CB5 Stuff Session Format

Low Carbon Living: Session Format
Session format: stuff
From teaspoons to t-shirts, CDs to computers, the stuff we buy takes energy to make, use and
dispose of. This session looks at how we can make greener choices about the things we buy
– and asks whether we really need all this stuff in the first place.
Introduce yourself and cover any housekeeping items.
Food and cooking follow-up
Last week we were talking about food and cooking. The take home task
involved thinking about your typical food shop, and identifying any lowercarbon alternatives.
0:00 Welcome + housekeeping
0:05 About carbonbusting
0:10 Scene setter
Q. Have you made any changes to your shopping habits since the last
session? What changes did you make?
0:15 Activities
1:15 Take home task
In this, the penultimate carbonbusting session, we look at ‘stuff’ – or more
technically, our consumption habits. Incredibly, the goods and services we
consume add another two tonnes to the average carbon footprint – that’s
more CO2 than results from heating our homes. In this session, we’ll be
learning more about how these emissions are generated – and then
considering strategies we can use to reduce them.
1:20 Session summary
1:00 Activity 4: discussion
1:25 Questions
1:30 End
Total session time: 90 mins
Scene setter
When we think about carbon footprints, we usually think of the emissions
directly associated with the energy we use to power our homes and when
travelling – our direct carbon emissions. However, these make up just part
of the picture. The goods and services we use also require energy in their
creation and delivery, and this results in more greenhouse gas emissions.
These, along with the emissions associated with the food we eat, make up
our ‘indirect’ carbon footprint – indirect because we ourselves aren’t
directly generating the emissions. However, we include these emissions
as part of our overall carbon footprint because we are the ones using the
goods and services, and so generating the demand for their creation in the
first place.
Just like people, the things we own have their own carbon footprint. This is
calculated by looking at each of the stages of a product’s lifecycle, namely:
Extraction – acquiring the raw materials.
Production – making the item.
Distribution – from factory to store to the consumer.
Consumer use – how we use the product.
End of life – what we do with things we no longer want.
Energy savings can be made at each stage, reducing the carbon footprint.
Although manufacturers and retailers have a significant part to play in reducing the environmental impact of
their products, as consumers there’s alot we can do too. For example:
Actively choose greener products – ones where the manufacturer has actively reduced the impact of the
extraction, production and distribution, and which will have the least impact during use and disposal.
Be responsible about the way we use the items we own.
Do more to reuse and recycle.
However, the most effective way we can reduce the carbon footprint of our consumption is simply to reduce the
amount we consume.
Of course, our carbon footprint is just one measure of the impact we have on the planet. We also need to
consider other environmental and social impacts our consumption choices may have. ‘One Planet Living’ is a
global initiative that looks at sustainability in a way that helps people live and work within a fair share of our
planet’s resources. It estimates that if everyone on the planet were to live like an average European, we would
need three planets to live on.
Ironically, as we consume more we don’t seem to be any happier for it. The New Economics Foundation
produces an annual index of well-being. It has concluded that, since 1970, the UK’s GDP has doubled, but
people’s satisfaction with life has hardly changed. Anne Leonard, creator of the film The Story of Stuff puts it
like this: “We’re trashing the planet, trashing our relationships – and we’re not even having fun!”
You’ll already know the green mantra, ‘reduce reuse recycle’ – and those three words really do say it all.
Today’s activities focus on practical ways of putting them into action.
We’ll then finish the session with a chance to think more about this relationship between stuff and happiness –
and consider which qualities you think we should value as a society, and what are the things that make you
See stuff activity handout.
Optional activity – composting
Organic matter sent to landfill can be a major producer of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas which is up to
23 times more potent than CO2 because of its ability to trap heat in the atmosphere. Methane is produced when
organic matter is squashed in with other waste, preventing it from having access to sufficient oxygen. This
results in it breaking down anaerobically. So the more of our organic household waste we can compost, the
There is an optional activity suggested for this session looking at composting. If you have been able to secure
the services of a volunteer Master Composter, he or she may be able to run a short activity based on the
Organics Direct Composting Game.
Take home task
Talk participants through the take home task sheet.
Session summary
So, in summary – it all comes back to ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ – and very much in that order of priority!
Distribute the following information sheets to participants:
Any questions?
This work is part of the Low Carbon Living Toolkit and is licensed under a Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. If you have any questions or tips to suggest please email
them to us at lowcarbon@hotmail.co.uk
Whilst we have made every attempt to ensure the accuracy of this leaflet, this information should not be relied
upon as a substitute for formal advice. LCWO will not be responsible for any loss, however arising, from the
use of, or reliance on this information. Low Carbon West Oxford is a registered charity 1135225.