/ Sustainability

What does it mean to live sustainably?

We’re hearing a lot these days about sustainability, Eco living, saving the planet, war on waste, plastic bags, recycling and a lot more. All these issues are part of something much bigger; to use a time-worn phrase, it’s all about living within our means.

This is a guest post by Which? community members Alfa and Ian. All views expressed are their own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

That used to mean not spending more than we earn, but in a way that’s exactly what we’re doing with the planet.

We’ve become used to the idea of disposability – using something once or twice then throwing it away. That can’t go on. At least, it can’t if we want our children and their children to survive. Because that’s what it’s all about. 

Our planet is rich in resources, but they’re not unlimited, as we’re seeing with fish stocks, birds, bees, water and even something we take for granted – fresh air.

As a species we’ve proved time and time again that, without imposed limits, we will simply consume resources until there’s nothing left.

More we can do

It’s a very complex and very large subject, covering areas as diverse as climate change, air pollution, ocean health, food production, energy use and reusability. But it has to be tackled.

Although we, as individuals, are making efforts, by recycling, re-using bags and mending and repairing items we once thought nothing of replacing, it’s not enough. 

Experience has shown repeatedly that the major corporations will focus purely on selling their wares unless they are compelled by governments to adopt strategies and policies that reflect the concerns surrounding sustainability.

But we also know governments are essentially reactive: they won’t take action unless the pressure to do so becomes glaringly incontrovertible. 

Working together

We, as consumers, need a body that will be prepared to coordinate approaches to sustainability, informing and educating, lobbying government, monitoring use and waste across industry.

Above all, this body needs to keep the public’s minds firmly focused on the target: Living within our means. Then perhaps our descendants will have a planet they can still enjoy.

This was a guest post by Which? community members Alfa and Ian. All views expressed were their own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

What does it mean to you to live and buy sustainably?  Where do you feel that we could do more to live in a sustainable way?

What tips and advice can you offer others on living sustainability?

Comments

GOVERNMENT GRANTS

As Ian pointed out, grants for electric vehicles have been cut. Some fleet owners had bought hybrids to take advantage of the subsidy but never charged them: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46152853

The Feed-In Tariff that allowed those with solar panels to sell their surplus electricity is no longer available for new applicants.

I believe the Green Deal for various energy saving measures is still available.

Is there a place for grants or other incentives to encourage us to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle?

Anyone like to discuss grants and other incentives to reduce use of energy?

My incentive to minimise my sensible energy use is that it saves me money. At one time tenants were disadvantaged in that the cost of improving their homes to save energy e.g. insulation in walls, double glazin, was unlikely to be recovered but I understand that landlords now have an obligation to provide a specified energy efficiency property.

We are very poor at ensuring government money (our taxes) go to those who need them.

I’m really not sure about solar panels; I’d like to see much more use made of larger installations on public and commercial buildings and ground that has no better use.

As for electric vehicle grants it seems to me that is helping people who already have the means to buy a new car. Many people with older polluting cars could not contemplate that sort of outlay. Perhaps we should, instead, be helping establish a decent electric public transport system in towns and cities, with out-of-town park and rides, to keep pollution out, rather than trying to perpetuate individual transport into the middle of built-up areas?

I agree about the requirements for landlords to introduce energy saving measures. These will reduce waste of energy and help the many who live in rented property because they cannot afford to buy their own home.

There is an argument that grants should be means tested but that’s not always relevant. For example, some people who could probably have afforded to buy an electric vehicle have been encouraged to do so because of grants. I agree about moving towards electric public transport and park & ride but progress has been slow and we have the ‘pay to pollute’ ULEZ in London. Is there a case for introducing a scrappage scheme to get the most polluting vehicles off our roads?

My view is that pollution is most serious in towns and cities, which is why I would place the emphasis on reducing emissions there, so ideally ban all fossil-fuelled vehicle (except essential users such as the disabled). That means providing an acceptable alternative.

It’s perhaps most concentrated in urban areas, but those living besides motorways and in fact anyone living in the NE of the UK given the prevailing wind direction, are possibly worse affected. A surgeon friend in Co Durham, has told us that there’s a very high incidence of bronchial problems in the rural areas of Durham.

So suggesting it’s a highly localised issue is, I believe, mistaken; I agree that the 96% of the population who do live in urban areas need protection but this is an atmospheric pollution, so it can be carried around by the atmospheric dynamics. I think we need a broader approach.

While the top priorities must be our city centres where air pollution is greatest, I strongly agree with Ian that we need a broader approach. In the days before coal-fired power stations pumped out large amounts of sulphur dioxide I could smell or taste it more than 30 miles away, depending on wind direction. Recall all the news about ‘acid rain’ caused by sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides affecting other countries in the days before action was taken to reduce emissions.

I agree that air pollution cannot be isolated to urban areas, but in terms of priorities for pollution control measures it would be sensible to start there, and then, by the same conditions that spread pollution, cleaner air would gradually benefit all areas. 99% of the population visit towns at some point I expect.

I am suggesting we need to start somewhere, as we cannot rid the country of polluting vehicles on the short, or even medium, term. Starting with major conurbations would benefit the most people and attack the highest pollution areas.

I am concerned by the frequent suggestions that we should resume large scale manufacturing in the UK, simply because of the amount of pollution it can create. There are plenty of other ways that we can boost the economy and provide rewarding employment.

To get back to my original point, can we use grants or other incentives to help us on the road to a more sustainable future? The grants for PHEV (plug-in hybrid) cars have been removed. No doubt one reason was the discovery that many were purchased to benefit from the grant, but had never been charged: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46152853

If we do give grants or other incentives it’s important that they are not misused.  

The question of large-scale manufacturing in the UK has many facets. What concerns me is the fragility of our supply chains exposed by our attempts to back out of the European Union.

Perhaps we have already shed too much manufacturing for our own good – not just for the sake of employment which I agree can be substituted. We must ensure that alternative commercial activities are at least as economically valuable and productive as the things we would have to import instead of making them here.

The real issue is whether we should be consuming so much, full stop. Modern manufacturing does not have to cause pollution and I see little merit in not developing clean industrial processes here but buying replacement stuff from smokestack plants in other countries.

Environmentally, the closer that necessities can be produced to the point of use or consumption the better.

On the question of grants and incentives to stimulate sustainability, I am not a great supporter of grants for such purposes. They have their place in assisting necessitous people or eliminating sub-standard conditions but not to kick-start new technologies such as solar heating or electric vehicles where experience shows they do not deliver benefits to those who most need them. There is a risk also that they inflate the prices of the supported products.

