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Sustainable living: announcing our new magazine supplement

Inspired by your desire to live more sustainably, we’re proud to announce our new magazine supplement on sustainability, landing in November 2019.

It’s Recycling Week, so what better time to announce that we’ve just sent to print a special supplement to Which? Magazine covering how we can all live more sustainably.

If you receive Which? Magazine, you should also receive this supplement with your November issue – so keep an eye out for it towards the end of October.

What sustainability means to you

To make this happen, we’ve read through your discussion on what it means to live more sustainably here on Which? Conversation to learn what interests you the most in this area.

We’ve also checked out other member feedback we’ve had by email, phone or on surveys.

As you’d expect, we’ve pulled together all our experts’ insights (both from our researchers and our policy specialists) – and it’s clear that sustainability covers all aspects of our lives.

The supplement covers topics including energy, travel, food, recycling and shopping. It also dispels common myths and updates you on what we, as a business, are doing.

It is of course, difficult for a supplement to cover everything, so we’ve planned it to be as useful as possible by discussing areas where consumers can make a number of changes, and where we think Which? can really help.

Printed sustainably

We know that the idea of printing content concerning sustainability can seem counter-intuitive! However, we have had good feedback about our occasional supplements, which pull together widespread information on topics that can be complex.

This print form allows people to refer back to the information simply, or even to share it with others. We felt that this topic deserved to be treated in this way, and reach as many people as possible.

We also know that this sort of long-form content can be difficult to read in digital form, and that not everyone will have access to it if it only exists online.

However, you can rest assured that the paper we are using for the supplement is FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council) certified, and that it comes from a supplier that produces paper using raw-material from well-managed forests in low-emission processes.

What do you think?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the supplement once you’ve had a chance to take a look next month.

In the meantime, if you’ve received our previous supplements, for example on retirement, planning later life care or connecting your smart home, what did you think? Is this something you’d like to see more of from us?

Is there other helpful guidance would you want us to cover in supplement form in the future? Let us know!


I welcome this and look forward to reading it. One problem you have to face is that of writing something that applies to everyone. In past supplements, bits have been useful and the rest less so. Other bits might have been useful to others. Thus one supplement is, necessarily, general advice. To make it specific you might have a question page here to dot a few ‘i’s and cross a few ‘t’s, with a reference to this in the magazine.

I look forward to reading the magazine supplement on sustainability. Perhaps the next step would be to launch a campaign that is relevant to sustainability and my suggestion would be for Which? to push for standardisation of how councils handle our waste. At present, different councils recycle different plastics and at least one council does not permit glass to be put in the recycling bins. The colour of bins varies according to council, meaning that it is easy to make mistakes when visiting family and friends.

A future supplement could give advice on how to maintain and repair household products, including precautions needed to do this safely.

I second that.

Ours are threatening to open bags and inspect the contents, returning bags to owners to be re-sorted. I agree there should be guidelines that cross the country especially as a trawl round a supermarket produces many and varied packaging challenges. Package tops are unwanted while the container is. I resent throwing away polystyrene from product boxes, but no one wants it. Fortunately many now use compressed, moulded cardboard which can be recycled. It would be handy to have a glass caddy, but our glass has to be taken to the “tip” . Of course no one wants four or five different coloured containers with associated bin liners cluttering up space and in this respect we are lucky to have three choices: recycle, food or chuck. Visiting our recycle centre the automated conveyor belt deals with metal while ten hard working individuals sort paper, plastic and anything else as it passes by them. I have much admiration for them. We have made progress since the black dustbin was collected every week in the past. It is an example of how, with a plan, and a step by step approach, the public can accept change and “do their bit.” Let’s extrapolate that to all other fields of environmental care.

It is not just a question of standardising bins ( I have 4 that work sensibly) but how the disposal of that waste is sensibly handled. We should have a network of specialised recycling centres across the country that all councils use, to recover for recycling as much of our waste as possible, and to minimise what goes into landfill.

However, if we are to have a meaningful and urgent campaign I’d suggest it should be one that seeks to minimise waste in the first place, before it even gets to our bins.

I’d start with unnecessary packaging – even if it is recyclable it costs money to handle – but, in particular, I’d require the absolute minimal use of plastics (unless they are of a type that can be indefinitely recycled). We have a plastics crisis and alternative methods of packaging need to be used, where packaging is necessary; other properly recyclable materials are available. As are customers reusable containers.

