The High Street responds to environmental pressures

As Greta Thunberg continues to sail and rail her way to summits around the world, and the likes of Extinction Rebellion up their tactics to get changes made, the environmental aspect of the way we live our lives is certainly in question and has made many of us stop and think.

Perhaps it was seeing Greta crying in anger at the UN Headquarters, or seeing demonstrators supergluing themselves to buildings in desperation, or seeing your neighbour taking a day off from work to join local protests. Whatever it was, something has sparked in many people’s brains.  It feels like change is coming, that people are more aware and they are starting to hear the battle cries and the beat of the drum.

David Attenborough told us “we are facing a man-made disaster on a global scale”, and people have started to respond and demand change.

We have seen refill shops popping up across the country; towns and villages are working to become plastic free destinations; sit on a train full of commuters and you may now feel shame to be using a plastic water bottle (and fight the urge to explain to everyone that you don’t usually use plastic bottles but you forgot your refillable one on the kitchen top that morning…).

The tide does seem to be turning and we are starting to see this in our high street stores too. We’ll start with Tesco. Not the first store perhaps to come to mind when we think of eco-friendly shopping choices, but this was a sign displayed in one of their stores just the other day:

recycling messages
Green credentials
Tesco stores use Reflex to state hangers will be recycled
Clarity on recycling

OK, so it may not be the silver bullet to fix all the world’s ecological problems. But when we consider that around 100 million coat hangers are thrown away every year – any dent to this can only be a good thing. And, I think, it is not so much what they are doing, it is the fact that they are doing something. Tesco will respond to their shoppers’ mood so it is a demonstration of how far public awareness on environmental issues has come, and for those that are not as aware, signs like this will actually spread the message to them too. It’s a win win. And it’s only hangers.

If we look at the fashion retailers on the high street, we see awareness spreading here too. GlobalData found that 64 per cent of UK consumers say they consider the impacts on the environment in their choice of retailer and products when buying clothing and footwear, and this rose to almost 70 per cent for those under the age of 34. We have seen retailers respond and many have launched new sustainable ranges in response to the backlash against fast fashion.

Here is Miss Selfridge, a household name in the world of fast fashion, responding with a new range:

Eco message with a signholder
How to find the eco products with a sign

Ranges like this within traditionally fast fashion stores shows just how far the tide is turning. Retailers are responding and evolving as customer awareness grows, and as retailers respond, so even more consumers are reached and become aware of the issues, further fuelling the demand for change.

KeyTakeaway POS

Key takeawayWhen we consider the huge environmental crisis, we can become despondent. Does one person using a beeswax wrap instead of a roll of cling film really make a difference? Well no, not really. But one person, becomes two, becomes ten, becomes a thousand, becomes a million…. Greta herself started on her own outside the Swedish parliament, one year on and we have seen mass protests across the globe, all inspired by what she started. As the Chinese proverb goes, ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’.I think what we are seeing is that there is no ONE solution. Greta putting pressure on Governments, Extinction Rebellion bringing cities to a standstill with superglue and their ‘heaving hemp-smelling bivouacs’ (I get the impression Boris Johnson isn’t their no.1 fan), Tesco with their hangers, Miss Selfridge with their eco-range, Beryl with her reusable bags at the checkout. It is lots of little changes that will add up to the big change, or as Tesco themselves would say ‘Every little helps’.

Further reading about environmental issues