Incentives can be more easily fine-tuned to achieve the socio-economic objectives. This can be in the form of time limits on the use of specific things, such as incandescent and halogen lamps and diesel fuel. [The EU light bulbs policy is an interesting case in the wider scheme of things because it has substituted the production of heavy LED lamps from China for lightweight units made in Europe causing an increased use of precious metals and much greater transport implications; who knows? – the environmental balance might not be favourable for several years to come.]

Equity-linked support for insulation and heat retention in old properties could be used to help home-owners who have a hard-to-heat house or cottage but cannot afford to improve its energy efficiency. Questions arise over means-testing and under-occupation in previous attempts to incentivise such measures which is why I suggest linking the incentive to the added value of the property through a land charge payable on realisation.

I agree that we need to maintain reliable supplies, certainly in the case of essentials such as food. Products such as Danish bacon and New Zealand lamb have a very long history, but we could and should be able to produce most of our own food. It makes no sense to carry on importing it.

I believe it was very wrong to let foreign countries get involved with our energy supply and hope that we will not live to regret it.

We also need clean air and water and have a longstanding interest in the latter. Commercial activity makes a considerable contribution to pollution. Reducing pollution can be extremely costly and any company that does more than what is legally required may become uncompetitive. Here is a recent article about the problems of sewage in rivers etc. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-49131405 If we want to even maintain the current situation our agriculture industry and companies that deal with our sewage and other effluent will have to do more to comply with the EU Water Framework Directive or whatever replaces it in the UK.

We can develop cleaner manufacturing processes to reduce pollution but that will make our products uncompetitive. That’s one of the reasons why companies have outsourced manufacturing abroad.

My view is that we should focus on making essentials and employ more of our citizens in worthwhile skilled jobs rather than working on production lines.

Thanks for your thoughts on grants and incentives, John. I agree that they can help those in need and some grants are means tested. I see your point about equity-linked support to improve old properties, though I’m not sure how it would work.

If financial incentives are not the solution, how do we encourage those who don’t qualify for grants to take action that could save energy, reduce pollution or cut down waste?

Pollution is global and I cannot support a policy that effectively says we don’t want dirty manufacturing industry here and we can’t afford to produce our requirements in the UK to a satisfactory environmental standard so we will contract them out to overseas producers and import them at additional cost and transport pollution. Somewhere in that equation there must be a way in which more UK requirements can be produced at home in a satisfactory manner economically and environmentally [and therefore sustainably].

It struck me recently that in our part of the world all the ambulances, fire appliances, refuse vehicles, most police cars and many buses are Mercedes-made. In some cases the bodywork is probably produced and assembled here but the high value parts are imported. Why should our public services not be able to put together a business case for making the engines, gear boxes, transmissions and other running gear in this country even if it is designed abroad and carries a foreign badge? There must be a large enough demand to support a manufacturing plant for this purpose and it would also attract sub-component and spares manufacture that at present, for convenience, also originates abroad.

I share your aspiration on worthwhile skilled jobs, but at the moment the building trade cannot get enough skilled people to supply the country’s housing needs; we cannot import whole houses so that area should be a priority. However, there is a place for unskilled and low-skilled jobs and our educational and training systems appear to be very capable of meeting that requirement. In practice I suspect that there are not many low-skilled production line-type jobs that don’t have a significant knowledge and experience factor even if the technical or practical requirements are simple and repetitive. In manufacturing, automation has gone a long way to eliminating many of the low-skill functions; on-line retail has developed to fill the void.

If it is possible to control pollution I would support manufacturing everything in the UK, but at present, factories are still dirty. It would be interesting to know what is achievable and can be done at a realistic price. It is very difficult to find reliable information about pollution created by factories and what can be achieved to control it.

”I am concerned by the frequent suggestions that we should resume large scale manufacturing in the UK, simply because of the amount of pollution it can create.

Many products are manufactured without inherently producing pollution. The car industry here is an example. Our pollution and emissions control regulations are pretty robust so I believe this is a misconception. We need productive industry.

The UK cannot, in my view, survive economically just as a service provider and not by exporting good ideas for other countries to capitalise on. Producing more of the products we need provides employment, pays tax to the government, saves shipping and, importantly, save foreign currency. Equally it produces foreign currency when we export. Industry also produces dividends that pay most people’s pensions. Our European neighbours have plenty of manufacturing industry and there is no reason why we shouldn’t. It requires investment in modern techniques of course and that may well require incentives from government.

We cannot produce much rolling stock for our railways, ships for the navy are in jeopardy, where do all the household appliances come from? We reward people for making vast profits when they take all their manufacturing to the Far East. Why not make vacuum cleaners here? We will be a big consumer of electric vehicles if the government has its way, so why make those in Singapore?

Perhaps post Brexit we will be freer of restrictions on how we support our industry.

If pollution is the focus of criticism we could look, for example, at agriculture and water companies as places to improve.

I’d be interested if examples of productive industry generally creating significant uncontrolled pollution were provided so we have something to examine. Simply branding industry and now commercial activity as making a considerable contribution to pollution should be substantiated. Do foreign manufacturers do better in this regard? Should we export our manufacturing to countries that have far more lax standards than those we use?,

We can develop cleaner manufacturing processes to reduce pollution but that will make our products uncompetitive. That’s one of the reasons why companies have outsourced manufacturing abroad.” My direct involvement in UK manufacturing was that the industry I was in was “clean”, in compliance with UK (and EU) regulations. For example, painting was extremely tightly controlled – switching to very low voc materials, twin pack paints, powder coating with strict emissions control. I’d suggest the principal reasons we bought from overseas were reduced health and safety (if any) requirements, low labour costs (where labour was a significant element), foreign government support for industry, high investment in up-to-date manufacturing processes. It is time we recognised that UK industry needs revitalising. That includes all kinds of products including pharmaceuticals. Not only should we aim to become more self-sufficient, but we should also set out to earn more foreign currency.

<i<"factories are still dirty” Which factories? Have you visited a car manufacturer? I have not by any means surveyed all UK industry so would like examples of those dirty factories to see how we could improve them, how whatever pollution we are talking about could be mitigated, and what other countries do.

As I said, if it is possible to control pollution I would support manufacturing everything in the UK. I agree that we should look at how the more industrialised countries are tackling industrial pollution.

I mentioned my concerns about the agricultural industry and the need to tackle sewage pollution earlier.

Do you have examples of manufacturing industry that produces excessive or uncontrolled pollution to support this assertion “If it is possible to control pollution I would support manufacturing everything in the UK, but at present, factories are still dirty.“? Which factories do you have in mind?

