.  Since 1997, water consumption was up by 58%, electricity by 45% and gas consumption by 34%. There was also a disturbing lack of action on recycling, he said.

 At the time, Mr Baker said “It is all very well for us as MPs to call on the general public to act and take measures to protect the environment, but how can we expect them to listen if we do not do this ourselves?” Perhaps something for Ms Ruddock and colleagues in government to think about.

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