True cost of Christmas

By 2nd December 2019Climate Change

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year when friends and family get together, but with Manchester setting a target of being a zero-carbon city by 2038 is there more we can all do to help reduce our impact on the environment?
The Furniture Poverty Hub’s promotion of the reuse and conservation of furniture sits very neatly within Manchester Museum’s Heritage Futures programme. Our collaboration focuses upon the `true cost of Christmas’, with the installation of a `typical’ living room setting at Christmas, which highlights our (unnecessary?) purchasing excesses and the waste we create.
The living room is the one room in the house which undergoes the most frequent transformation. We redecorate the living room on average every 2 years in the UK. 1 in 4 homes change the living room decor to keep up with interior design trends. New décor often means new furniture.
Every year in the UK, we throw out 1.6 million tonnes of furniture and other bulky waste, most of which is buried in landfill or burnt in incinerators.
CO2, along with other greenhouse gases, is changing our climate. It is embedded or embodied in our furniture. Tonnes of CO2 are emitted into the atmosphere to make a new sofa, TV or any other household item; also, when we dispose of the old product. The belching of CO2 into the atmosphere starts with the extraction of materials and continues during manufacture and transportation until your purchase arrives in your home. Eventually, you throw it away. Unfortunately, the CO2 journey doesn’t end there; it lingers in our atmosphere for centuries.
A standard sofa usually holds about 55kg of CO2.
1 tonne of sofas, preserved, repaired and/or reused, roughly equates to stopping 1.5 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Buying new and disposing without reusing means we add to global CO2 levels.
We’re highlighting the links between reusing and reducing our individual impact upon a changing climate. Every purchasing and disposal decision we make affects the level of waste we create, and the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) we release into the atmosphere.
If items of furniture are no longer needed but are still reusable, then please donate to a local `furniture re-use’ charity in Greater Manchester. Your unwanted household goods will find a second life in the home of a family who perhaps can’t afford to buy new or replace broken furniture and appliances. The Tree of Life Centre kindly donated pre-used furniture for this two-week long installation at Manchester Museum.
These charities help women and families fleeing domestic violence; support teenagers leaving the care system for the first time; ex-service personnel; ex-offenders; and those who society describes as the `working poor’.
Your furniture donation will help transform lives, reduce household debt and poverty, and help the environment. Reuse matters.

The Furniture Poverty Hub installation is on the top floor at Manchester Museum from 2-16 December 2019.

Helen Middleton

Author Helen Middleton

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