I have no figures, Malcolm. Industry does not, as far as I know, publish any figures. Here are some relative figures relating to air and water pollution in recent years: https://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/industry/industrial-pollution/industrial-pollution-country-profiles-2018/united-kingdom-industrial-pollution-profile-2018 Without specifying actual levels it does not help, but these may be available on the website.

Complying with current regulations does not mean that an industrial process creates no pollution. An analogy would be comparing modern cars with those made 20 years ago. The new ones have to comply with more stringent regulations but that does not mean that they create no pollution in use.

In general, industry has greatly reduced its contribution to pollution. Taking your example of surface coatings, the car industry moved away from solvent-based paints, as have others.

The hidden way that industry contributes to pollution is the sheer volume of manufactured products, used by consumers and others. One example is all the single-use plastics. Making millions of plastic cups may be good for the economy and a fairly clean process but we have the problem of plastic waste that we have discussed at great length.

Manufacture of aluminium requires a great deal of electricity and even though recycling uses 5-10% of this amount, it is still a lot. Electricity generation has been a huge source of pollution, though thankfully our dependence on coal has been greatly reduced.

There are numerous manufactured products that we could easily live without or could use for much longer than we do, but most of us are conditioned to buy.

As the header says Experience has shown repeatedly that the major corporations will focus purely on selling their wares unless they are compelled by governments to adopt strategies and policies that reflect the concerns surrounding sustainability.. I can’t remember learning of any major company that has voluntarily sought to reduce its pollution bootprint as an act of altruism. In fact, the opposite is true. The criminal actions of some of the major motor corporations in seeking to deceive regulatory bodies as to the extent of their actions in poisoning the air we breathe and leading to the shortening of children’s lives reveals this all too clearly.

In a similar vein the tumble dryer saga demonstrates that even when human lives are put directly at risk major corporations fail to act unless compelled to do so.

We have no reason, therefore, to believe that any factory owner will seek to clean up their factory’s emissions and output unless they are required to do so by law and, as the motoring behemoths have demonstrated, even then they will often attempt to conceal the extent of the harm they’re causing.

It’s usually the case of doing the minimum possible. I know a case of a Victorian sewage works that was discharging sewage (little treatment other than filtering out the big bits) into a water course that feeds into a waterway running through three Sites of Special Scientific Interest, an SPA an SAC and a Ramsar site and then into a river providing drinking water. Under the European Water Framework Directive (specifically AMP3) the company was required to upgrade the treatment works and install phosphate-stripping plant. That was not done until the deadline. It’s not just manufacturing industry that creates problems.

I simply wondered where your information came from to substantiate the “dirty (UK) factories” comment. My personal view, from my experience of UK manufacturing, is that it is an incorrect view.

“Volume of products” is not what I would consider pollution in the “dirty factory” context. It is a consumer problem and would exist whether we manufacture ourselves or import. My preference is to make in the UK, provided the financial benefits to the country and foreign currency by exporting. Tackling consumerism is a separate issue.

Single use plastics is again not a “dirty factory” issue but will exist as a pollution problem until consumers put sufficient pressure on retailers, producers and the government to minimise their use and replace the essential packaging with truly recyclable materials.

We have pretty strict regulations controlling pollution, particularly in manufacturing, so I’d rather see goods produced where those regulations exist and can be enforced than in the darker economies. I’d also prefer to see UK workers employed to make the stuff we need, not people overseas. We might also see better products that comply with safety legislation rather than those imported from dubious sources.

What is not to like?

By dirty I was referring factories creating pollution, for example air pollution, water pollution and waste. We have stricter regulations than in the past and more will need to be done to safeguard our water supplies and control air pollution. Obviously these problems are not just down to industrial activity.

We can compartmentalise pollution into that created directly by manufacturing and that produced as a result of use of these products. Maybe it would be better to take the broader approach.

I share the concerns set out by Ian above.

Every purchase I make, be it food, clothes or cleaning products, I am checking its environmental footprint & social responsibility impacy. I am not just concerned if it is plastic, I try to make sure it has travelled a short distance, the workers are treated/ paid fairly, and the business doesn’t do harm to the environment.
It is stressful and I am forced by the options available to me to pick a product that will be harmful to either the environment or the workers. A prime example is buying fish- I have trawler caught white fish that is handed to me in a plastic bag, unless I bring my own tupper (which I do). Or I can buy line caught white fish that is already packaged in a non recyclable plastic. Trawling is harmful because it captures more than the white fish, but non recyclable plastic goes to the landfill. Plus the fish are caught in different parts of the world so some have to be transported further than others, this I try to also factor in, but what of the working conditions for the fisherman? I can’t find much data on their welfare.
Another example is Palm Oil, which is added into so many products. There are examples where I can buy a product that is not in plastic or recyclable plastic but the palm oil is not sustainably sourced, or sustainably sourced palm oil in non recycled plastic.
Why do companies do this?
If my choices are limited by the choices of companies. I’ve cut out palm oil, new clothes, and fruit & veg from outside the UK completely, but my cupboard shows it and so does my bank balance. It does cost more to be Eco- friendly and socially responsible.
It is a struggle to shop and plastic is just the tip of the iceberg. After all this I still need to look at food labels to check its impact on my health (salt, sugar, fats etc.). It is unbelievably stressful to buy food!
I want to see more companies making all products positive for all- planet, animals and the people. It shouldn’t be an option, the environment, the animals, fair working conditions and healthy should be standard practice.

Hi KL. Do you subscribe to Ethical Consumer? https://www.ethicalconsumer.org

It would be interesting to know if there are other sources of information about sustainability and ethical issues.

Is the information produced by Ethical Consumer kept current? https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/company-profile/apple-inc

I have made the same point several times since our contributor Patrick Taylor made me aware of Ethical Consumer. I presume that companies would challenge inaccurate information on EC.

Apple is well rated for sustainability.

Manufacturing electronic products such as phones and computers involves numerous issues relating to sustainability and ethics, as briefly mentioned at the start of this article. It’s surprising that the focus is on the use of aluminium to make cases for phones and laptops. Machining these out of aluminium offers various advantages, both in engineering and thermal conduction, which removes heat and improves reliability. I would have thought that using aluminium to make single-use cans was far more wasteful when reusable bottles provide an option.

Aluminium is totally reusable so single use cans can be recycled, using only 10% of the energy required to manufacture aluminium from scratch. They will work alongside re-usable bottles in the reduced waste campaign.