Until we act, the accumulation of vast quantities of waste plastic will continue to pollute the environment in a way we cannot reverse.

I also look forward to reading the supplement.

I think wavechange’s suggestion for Which? to push for standardisation of how councils handle our waste is an excellent idea. Every item that can go into the recycling bin needs to have a recycling code or logo on it and standardisation and cooperation is needed across the whole of the UK.

We cannot count burning rubbish as recycling.

We have 9 rubbish containers:
1 large bin for recycling
1 large bin for non-recyclable rubbish
3 large bins for garden waste
1 kitchen bin for recycling
1 kitchen bin for non-recyclable rubbish
1 kitchen bin for Tetrapak cartons to take to a collection point
1 old council recycling container now used as the collection bin for the shredder

I also agree with malcolm in that we need to reduce all packaging.

Chris powell says:
17 October 2019

I agree

Supplements to the magazine are nothing new. Around fifty years ago Which? produced a ‘Diet’ supplement that contained a lot of useful information on nutrition, vitamins, and health. I kept it for many years, referring to it many times and making copies for others. It eventually disappeared and I miss it still!

I think ‘Sustainability’ will be another useful and popular guide. Why not put it on sale to the general public?

To compensate for the use of materials in producing the new supplement why not either scrap the annual motor car supplement altogether or limit it to only those vehicles that have – relatively – the best environmental performance? There are any number of car buying guides and the weekend papers are full of stuff, but nobody else is addressing the question of sustainability comprehensively; any writing on this subject tends to be insincere and tokenistic at best.

That’s not only an excellent suggestion which I would fully support, but I would add that the language in the typical car review is unhelpful and borders on the meaningless. We’d be better off without it.

It’s not that different to the language used by TV or HiFi reviewers, many of whom seem to aspire to be wine connoisseurs. This is a typical example:

Deep purple colour. Aromas of rich dark currants, nectarine skins, gushing blackberry, but lots of fragrant tobacco, rich soil, white flowers, smashed minerals and metal. Medium-bodied and saucy but racy acidity stabilises the wine nicely with the robust tannins. Deep red currants and ripe cherries, laden with mocha, loamy soil, charred herbs, pencil shavings, roasted hazelnut. Dense like characters that make it perfect for cellaring, however it is drinkable straight away once you expose it to the earth’s atmosphere. This is a delicious Sonoma Cabernet! Has been matured for 24 months in 2 year old 55% Tronçais and 45% Vosges oak. 95 points.

I remember when Which? used to publish various small booklets giving useful advice on particular topics. I cannot remember if they were included with the magazine but new members were offered these as an incentive for trying the magazine. In these days, Which? also produced various hardback and paperback books. Now that we have the internet, I don’t suppose it is economically viable to sell supplements and books, even where they provide more reliable information.

For years I have replaced my car after about ten years and for me, having an annual supplement on cars is pointless. If I know someone who is looking at buying a car I pass on this supplement. I very much support what John says that environmental performance is what matters when choosing a car, and that is the most difficult information to find.


I’ve unearthed some examples of what I consider to be dubious descriptors:

Unfortunately, all that tranquillity quickly comes undone when you mash the accelerator too hard

the suspension proved in our tests that it has the ability to suck up lumps and bumps at high speeds,

really does feel sharp and sporty to drive

a tendency to employ…colourful phrases whcih add little in terms of detail and precision

an entertaining drive, whichever model you go for, although it isn’t quite as exciting as its more overtly sporting rivals.

feels very eager indeed, with much more brawn and torque (pulling power) than most of its 2.0-litre rivals.

feels far more urgent and willing to perform

and the odd sentence which defies comprehension completely

The steering is full of feel and extremely fast-acting. It may feel too nervous for some tastes, but it allows drivers to judge to perfection the exact amount of steering needed for each corner.

Am I alone is making the assumption that all steering should do what it says on the box, or is the reviewer suggesting that most cars have steering which is ‘lacking feel, slow to respond and doesn’t allow drivers to judge the amount of steering needed for cornering?

This type of writing is essentially a pastiche of the grotesque style of the wine connoisseur, something of an oxymoron in itself.

