Customers with a conscience lift cost of ethical shopping to £3.4bn

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Shoppers in Britain are changing their spending habits to take account of climate change, research published today shows.

Consumers spent £3.4bn last year on goods and services with a low impact on global warming - an annual increase of 21 per cent, says the Co-operative Bank. Sales of household appliances such as fridges and washing machines rated "A" for energy efficiency rose 23 per cent year-on-year, while one in 10 people went on public transport purely to help the environment.

Spending on ecologically friendly solar panels and domestic micro wind turbines in homes leapt 314 per cent to £23m. Seven per cent more motorists boycotted petrol retailers because of their attempts to play down the links between carbon dioxide emissions and climate change. According to the bank's annual Ethical Consumerism Report, 66 per cent of consumers now consider the environmental impact of their purchases, a rise of 11 percentage points.

The report, which acts as a barometer of ethical spending in the UK, will be published in full next month.

Simon Williams, of Co-operative Financial Services, believes the figures demonstrate the public is "increasingly willing" to tackle climate change. He said: "On average, some £140 per household is now voluntarily spent on reducing climate change.

"It would seem to support a bolder legislative agenda one that ensures the UK hits its target of a 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2010 and then goes on to produce 80 per cent reductions by 2050. Why not restrict the sale of household appliances with energy efficiency ratings of "C" and below, much as is now required for boilers?"

Domestic power consumption contributes to global warming because pollution emitted by power stations. In Britain, electricity consumption for lights and appliances has almost doubled since 1970 as rising affluence means more homes have fridges, washing machines and dishwashers. The rise in entertainment gadgets such as DVD players and games consoles has also had an impact.

All domestic appliances have to carry the EU energy label rating them from A+, the most efficient, to G, the least efficient. Fridges can be rated A++.

Energy efficient products can use 40 per cent less energy than older products, saving money at a time of rising electricity prices, as well as helping the environment.

Any boiler installed in a British home after 1 April this year must be A or B energy rated - a measure the Energy Savings Trust estimates will save 1.3 million tons of CO2 being emitted a year.

* Some supermarkets are permitting "alarming" farm practices that cause animal suffering, according to the Compassion in World Farming Trust.

Some retailers are said to allow intensively reared chickens to be packed together in large numbers and some sell pig meat from animals reared abroad in ways that are banned on cruelty grounds in the UK, the charity said yesterday.