Machining phone cases out of aluminium produces a lot of removed metal that can be – and almost certainly is – recycled.

Saying that aluminium is totally recyclable ignores the facts that the process produces waste, the amount of energy used (I’m well aware that this is small compared with aluminium smelting) and that significant amount aluminium is still not recycled.

Even if some people don’t keep their phones and laptops as long as they could, aluminium seems a good choice to me.  

What waste? Energy is replaceable. Apparently 90% of the aluminium ever produced is still around.

I think we need a national policy, but also a national infrastructure, on waste – substantially reducing it – and on recycling – making it easy to send waste and products we no longer use to places where they are equipped to recover as much of the material as possible for reuse or return a product to serviceable condition. It will no doubt cost money, but so what – adding to the world’s waste indiscriminately will be a problem money will not completely solve, so we need to take the right course now, before it gets even more out of hand.

Surely thin-walled and lightweight aluminium must be better than glass for drinks containers. Apart from the lower breakage/spillage risk, transport costs are significantly lower because more cans can be fitted on a pallet and the overall weight is much less. Moreover, anyone can open a ring-pull can but opening the cap on a glass or plastic bottle is becoming nigh impossible nowadays without tools because of the force used to fit the caps to prevent tampering.

I posed this question to a guy in the industry and he said its down to cost and producing what was wanted by the companies he deals with.

My vote goes for reusable bottles, whether metal, plastic or glass – provided that they are reused a sensible number of times. That might be a problem.

Cost is something we will have to bear in some areas if if we are to have a more sustainable society.

I still ask why, when by far the main component ib a soft drink comes out of the tap, we don’t persuade retailers to sell more concentrates that we can dilute at home – over and above orange, lemon and lime for example – rather than selling ready-made drinks. Carbonaters can add the bubbles. As with all change, vested interests need to be overcome.

At present it can cost more to buy concentrates than bottled drinks, and that is ignoring the cost of the carbonator and refilled carbon dioxide bottles. If the demand was there I expect that retailers would sell more concentrates.

I have Sodastream that was an unwanted gift, and so far I have not managed to give it away. I never buy fizzy soft drinks (too sweet and fizzy), though I might manage a decent glass of champagne.

Sparkling Elderflower about 2 1/2 x the price of making it yourself with cordial, as is cola .

If there was sufficient demand I expect other prices would become competitive. Figures suggest we consume at least 200 l of soft drinks – predominantly carbonated – a year per head. I estimate that is at least 10 000 000 000 litres or 10 million tonnes of water being shipped around the country. I’m just suggesting, for a more sustainable environment, this is on a scale worth addressing. We don’t have to ban everything but offer alternatives. Those who care might adopt them.

I did say ‘can cost more’ and when I checked it was cheaper to buy ready-made lemonade and cola in bottles. I suppose it depends on where you buy from.

Alternatives have existed for years but the soft drink industry has grown. Of course it is a problem worth addressing but I don’t see an easy solution, but every effort is welcome.

Having a look at how many people are prepared to spend more on products that are regarded as less damaging to the environment might give an insight into the likely success of more sustainable alternatives. Here are some stats for use of Ecover products: https://www.statista.com/statistics/311867/ecover-leading-producs-in-the-uk/ Maybe there are better insights to discover how many care.

Reading with interest all these comments.

I do think legislation and well thought out policy are needed to ensure unintended consequences are minimised. Take single use plastic bags – they have reduced but the number of bags for life being sold is not clear and we could be increasing the amount of plastic being used. https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/no-plastic-bag-sales-arent-down-90

I often forget I live in a bit of bubble and not everyone has the same priorities as me. It is also easier to fall into un-sustainable habits as many of the worst offending products are designed for convenience.

One idea from a supporter event was all new products should get a sustainability rating. It sounds like it would be a huge and very complicated piece of work to implement but can you imagine how get it would be?!

Maybe a pilot study in one part of the country could have established that the plastic bag legislation had some drawbacks.

Bags for life are often thrown away. I presume that the main reasons are that they cost little and that they tear easily now that they are usually made of part-recycled plastic. Maybe if they were more expensive people would use them as intended.

I’m all in favour of sustainability ratings as long as they are reliable. Ethical consumer publishes ratings for classes of products made by different companies. Here is an example for mobile phones: https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/technology/shopping-guide/mobile-phones This covers ethical considerations as well as sustainability, which I see as an advantage. Maybe Which? would consider working with Ethical Consumer, assuming that their ratings are found to be up to date and reliable.

I like the idea of a Sustainability rating. It would be very useful and not that difficult to implement, I’d have thought. You’d first have to determine the criteria. I suppose wrapper recyclability would be the first, followed by a determination of the food value. In non-food item,s repairability would be the top of the list.

The main problem is very simple: vested interests and the glacial rate at which this sort of proposal tends to move through parliament. That is one of the huge advantages of the EU: their very distance makes them far less reactive to domestic pressures. An option is a totalitarian administration. Things like this move rapidly in countries like China.

Criteria for a sustainability rating

What criteria should we have for sustainability on products? Thinking of product categories we have
– Food.
– Electronics
– Motoring

So, ideas?

In a capitalist and consumerist society it is difficult to deal with the desire to replace or update things because there is a new feature available. What should the policy be on obsolescence? Smart TV’s are a case in point where the software is no longer supported so it cannot fulfil its original purpose. The worlds of cars, hi-fi, mobile phones, sportswear, and – increasingly – kitchen gadgets and domestic products are awash with changes which are little more than fashion details in most cases.

The first thing that many people do after buying a house is to knock it all about and chuck out a vast amount of embedded energy in the form of fixtures and fittings because they are “a little tired” or a “bit dated”. Some of these attitudes and values will have to be challenged if we are really going to embrace a more sustainable way of living. Can we trust Which? to support us along that road?

I would welcome sustainability ratings providing that they are soundly based and updated when necessary.

Looking at electronics I think that smart TVs provide us with the best example of planned obsolescence. With a computer, you can usually update software if it becomes incompatible with the operating system or obsolete for another reason, or switch to other software that does the same job. Particularly where a TV is connected to the internet, there should be an easy way of updating it to maintaining existing functionality and enhancing it in the same way that we might download software onto our computer or mobile. Smart products are a growing sector and while they may offer advantages it seems that the main purpose is to promote sales.

If we are to have sustainability ratings then the length of time the product will be supported should figure for all smart products.

LED lamps are another, relatively expensive, item where there is a wide variation in lifespan which is also not easy to measure because of the potential longevity.