So yes, John; drop the car reviews and instead concentrate perhaps purely on EVs.

I would still like to see an annual review of cars, but one that just focuses on their fuel consumption and emissions (real values), their reliability, cost of repairs and servicing, and their perceived failings – just the practical matters – so anyone wanting to buy a new or second hand car has some reliable guidance to help them shorten their short list. The effusive descriptions simply waste space.

We might not buy a car very often, but neither do we buy tvs, washing machines, vacuum cleaners every year and yet we (well I) still welcome the reports.

A Dietary supplement – sounds like a pill. I agree that selling these supplements to the public would both bring in income and maybe widen the Which? message and membership. However, I wonder how self-contained they would have to be to be of use and appeal. One I have by me on “Planning home improvements” did not inspire me as a standalone document. Just as an example, 3 paragraphs on “convert your loft space” gave no information on strengthening joists, required height and area, requirement for fire doors, access….. However, what these guides do is point to relevant topics on the Which? website where the “loft-design” pages are usefully comprehensive. If that model works – if people are prepared to follow the links – then they are useful.

There has been a lot of talk about changing ways of heating homes away from gas boilers, but it seems to me there are very few options. Electric boilers of comparable output require 3 phase power supplies, and air source heat pumps have noisy fans that won’t endear one to neighbours. I know all the stuff about improving insulation but I existing homes that won’t solve the problem.

Thank you for the supplement on sustainability, I look forward to learning from it.

The proposals to adapt the Which? car review to focus on sustainability are excellent. We will benefit from independent advice on new models of electric cars, how to charge and look after them.

I would like to ask Which? to consider adding the reviews of environmentally friendly products to your existing ‘Services’ section that is open to the public. So many people would benefit from your expert advice regarding solar panels to generate electricity and to heat water, for example.

Thanks for considering.

Geraldine says:
17 October 2019

Many of the recent supplements have contained little that is not blindingly obvious. Similar to Reviews. These use to contain much more detail on the different functions and aspects of the things being tested so we could compare all side by side. Eg recent review headed 4k TVs missed any comparison of PVRs but a column was taken up by repeating that every TV was 4k – blindingly obvious ( and a second repeating that all were smart) .

Graham says:
18 October 2019

I think that Which? should start to become a serious voice in the sustainability campaign rather than devoting its resources to producing yet another ‘washing machine’ review.It would serve the consumer more effectively if it campaigned for the ‘Right to Repair ‘ consumer products. Big corporations like Apple have gradually been eroding the ability of 3rd parties to repair their products, and sabotaging old models to force the un-necessary purchase of new ones. Surely reducing waste is one of the prime requirements of sustainability rather than producing another washing machine comparison or bland, simplified guide to sustainability. Or is Which afraid of taking on the powerful manufacturing lobby in a serious fight with global consequences in battling for the Right to Repair? Which?

Hi Felicity – Thanks for the supplement. It includes a compilation of advice, much of which should be familiar to readers. It’s encouraging to see ethical consumerism getting a mention.

I do hope that the future will see Which? pushing for councils to standardise waste collection and recycling services across the country and for legislation that will reduce unnecessary plastic packaging.

I have had to fill up my rubbish bin today with expanded polystyrene [protective packaging from a new product]. Whether it goes to landfill or incineration [either are possible in my area according to available capacity] it is not good. As protection it is an excellent material because it retains its rigid form while still absorbing knocks and bumps, but I think we should be looking for recyclable alternatives such as soft cardboard similar to egg boxes but with air-filled cavities.

For similar reasons, the air-filled plastic bags now often used to bulk out parcels should be phased out. Shredded pre-used cardboard would be a better bet.

I have been impressed by the replacement of polystyrene with cardboard packaging in a variety of forms during the last two or three years, but maybe it’s not sufficient to rely on manufacturers behaving responsibly. What continues to disappoint me is the use of plastic bags for small parts, where paper would be adequate.

I found the supplement useful, but you seem to have omitted the most important thing which anyone can do to reduce their impact on the planet. According to this article in the Guardian:


the impact of having one fewer child is 58.6 tonnes of CO2. The next largest – living car-free – has an impact of 2.4 tonnes. The chart in the article makes the point rather dramatically.

