Motoring: Can you afford to go green?

Going green and shopping ethically has become easier in recent years. Consumers with a conscience no longer have to seek out an independent ethical retailer to buy fairtrade bananas and chocolate or knitwear made by a Peruvian women's co-operative.

The major supermarkets now stock many fairtrade and sustainably produced foodstuffs, while fashion retailers are broadening their clothing ranges to include organic cotton garments and items made by developing communities.

But there's still a premium to pay; so in today's strained economy can we afford to be good?

The figures certainly suggest we want to 'buy good'. Overall, the UK's ethical market is worth £43.2 billion, according to the Co-operative's most recent figures, compared to £36.5 billion in 2007. However, like tectonic plates that take thousands of years to move barely a fraction, these shifts in ethical attitudes are pretty slow. In the vast UK consumer-spending ocean, worth £700 billion a year, ethical spending still accounts for only a tiny drop (less than 7%).

In a survey commissioned by Moneywise and carried out by rewards website, 73% of respondents say extra expense puts them off buying ethical goods. Take a look at Ecover ecological allpurpose cleaner: it costs £1.24 for 500ml, against 78p for Asda's own cream cleaner or just 25p for 750ml of its Smart Price all-purpose liquid cleaner.

Green motoring

The Hollywood A-list love to boost their green credentials by driving the leading green car, the Toyota Prius. Given that the starting price of the latest Prius is £26,865, buying a hybrid car is out of many people's price range, but a CO2 efficient car is more
affordable - and there are tax breaks too.

"The government taxes less on fuel-efficient cars and if you own an A-banded car you won't pay any vehicle tax at all," explains motoring writer Nick Gibbs.

Cars are separated in bands from A to M, based on how much CO2 emission they produce. The owner of a car in the M bracket will have to pay £460 a year in tax, while an A-band car is exempt from car tax. But these savings must be offset against the extra cost of buying a specifically tagged 'green' car.

For example, the Nissan Micra standard 1.2 model costs £11,150, but its 'super charge' green counterpart costs £12,150. However, fuel-efficient cars guzzle less petrol, keeping fuel bills down.


More about