We have one in our porch which is left on permanently and the lamp lasts for approximately eighteen months [78 weeks]. This equates to nearly 13,000 hours of continuous operation which is within the stated performance specification but there have been numerous examples of LED lamps reported here that fail after only a few weeks. Unfortunately the information on these failures that has come into Which? Conversation rarely identifies the make of lamp, but the ones I use throughout the house are Philips and I have not had a single premature failure. Possibly more expensive initially than other makes but better value in the long run and more sustainable than other types of lamp.

The length of the guarantee might be useful when calculating a sustainability rating for LED lamps. I would be opposed to taking into account the manufacturer’s figure.

I normally buy well known brands of lamps but out of interest in longevity I deliberately went on to buy some cheaper ones from supermarkets, Wickes, Screwfix and Status – a brand found in cheap shops. I have not tried any from pound shops or unheard of brands sold online. So far, I have not had a single failure and most of them are at least three years old.

I have seen a non-dimmable LED fail within a short time on a circuit fitted with a dimmer. It was one of the same batch of Philips lamps that I have in my kitchen, but not in my house. Maybe how we use lamps is a factor in how long they last. I suspect that your porch LED may have been cooked by overheating (especially if in an enclosed fixture) and wonder why it has been left on permanently.

I thought the lamp in our porch had performed rather well, staying alight for eighteen months continuously!

We leave it on because it uses so little energy it’s not worth trying to remember when to switch it on and off. If we go out in the daylight and come back after dusk we know the area will be illuminated.

One of the advantages of LED lamps is that you can leave them on for long periods economically, so we have two on time switches that stay on all night. Perhaps that is not a good practice but the energy and cost savings compared with other forms of lamp make it acceptable to us.

I see there is a product called “Cano Water” – a resealable aluminium can that can be refilled. OK, better then plastic, although I still wonder why we need to buy water when we can get it out of the tap, filter it and leave it in the fridge perhaps to improve the flavour. The downside is the water is canned at source – in Austria 🙁 – and is expensive, least so at £1 for 500 ml in Tesco.

Fancy helping test out a quiz we’ve put together?

I think it was in the newsroom that we were chatting a while ago about all of the different recycling symbols on packaging that one has to interpret. There’s more than 50, so we’ve started with six of the more common ones in a short quiz. I got a five the first time, embarrassingly.

Give it a try, and let us know what you think (in reply to this comment, we’ve disabled). Is it too hard, too easy? What would you add or remove? What other comments would you have?

Let me know, as we’d value your thoughts before we share this more widely in the next few weeks: https://conversation.which.co.uk/recycling-symbol-quiz/

Well, I got 6/6 but I was not confident, certainly not without the prompts. I confess to generally taking little notice of the symbols on packaging. Metal, plastic (not film) and glass go in one bin, paper in another, food in its own bin and the rest in general rubbish. My LA issues a leaflet with the collection calendar and descriptions of what goes in which bin, not a symbol in sight.

I’d be interested to know not only how many people know the symbols but how many take any notice of them. I may be on my own here.

Well done!
There’s probably a fun infographic to be made on the patchwork of recycling bin setups around the UK. Where I live there’s one for mixed, a couple towns over has four for individual types.

Several of those symbols I’d never seen.

This is interesting. I’m familiar with the Green Dot symbol but until now I did not know the meaning: “The green dot means the producer has made a financial contribution towards the recovery and recycling of packaging. The packaging itself may not be recyclable, however”. It leaves me wondering how much companies contribute per kg.

Councils need to make it clearer that at present we have to be selective about which plastics should go into recycling bins and that they should be reasonably clean.

6/6 – there is a reason they used to call me the Waste Queen!

The green dot is the one that really annoys me. No one knows what it is and I am sure some people will buy things thinking it is recycled or recyclable packaging.

All producers should make a mandatory financial contribution to build up a proper recovery and recycling system for the waste they create. It will be the consumer who pays for this of course.

But I don’t want another “pay to pollute” culture; we should be focusing on minimising packaging and eliminating plastics wherever possible. Money should also be put into research to develop the appropriate materials and techniques.

I suggest that there is no point in using the ‘Green dot’ without explaining the meaning.

For years, some tyre fitters and garages have shown environmental charges for disposal of used tyres, oil, etc, though not all show this in their invoices and I wonder if all companies do contribute. If you buy tyres and take them to be fitted, does the supplier pay a charge for recycling, does the fitter, or no-one? Are charges realistic? There is a great deal we do not know.

When I bought my house a few years ago the owners said that they were leaving the nearly-new conservatory furniture and would dispose of the ‘Poang’ because it was broken. I discovered that the Poang was a lightweight leather chair supported on a springy wooden frame and that the fabric supporting the seat was partially torn. The vendors or removal company omitted to take said chair and I carried on using it because it was more comfortable than the other chairs. Two weeks ago the chair suffered catastrophic failure and I ended up sitting in rather than on the chair. A comedy moment.

Since the Ikea chair was obviously a self-assembly job, I hoped that the faulty part – two pieces of wood with stout fabric stapled to them – might be a replaceable part, but unfortunately not. I have bought another Poang and will keep the old upholstery in case the new one gets damaged or stained, but will be writing to Ikea to suggest that they do provide spares. It’s wrong that we should have to replace products where a single part could be easily replaced, especially when the product is still manufactured.

Could you not have replicated the two pieces of wood and replaced the fabric? We can sometimes help ourselves with sustainability. A fairly old but comfortable pair of M&S shoes came apart when I caught the front of the rubber sole. Bostik glue and putting the offending show under a kitchen table leg overnight while the glue set has maintained their life for now.

Unfortunately not. It is: “Moulded layer-glued wood veneer with surface of, Birch veneer…” and bent through more than 90°. 🙁

Had the fabric not been torn I would have modified another part of the frame because the joints were coming loose and it’s interesting to see that the design of the newer chair has been improved to remove this problem.

This reminds me that I need to glue an old dining chair that had belonged to my grandfather. If he had had access to modern adhesives rather than bone glue it might have lasted longer.

I’m sorry but I might have laughed out loud at your misfortune!

You sometimes find spare parts in the bargain corner of Ikea. Although the chances of finding the exact piece takes a fair bit of luck. It is a pity they don’t do spares – they are normally quite good about this sort of thing.

The friend who witnessed my downfall did laugh out loud and watched as I struggled ‘out of’ my chair. 🙁

I’m many miles from Ikea, so not much chance of finding spares. A friend of a friend is an upholsterer and recovered my old dining chairs. If he can supply suitable strong fabric I can improve the frame, which is falling apart. The new design has 20 hex-bolts holding it together, compared with 10 in the older chair.

