Going green 'needs to be second nature'

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The Independent Online

Consumers need to be able to buy green products and services as second nature, campaigners said today.

The Government's advisory body the Sustainable Consumption Roundtable said ministers and companies must take radical action to help people tackle climate change and environmental problems, and remove damaging products from the shops.

The Roundtable says it is time to start a British love affair with sustainable fish and chips, to offer air travellers automatic carbon offset from their flights and to make schools and hospitals carbon neutral.

It says to make improvements the Government and businesses can not just wait for consumers to choose more green products and services. Consumers are willing to help the environment, but they cannot see the point because they think their efforts would be isolated.

The Sustainable Consumption Roundtable report, I Will If You Will, says Britain boasts a select range of sustainability success stories, due to a positive lead from businesses and the Government. These include sustainable-wood products, fair-trade coffee, dolphin-friendly tuna, energy-efficient fridge freezers, washing machines and dishwashers.

To make these work across the economy, the Government and businesses must get radical solutions into consumers' lives. Instead of waiting for consumers to make decisions on complicated environmental problems, the Government and businesses must take the initiative.

The report urges the Government to:

* Unite with business to get the most damaging products out of the shops and replace them with environmental products. For example, television sets that use less power on standby.

* Bring in affordable hybrid cars.

* Encourage alternative fish to cod, which is over-fished.

* Give consumers up-to-date energy information, so they can manage their energy use, by getting smart meters into every home by 2012.

* Make all schools and hospitals carbon neutral by 2015.

* Automatically give travellers the option to carbon offset their flights, to demonstrate the environmental impact of flying.

* Develop a working economic model to track the links between national income, consumption growth and resources by 2008.

Alan Knight, co-chairman of the Roundtable, said: "The Government has got to stop relying on information leaflets and hoping for the best, and start working with businesses and NGOs to get practical measures into people's lives."

Ed Mayo, the other co-chairman, said: "Going green can be smart and stylish. But is not yet simple. We want to call the bluff of politicians to take action to make the sustainable choice the easier choice.

"Eighty per cent of our environmental impact as consumers comes from just four everyday decisions, how we run our homes, what food we eat, how we get around, and holiday travel. Solutions need to start here."