In recent years consumers have started to look for and adopt more sustainable behaviours. “This turning point has become necessary and has also become something that the consumers call for because consumption is at the base of everything”, said Susana Correia, Legal Adviser at Deco Algarve, in an interview with The Portugal News.
In fact, consumption and sustainability go hand in hand for two main reasons. Firstly, more sustainable behaviours can lead to greater savings. On the other hand, consumption and the way in which citizens buy, ends up having an impact on the environment in terms of the resources that are needed for the production of these goods and later what is necessary to put an end to them.
2018 and 2019 was the turning point for the general public, said DECO Algarve. “The ‘Plástico a Mais’ project (in English means too much plastic) was a manifestation of the consumers disagreement in taking home plastic packaging that they thought unnecessary, then it became important to give consumers a voice to share their experiences and examples, also contacting companies to mobilise and raise awareness for them to also adopt more sustainable measures, because consumers also ask for it”, explained Susana Correia.
For this reason, Deco has been conducting, over the years, many awareness raising projects in terms of recycling, the efficient use of energy and in water waste.
At the moment, besides ‘Plástico a Mais’, there are more campaigns promoted by Deco (check the website: https://deco.pt/informacao-ao-consumidor/), across different areas including, of course, the theme of this article - environmental sustainability. Harp, Step, ACT4ECO, E-compras com direitos (e-commerce with rights), Fatura Amiga (friendly invoice), Direitos na saúde (health rights) and TANE KONSUMIDOR are campaigns you can find out more about.
For example, ACT4ECO is a platform that allows the consumer to learn how to improve the energy efficiency of their house. It is a two in one because, despite having an initial investment, these actions will not only save the earth, but save in the long-term on electricity bills.
Another example is the friendly invoice, whose motto is also “we save energy and save the planet”, this is a tool where you learn to understand electricity bills, for more efficient energy consumption and, thus, reduce bills at the end of the month.
“These works and projects started in 2007 and 2008. One of the first projects implemented at a national level by DECO was a project called – Brigadas de Carbono that was made up of teams to clarify energy consumption issues both in homes and in schools, explaining things about how can we lower consumption at home”, said Sandra Rodrigues, responsible for the Projects and Innovation Office of DECO Algarve.
There are simple things that can make such a difference, like the colour we use inside our houses to have more light. “If we have a room with low light and we use, for example, dark paints on the walls we will need to use stronger lamps to have a more light at home”, she explained.
Since then, following the evolution that society has taken in this direction, there have been many projects that DECO has taken part in and carried out. Susana even mentioned that when they both joined DECO several years ago they never imagined that they would work so much on these questions.
With regard to energy efficiency, that is a topic that concerns more and more consumers, Deco really wants to improve their responses in this area. For this reason, they have recently created an energy advisory office (GAE). “We realise that we can make some contributions in the fight to end energy poverty in Portugal”, said Susana, adding that they also realised that consumers still adopt some behaviours that aren’t efficient and therefore “there is a need to explain the importance of the energy label, or, when possible, the importance of change, either bulbs or some equipment such as the fridge for a more efficient one”, she exemplified.
New environmental challenges
Speaking about the environment has never been so common. The information reaches people in a more simplified way and with a faster spread through social networks, newspapers and the internet in general. However, there are always new challenges to face.
“We have noticed, even in our daily lives (because we are also a reflection of consumers) the problem of green washing”, they told The Portugal News.
Green washing is a kind of false advertising. The main intention of green washing is to link the image of those brands to the defence of the environment, but, in fact, green measures are not really taken by those companies.
“This concern of consumers to have more sustainable behaviours has increased the number of companies in which there are often environmental claims that actually do not correspond to reality, there is something wrong between what is said about a certain product and what actually happens and this is a problem that we are starting to understand and raise awareness about”, Susana said.
Another challenge for the future is equipment life. “The idea that electrical equipment used to last a lifetime, or 20 years at least, has gone. Now the feeling we have is that equipment today lasts the warranty period”, she mentioned.
Currently, we already have countries that are trying to fight against it and criminalise the problem. The legal adviser exemplified: “For example, France in this regard has legislation that is trying to respond to this situation. There are several themes for the consumer that we also have to study, work with and adapt to, because, in fact, changes only happen if everyone, citizens, companies and governments collaborate together”.
In Deco’s opinion, the path to success comes from this sharing between consumers, companies and associations. So, they recommend social media as the best way to interact with them on these topics, where readers can keep a close eye on their latest projects and initiatives.
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