Shoppers are buying less in the post-Christmas sales due to environmental concerns. Creative Commons.

Concerned over the climate crisis, Britons are changing the way they shop

Britons are increasingly changing their shopping habits and voting with their wallets to make the environment win, new research has found. 

Shoppers are expected to spend £200 million less in the post-Christmas sales than last year, as environmental and climate protection weighs heavily on many people’s minds. 

Four in 10 adults will head out to the high street to grab the Boxing Day deals, spending an average of £186 each, according to research from Barclaycard. But nearly two-thirds of consumers (62%) will buy fewer sale items in a bid to be more environmentally friendly. 

Meanwhile, 67% of shoppers plan to spend less on “fast fashion” because of the environmental impact of production. 

Rob Cameron, CEO of Barclaycard Payments said: “Our research shows that shoppers are increasingly thinking about how their purchases impact the environment. Forward-thinking retailers should be making a conscious effort to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, in order to boost their appeal – and their revenue.”

Red sale signs line shops across the country in the post-Christmas period, attracting billions of pounds in spending. But after a year where awareness about the climate emergency has come to the forefront, helped by the activism of Greta Thunberg and the climate strikers, people are now thinking twice about how they shop. 

The change has spread throughout the year. In September more than 62,000 people signed up to Oxfam’s Second Hand September campaign, encouraging people to choose second hand shopping over buying new. Extinction Rebellion activists targeted fashion weeks in protest against throwaway culture and consumerism’s environmental impact. 

In November, more than 300 clothing brands joined the collective “Make Friday Green Again” asking shoppers to not buy anything in the Black Friday sales. And in the run up to Christmas, a third of people in the UK planned to make a conscious effort to reduce their impact on the environment during the festive season. 

Bianca is now trying to mend and fix thrift items to add to her wardrobe, and is learning how to make her own clothes. “I had two shirts in my closet that I had never worn, and it was because they didn’t fit properly. So I went to get them altered and now I wear them all the time. I haven’t chucked them out and contributed to landfill, and I haven’t bought anything new. It feels really good to not be contributing in that way. As long as you’re trying to do something better, that’s still better than doing nothing at all.”

People must make huge lifestyle changes if the UK is to meet net zero carbon emission targets by 2050, which means consuming far less. Each week, 11 million items of clothing end up in landfill, while the fashion industry’s textile production accounts for global emissions equivalent to 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 every year – a bigger carbon footprint than all international flights and shipping combined. 

"Today we don't buy what we need; we buy because we are tempted. We are not in a good relationship with consumption any more. We want people to focus on what they already have in their wardrobes then, if you really need something more you can buy it."

Environmental groups including Greenpeace have called for the industry model to change alongside our shopping habits. “We need garments that are easier to mend, reuse and resell. We need to reduce the water, chemicals and fossil fuels that go into making them,” said James Hanson, a press office at Greenpeace. “We need big fashion brands to stop incinerating millions of perfectly good, unsold clothes. And we need the industry to send a different message: not ‘buy more, use less’, but ‘buy much less, use much more.’”