It was Oscar who provided the encouragement to get on and replace my iPhone battery. Perhaps we could have a Convo fix something challenge.

Now that is just mean! I would have helped you up. I might have struggled not to laugh though. 😉

I love the idea of a Convo fix it challenge. @jon-stricklin-coutinho vs me in a who can fix something the fastest. Jon would win hands down though.

I do love the Poang! I had a vibrant red one for years (probably still do)

IKEA is actually good with spare parts – I’ve dropped in with the assembly instructions to point out what’s missing and they’ve either had them in store or had them ordered to my house, depending on their stock levels. Here’s their page thereon: https://www.ikea.com/gb/en/customer-service/returns-claims/spare-parts-pubfb2d4631

Much empathy on the chair situation though, @wavechange. I’ve gone through (literally through) three dining chairs in the past 10 years. They were from the same set, and some of the glue in a structurally critical area had given way. It was a good joke, in three parts, though!

Thanks very much, Alfa. That is the current, much improved design. Mine has not been neatly stapled but the evidence is clear if I have a problem. If I had asked earlier I might have saved some money. I was planning to refurbish the old chair but I might buy a new frame instead. 🙂

The newer design would allow replacement of the fabric under the seat and two bits of bent wood, but Ikea does not offer spares. Maybe they should.

Jon – I did contact Ikea to enquire about a spare fabric base for my chair, albeit a couple of years ago. I knew they supply fixings but have no idea what else they hold.

I’ve gone for another leather chair because the old one has survived well in the sunny location and fabrics might fade.

It’s a funny feeling of helplessness to get out of your chair rather than off it. 🙂

I received a “Hi John” e-mail message from Sainsbury’s a few weeks ago as follows –

As part of our aim to reduce plastic waste, we’re removing plastic bags from online grocery deliveries. The initiative is part of our overarching aim to reduce our environmental footprint. Please note that some items such as raw meat and fish will still be bagged for food safety reasons. Our drivers will be happy to carry your shopping into your kitchen if you wish, and it’s safe for them to do so. Or, have your bags for life ready by your front door so either you or your driver can easily transfer your groceries.

Did you know when you shop in-store you can bring your own containers to our fresh food counters and refill your water bottles in our cafes. Thank you for helping us reduce our plastic usage.“.

I was rather hoping they were going to substitute paper bags for the plastic ones. They used to charge 40p to deliver the groceries in bags but there were up to twenty bags sometimes, often with only one or two items in. We now have a huge collection of Sainsbury’s single use bags since they were never “wasted”. I am lining up a series of cardboard boxes to receive the deliveries depending on the destination of the contents around the house [fridge, freezer, food cupboards, utility room, bathroom, household store room, drinks cupboards, and miscellaneous]. It’ll be interesting to see how this works with the next home delivery.

Like you John I get Sainsbury,s home delivery (by phone ) and was told -“no more plastic bags ” that seemed to include frozen items .
You are more organised than me I just remove the groceries from the plastic boxes ,put them in the hall and then move them to fridge-freezer -cupboard , I am building up a small “Brexit Ready ” supply of tinned goods of all sorts , luckily living in a rural area a lot of fresh food is locally derived including butcher meat-potatoes -jam-soup (Baxters ) so hopefully wont starve .

Having read in the financial press that toilet tissue, which is largely imported from the continent [no pun intended], might be in short supply in the event of border control difficulties post-Brexit, I have to admit we have been building up strategic stocks of certain essential commodities.

We also have reasonable access to local produce but prices and availability might be a problem as growers will no doubt respond to demand from metropolitan markets if the prices are better.

I think a spell of rationing would do us all good as I have noticed that a lot of the population appear to have already consumed next year’s supplies of certain bulk BMI components; they are no doubt relieved that their temple of sustenance [Greggs the bakers] has stockpiled pork so that their famous sausage rolls can continue in production and thus avoid the onset of any slack waistband anxiety.

Rationing ? –yes I remember it well, government issue ration books with the small tear off coupons and I remember being pretty thin as well at least it kept me alive , it was a long time till I saw a banana .
I remember Stork margarine announcing its return and “Tom Piper ” Irish stew in tins , nine-penny Coop large mince pies and small bottles of milk at primary school ( I was a milk monitor , even got a badge ) , no soft tissue toilet paper then just that flat smooth government issue at school along with a government issue single bed build like a tank bought via the Coop.
Them were the days –eh ?

It is said that the population was never fitter than during the wartime rationing which ensured an equal allocation of essential food products per person with a sensible nutritional balance and strict limits on fats and sugars. I believe the banana boats and other merchant shipping were requisitioned for the war effort.

I do notice the condition of the crates [or ‘totes’ as I think Sainsbury’s calls them] brought to the door and I have not seen any dirty or soiled crates with Sainsbury’s or Waitrose deliveries. Hitherto our shopping has been bagged but in future it will be loose and it is important for the containers to be clean and hygienic. I would expect there to be a steam cleaning facility at the depot or store so that the crates can be routinely cleansed. You identify some of the risks but another one in our area is pigeons and seagulls. If crates are left standing in the open it is only a matter of time before there will be an almighty mess.

“Tote” is a 17th C word meaning to carry or lift but the UK hasn’t used it until recently, when I believe it had been used for some time in the US to describe women’s leather bags. The correct usage is ‘tote bag’ and now seems to apply to any, relatively formless bag.

We have a similar issue, here, John; herring gulls in vast numbers patrol the beaches and supermarkets, so it becomes essential to either clean the crates or keep them well away from these flying rats.

Asda issued their emails warning of no plastic bags some months ago, but they continue to wrap fish in plastic bags and we never buy loose for deliver shopping, anyway.

Waitrose seems to be the cleanest of the delivery shops in terms of their crates. Asda’s definitely at the bottom of the table. Having said that, Asda is also routinely short on stock, these days, and following their banned merger attempt with Sainsbury’s may, I suspect, be having cash flow issues.

One thing is worth mentioning about the local Asda however; if the crate isn’t clean, perhaps through another product leaking, then Asda refund the money without question and let you keep the product – if you still want it.

Two years and one month ago our ancient freezer slithered off the mortal coil, so we did what we always do in these circumstances, perused the Which? Freezer reports. Their best buy at that time was the snappily named Samsung RZ32M7120VBC – for almost £740.

Once installed, we registered it online for the Samsung extended free five year warranty.

