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Amidst environmental and economic challenges, more young people are choosing sustainable and frugal lifestyles, embracing “degrowth.”

In a world grappling with environmental crises and economic challenges, a significant shift is occurring among young people. They are increasingly turning towards 'degrowth', a concept that prioritizes sustainability and conscientious consumption over rampant consumerism. This movement is reflected in the lifestyle choices of individuals like Rosie Coltman, a 32-year-old teacher from Leicestershire, who has shifted from fast fashion to more sustainable practices like renting, repairing, and buying secondhand or higher-quality items. Coltman, among others, represents a growing demographic that is reevaluating their consumption habits in light of the ongoing cost of living crisis, the looming threat of climate disaster, and the profound societal changes brought about by the pandemic.

Recent YouGov statistics reveal that 46% of Britons surveyed in August 2023 reported environmental sustainability impacting their household purchases to a fair amount, an increase from 41% in February 2020. However, despite this growing consciousness, there is a slight decrease in those who claim it affects their spending to a large extent. This trend coincides with rising financial challenges, as evidenced by a Joseph Rowntree Foundation report showing that nearly 3.8 million people in the UK experienced destitution in 2022, and a KPMG survey indicating that two-thirds of UK consumers plan to reduce discretionary spending.

Faced with a cost of living crisis, the looming threat of climate disaster, and the pandemic’s upending of daily life, which has led many to rethink their habits, more people are pledging to consume less and spend more sustainably – reducing the strain on planet and pocket.

For individuals like Kat Butler, a 36-year-old graphic designer, the motivation for change came from a frustration with low-quality products. She now exclusively buys pre-owned clothes, viewing it as a more sustainable and economical choice. Similarly, Butler engages in creative upcycling, such as building a unique cat house, demonstrating a commitment to 'making do and mend'.

The pandemic also played a pivotal role in altering consumption habits. Claire, a 50-year-old NHS finance worker from Liverpool, was inspired by the environmental recovery observed during lockdowns. According to The Guardian, she now prioritizes local shopping, buys in bulk from ethical companies, and prepares food from scratch, all in an effort to reduce her family's environmental footprint and cut costs.

Tony Herniman, a 51-year-old teacher from Bristol, echoes this sentiment. The rising cost of living has made him and his family more budget-conscious. They have foregone certain luxuries like frequent holidays, opting for more sustainable and cost-effective living. Herniman also expresses frustration with the environmental costs of the food supply chain, advocating for seasonal and local produce.

These individual stories collectively paint a picture of a societal shift towards degrowth. This movement is not just about reducing consumption but about reimagining our relationship with material goods and the environment. It's a conscious choice to live more sustainably, both for the planet's health and personal financial well-being. As these narratives show, more people are finding creative and practical ways to balance ecological responsibility with economic necessity.

Eunice is a sustainability writer whose passion is sharing accessible eco-friendly practices with GreenCitizen's global readership. She enjoys birdwatching during her downtime, often deriving inspiration from nature's resilience. An enthusiastic cyclist, she is also an ardent advocate of eco-friendly transport.

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