Everyone can make their own choices, but it is important to know the facts and none of the environmental organisations want to talk about this one.

Thanks for pointing out the Guardian article, Andrew. I was hoping for something along those lines in the Which supplement: maybe next time, Felicity?

Its clear I should avoid air travel (oops, just returned from Aus and New Zealand!), but should I stop drinking Antipodean and South American wines, and avoid fruit and veg (coffee beans, tea, etc) imported from far flung places?

I would like to be convinced that electric cars are going to make a contribution to reducing greenhouse gases: in the UK, the electricity that powers them is mostly generated using fossil fuels, is it not?
And re cars: do the more efficient diesel engines in fact contribute less to greenhouse gases than petrol?

Note that we have no children, but two cats. Are pets soon to be a thing of the past (well, except herbivores, I suppose)?

ChemJem says:
13 November 2019

Two quite separate points:

1. The most sustainable way to use a car — apart from not driving it — is to keep it for a long time, providing it is reasonably carbon-efficient and non-polluting. The embedded carbon cost of a new car is huge. And don’t think that an electric car is genuinely “zero emission”: in addition to the embedded carbon, even the most “green” electricity requires energy expenditure in creating generation and distribution networks.

2. A really simple way to reduce household energy usage is to minimise the use of tumble driers. If you have a garden, most washing can be dried outside, even in winter. And a clothes horse in a quiet corner of the home can be very effective.

Tony Braithwaite says:
17 December 2019

The carbon footprint of a car interests me because it is not mentioned much- reviews focus on fuel consumption, reliability, safety and so on. I will soon choose between my relatively efficient Skoda (2012) and my old – fashioned and inefficient MGB Roadster (1980). I live in North East London, use the excellent public transport system most of the time, and drive rarely – only when I have to. I point out that the MGB is great fun to drive! What do you think?

This supplement is really useful, and a good starting point for many people. Which? is trusted, so we know we can rely on its advice. The sections on Where To Find More Help are really useful if you want to drill down into some detail.
How about including a simple sustainability tip in each monthly copy of Which? This can encourage us all, without making the problem seem so overwhelming that we hide from it.

Terence Hughes says:
11 December 2019

I found the Sustainability supplement a really good read but there was one massive omission – there were only a few lines about encouraging cycling. Given the massive impact that using cars for so many short journeys compared to the massive health benefits of us getting more active, I think this is a great shame.

Fran says:
24 August 2020

Hi Felicity, we are http://www.earthbits.com, an ethical and sustainable business that only sells plastic-free and environmentally friendly products. We would love to join the conversation on the magazine as sustainability is at the very core of what we do. Would love to receive more information on how we can do that if possible!

Serena says:
2 April 2021

Found it in the bin today. Great read.

Hi I have just signed up for the digital version of Which (to save paper and for searchability). Is the ‘How to Live More Sustainably’ supplement available to me digitally and if so how? FYI i am going to be cohosting a green issues programme on Deal Radio and want to do an article on Which? as I see it as a green organisation helping folk to buy quality eco friendly products at reasonable prices.

Hello Simon. You should find it here https://magazine.which.co.uk/special_guides. You will probably need to log in to your account to access it.

Hi Simon – It would be worth contacting Which? and asking to speak to someone in the Sustainability Team: https://www.which.co.uk/about-which/contact-us

I have not seen a digital version of this or other supplements but it would be good if they could be added to the online magazine archive.

Greg Foot has a series of podcasts that might interest you: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/09/which-investigates-podcast-sustainability/

Carrying on using existing products and fixing ones that have broken is usually the best answer!

I hope you might join some of our Conversations here.

The sustainability supplement is in the magazine archive, as I linked to above. It is found in “Special guides”.

just noticed i got a sustainability newsletter email Jan 16th. May be that’s the same thing in which case is there access to the back editions?

The emails are relatively short and anyone can sign-up to receiving them by email: https://www.which.co.uk/about-which/our-products-and-services/which-newsletters I found the one you mentioned. I’m not aware of an archive but you could check with member services.

The sustainability guide was sent to subscribers by post and has been added to the online magazine archive. It is substantial with around 32 pages and cannot be downloaded as a simple pdf. I guess that Which? became fed-up with their content being nicked and uploaded to other websites – wrong kind of recycling!