A week ago it stopped working. We rang Samsung and today a chap arrived to repair or certify as dead the Freezer. First thing he did was to re-boot it (”just like a computer” he said, cheerily) but that failed to wake the thing so he announced the PCB had gone.

“Needs a new PCB,” he announced. “But I’ve ordered one for you.”

As we had a Samsung engineer (proclaimed in very large silver lettering on the back of his jacket) I thought I’d pick his brains and ask him if this was a common issue. He said “they’re always going”, which (to me) poses a serious question about inherent reliability.

He also works with Panasonic and Beko and his opinion was that none was particularly reliable. Of course, it’s easy to say there’s a five year warranty, but it’s not quite that simple. For a start, the freezer was fairly full of food. So that will have to be jettisoned, and then there’s the sheer inconvenience.

But out of all this comes one thought: is it about time Which? started to use the membership to assess the reliability of Freezer models and makes? In exactly the same way they do the car surveys they could do a Freezer survey.

It wouldn’t even have to be a very complex exercise: Make, model and date of purchase of freezer, date of any faults, resolution of fault and so on. It could even be done online and opened up to more than the Connect group.

I appreciate the technician’s view will be jaded by seeing only the broken Freezers but a more comprehensive survey might help establish how accurate it is. Meanwhile, we’re just thankful it didn’t fail on 24th December…

I, and others, have been asking Which? to survey Members (at least via Connect) about the reliability of their appliances in a more comprehensive way for a long time. Partly to be able to assess reliability per se, but also as a way to establish “reasonable life” in order to pursue “durability” claims under the Consumer Rights Act. An evidenced-based assessment of each manufacturer’s past performance should help discerning consumers.

This illustrates why 5 year warranties do not solve the problem if the engineer was correct – it is just a business cost; the failure (warranty) cost is included in the selling price. Maybe one way is to separate the warranty out, and have manufacturers simply give a 12 month guarantee – repair or replace. Then require them to offer prices for 5 and 10 year warranties; their cost should be a good indication of how confident the manufacturer is in the reliability of the particular appliance. Potential purchasers would have a bit more useful information to guide their choice, and assess the real cost of an appliance over its life.

I want to see more reliable longer lived appliances.

I agree; we’re now buying a second, smaller chest freezer, so low is our confidence in Samsung – and the Which? reports. We deliberately did not check out this new freezer on the reports.

US top public help organisation -CA–Consumer Affairs has already carried out such a survey on a much larger population than this country can muster and agree with your Samsung engineer Ian-
https://www.reference.com/home-garden/samsung-refrigerators-reliable-426c9eb2ba63f5d
and-
https://www.consumeraffairs.com/homeowners/samsung_refrigerator.html?page=2#sort=top_reviews&filter=none
scroll down from the 3 latest “glowing reports ? ” and read the complaints.

Well now…

Samsung refrigerators receive low scores in terms of reliability from users at both Consumer Affairs and Amazon.com, with users specifically noting the number of times their fridges have needed repairs. Users on Consumer Affairs appraise all of Samsung refrigerators with a 1.5 star rating, out of 5.

That’s fairly unequivocal. So why has Which? constantly failed to heed calls for reliability surveys, which to my certain knowledge have been asked for since at least 2008?

We have a large membership and the technology to mount surveys quickly and easily. It can also be a more serious issue.

We were told by Which? that this was a Best Buy; is not at least one characteristic of a Best Buy longevity” And good construction? In effect, if the above report is true then Which? must start to examine its own reporting system which – interestingly – still shows that freezer as not simply a Best buy but as the Top Best Buy.

Could that be because price is an important criterion in Best Buy rating? Perhaps we should detach the price from the assessment to enable the best performing products to be identified more easily, and also to reflect the fact that, nowadays, prices for consumer durables fluctuate wildly thus affecting their comparative value for money.

I am concerned about Which?’s objectivity, or maybe its ability to objectively examine products and issues. It seems to lack a policy of putting forward thought-through proposals to improve situations in the changing world. Product durability, reliability, repairability and real value for money is one area, access to cash, dealing with product safety (trading standards, amazon, product registration for example), promoting cheap products (as Lidl specials) and amazon are some others.

Oh well. The sun has returned just now, so back into the garden to prepare for bulb planting.

Indeed; the Samsung is around £700 – roughly what we paid for it. It’s one of the pricier models out there.

One good point, however, is our dealing with NFU, who insure the freezer contents as part of the overall house policy. NFU is a W? recommended provider and when I called them to explain what had happened they simply offered £200 straight out and explained if we thought it should be more we could get in touch and let them know.

That’s outstanding service, frankly, and it was very much appreciated.

Ian – As a matter of interest, how do you get rid of a mass of thawing foodstuffs?

“Nail on the head ” John I remember reading a US manufacturers corporate policy agreed with other big conglomerates that it was “policy ” to provide cheaply made domestic appliances as that was where the mass market was according to the economic information received from money market companies in NY , on the basis –“pile ,em high –sell ,em cheap”.

The problem in the UK is that this website is often filled with complaints of high prices on this or that so the general public are complicit in this too, in engineering terms you cant get high quality on the cheap ,well not in a capitalist society where shareholders and directors profits come first .
In other words this isn’t a “win -win ” situation.
Malcom is right in his long term insistence as a Profession Engineer that Standards count .

We have a broad spread of manufacturers making products across the price spectrum. Consumers can choose what to buy and how much to spend. The key is, in my view, to be given independent and objective information to help them decide what is a good buy for their circumstances.

John Ward says: Today 14:46

Ian – As a matter of interest, how do you get rid of a mass of thawing foodstuffs?

Very good question, John. My first thought was composting. I can’t give it to farming pals, as they’re no longer allowed to feed their pigs scraps, but I thought composting it would be a good idea.

The answer is yes and no. You can’t compost everything, and some items will attract wildlife. If we simply bury chicken in the garden, for example, there’s a fair chance the local badgers or foxes will find it and if it becomes uncovered the smell can be fairly off-putting.

So we negotiated with the food recycling folk, who’ve said they’ll take it off our hands. But not as easy as you might think.

Good move, Ian. It’s not the sort of thing you want hanging around for any length of time.

Sorry to hear about your freezer hassles, Ian.

Thankfully I have never suffered a failure but when my neighbour’s freezer failed the contents went into my chest freezer until they had bought a new freezer.

Modern fridge-freezers have a single compressor, so both will fail at the same time. If you have space, separate fridges and freezers might be a better option.

