The honest green guide: what 'net zero' will really cost you –

There are two types of heat pump: ground source and air source. According to the Energy Saving Trust, the former costs anywhere between £20,000 and £30,000 to install and while more efficient, requires significant work digging either trenches or boreholes to install.

An air source heat pump currently costs between £8,000 and £14,000 and resembles an air conditioning unit fitted to the side of your house. However, they only work in properly insulated homes, a serious problem in Britain, which has some of the oldest and leakiest housing stock in Europe. According to the Energy Saving Trust, it costs up to £8,200 to fully insulate the interior walls of an average three-bed semi, while recent estimates suggest up to 25 million homes will not reach industry insulation requirements by 2050.


The Government’s Behavioural Insights team (known in Whitehall as the ‘Nudge Unit’) has touted the imposition of a “meat tax”, raising prices on red meat and dairy to encourage a more sustainable diet; meat accounts for almost 60 per cent of all greenhouse gases from food production. This is part of a two-pronged approach that will also aim to increase the availability of plant-based food, making it the “sustainable default” for school pupils and students.

There are obvious health and societal benefits in eating seasonally, locally and limiting the amount of meat and dairy in our diets. But Tim Laing, a former Lancashire hill farmer who is now professor of food policy at City University, argues the Government isn’t being honest about the significant costs that will be imposed on households in order to eat greener. “If you are on a low income, it is very difficult to eat a more plant-based diet,” he says. “There will have to be a lot of help in this transition.”


During its 2019 election manifesto, the Government promised to introduce a deposit return scheme to incentivise people to recycle plastic and glass. It has also pledged to introduce a standardised approach where green waste, food waste and tougher-to-recycle plastics – from single-use polyethylene plastic bags to the pump mechanisms in bottled lotion dispensers – will be collected from every home across the country.

Meanwhile, new levies, such as the Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging, which will be introduced in 2024, will also dramatically reduce the waste that supermarkets and retailers currently create.

Helen Bird, strategic technical manager at the waste charity WRAP, welcomes the changes but warns that the cost will, again, fall on consumers. “We are talking millions and millions of pounds on businesses to meet those obligations and I think it is inevitable some of those costs will have to be passed to the consumer,” she says.


According to the British Retail Consortium, the UK retail industry currently has an annual carbon footprint in excess of 200 million tonnes – higher than all UK households and road transport.

The BRC has recently published a roadmap for action with the ambition of reaching net zero by 2040. Much of this will be through low-carbon logistics and sustainable sourcing, but expect “going to the shops” itself to soon be a very different experience.


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