It is still possible to buy freezers without circuit boards. A basic freezer uses just a compressor and a thermostat and may last for decades.

https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/sustainable-living/#comment-1577704Ian – As a matter of interest, how do you get rid of a mass of thawing foodstuffs?
Invite friends and the needy round for dinner.

The new, mini-chest freezer arrived this morning and it’s now currently sitting still, awaiting the power switch on, which we’re cautioned not to do until 3 hours have elapsed.

The company offers a ‘free, five year warranty’ but this is only if you register the appliance with the company.

Fair enough, I thought, and started to complete the online forms. I’d taken all the documentation into the study, only to find that the serial number wasn’t on any of them. It certainly wasn’t on the blurb which proclaimed :”to register simply visit () and fill in your details.” The serial number is not one of our details.

Now, the thing about serial numbers is this: they’re often placed in obscure and hard-to-reach places, they’re always, always in miniscule font sizes and in short they’re a nuisance to find and write down.

So instead I telephoned their help line and only managed to get the words “Hi; I’m trying to register…” when the delightful lady on the other end interjected to ask me some very relevant questions, and positively dashed through the process. Finally, she asked me did I know the serial number, so I explained to her what I’ve noted in here. She then said ‘Oh, we don’t need it, anyway.” And that was that.

It would be wonderful if companies occasionally thought to discuss with their webpage design teams what, exactly, was needed…

Well done Ian. That’s brightened my day no end.

Barry says:
19 October 2019

I am in my 80s. Age affects your views on sustainability.

If I were, say 40 years old, I might seriously consider installing photo-voltaic panels, because I would expect to gain financially – eventually. At my age now I can never expect to gain financially from such expenditure – far better to spend my pension on things which provide immediate gains. Such as a paying someone to do my veg garden.

Peter says:
28 October 2019

Questions for a dinner-party: How useful is wind energy? Is fossil fuel better burnt or turned into plastic? E-bikes or pedals?
Answers to these (and many more) are in the insightful book by Mike Berners-Lee There Is No Planet B. He takes a holistic view to tackling enough food for the world’s population, address climate change, biodiversity, antibiotics and plastics. He identifies what is most pressing, what are the knock-on effects of our actions, and what should we do first.
I found the book refreshing – bringing clarity to a complex set of world problems. Highly recommended.

To answer the easy question, wind is producing a substantial contribution to the current UK requirement for electricity, although the amount is very variable: https://gridwatch.co.uk

To reduce the use of plastic bags, I belong to a campaign to make morsbags!
These are made from old curtains, tablecloths, bed linen etc. and are given away free to replace plastic bags. They are simple and fun to make, and each bag has a “morsbag” label so the recipient can be inspired to make their own and/or tell their friends about it. That way the word spreads and lots of people start making morsbags – hundreds of thousands have already been made world-wide, representing the elimination of millions of plastic bags, and tonnes of material recycled that would otherwise have gone into landfill.
My friends and neighbours donate their unwanted curtains etc. to me and I make morsbags and hand them out for free. For further details see the morsbags.org website. Get sewing!

It’s excellent that you are promoting sustainability, but I think you should do a bit more than to quote the relatively old and quite widely criticised Brundtland definition, so people understand that there are very real practical constraints on living unsustainably. (I have been an environmental lawyer since the early 1980s, though now retired.) May invite you to give us all a summary of what the highly respected Professor Dieter Helm says in his book “Natural Capital”. Among other things he is Chairman of the Government’s Natural Capital Commission. As a start, he treats all the renewable natural resources – e.g. air, water, fish, biodiversity, etc., etc. – on the planet as a gift from the past that we destroy at our peril. In essence we must pass that gift on to our successors in at least as good a condition as we received it, and preferably in a better one. Which leads to his definition which requires the aggregate natural capital not to decline. Most of the suggestions you make, good though they are, are only ways of living less unsustainably. What we, especially all of us in the developed world where most resources are consumed, must achieve, and quickly, is a truly sustainable set of lifestyles that can continue into the indefinite future because they do not deplete the finite renewable resources that we all depend on. This does not rule out growth at all, provided technology allows it to take place without breaching that critical limitation. Anyone Googling “Dieter Helm Natural Capital” can find out much more in advance of your thesis on the subject.

ARE SMART PRODUCTS A SMART IDEA FOR THOSE TRYING TO LIVE MORE SUSTAINABLY?

A recent article provides information on smart tumble dryers: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/11/five-things-you-need-to-know-before-you-buy-a-smart-tumble-dryer/

On the plus side they could help us to become more aware of energy consumption, but anyone who visits Which? Convo regularly will know that smart TVs can lose functionality within a few years encouraging users to ditch them for a new model. I wonder if smart dryers will be genuinely useful or just a novelty. Will people buy smart dryers and scrap working dryers.

Smart dryers will not affect me because I don’t have a dryer and don’t need one, but I wonder if smart products in the home is largely a way of promoting sales. Hopefully the next Which? supplement might weigh up the pros and cons of smart products.

I think some ‘smart’ products have become an unnecessary ‘must-have’, no doubt a result of the prevailing austerity.

Some friends have a smart door bell system which they can monitor on their mobile phone when at their holiday home in Spain and presumably speak to the caller letting them know that the house is unoccupied. Their next door neighbour had a break-in recently and the police called to ask if they had seen or heard anything suspicious; they were mightily impressed to find that the residents were speaking to them from Malaga and offered a run through of their CCTV system for the date in question.

Its a big issue in the internet circles I inhabit Wavechange ,after lambasting governments -Google -Facebook-Twitter-YouTube etc for snooping and data gathering howls of anguish emanate from many quarters of-
“Is there no end to this snooping” now they will know every action that takes place inside the home and never buy your kids a doll/toy with a camera built in .
While the web is full of detail I will post this UK one-
https://www.consumerwatchdog.org/privacy-technology/how-google-and-amazon-are-spying-you
I can post real technical details if asked ?
Having said that I got a shock in my car its got one of those big displays where you control everything , while changing digital channels on my steering heel I must have pressed the wrong sequence of buttons , the music had stopped and somebody was asking me to speak to it –it was the car .
I managed to get back to the music but on checking I found out that it sends signals that are picked up so that the installed map can locate me and it keeps asking for my “phone ” and telling me I better get one or I cant phone emergency services which seemingly the car would do automatically .
This isn’t just big brother its big sister , nephew,aunt etc.

The police would find that very handy if they needed to track a vehicle’s movements. Have they wised up to that yet?

What for some is an invasion of privacy is for others a useful security and crime prevention measure.

Thanks, Duncan – A lot of it seems very useful.

The advantage of going on the bus is that you also appear on CCTV.