Zero Carbon Cumbria - Carbon reduction action across the county.

Consumption and Waste emissions reduction pathway


Executive summary

Emissions from the food, drink and other products consumed by householders and visitors to Cumbria accounts for around 22% of the 11.1MtCO2e of Cumbria’s priority emissions.

Tackling these emissions will therefore play a huge role in reducing Cumbria’s overall carbon footprint. It would also result in many additional benefits. Read on for our approach to tackling these emissions.

A vision for consumption, waste and a circular economy

By 2037, Cumbria will be recognised as an environmentally responsible county that is laying the foundations for future generations to live well. Residents, visitors and businesses are informed consumers and will significantly reduce their consumption of finite and carbon intensive materials,  minimise waste and embrace a low carbon culture. This shift will be evident through the adoption of sustainable behaviours, the existence of a market for reusable, long-lasting products and an increase in sharing and repair practices.

Cumbria will have a predominantly circular economy, with businesses and individuals committed to, and benefitting from, the highest environmental standards in resource management. Investment will prioritise sustainable skills, innovation and technology which support a thriving economy. Consumers will look for responsibly sourced and produced goods, considering seasonal foods and local products where possible and seek to repair, reuse and recycle products. Consequently, there will be minimal residual waste and this will be handled in a such a way that it does not worsen the carbon issue.

Why consumption and waste?

Consumer habits can shape the environmental, social, and economic landscape of a place. It is a basic human need, it can improve quality of life, it has a role in driving a healthy economy and stimulates creativity and innovation.

However, over consumption is problematic, not only to health and finances, but also to the environment and the climate. Every item produced, purchased, or consumed carries a carbon cost, and this cost can vary significantly based on factors such as: how products are extracted, raised, manufactured, transported, packaged, served, and how waste is minimized and managed.

The typical model for consumption, make – use – dispose, is linear, inefficient and unsustainable. The use of finite raw materials and degradation of nature, energy intense processes, and high levels of waste are responsible for climbing emissions from this sector.

Emissions associated with food, drink and other goods consumed by residents and visitors is the second highest contributor to Cumbria’s greenhouse gases, with around 2.5 million tonnes emitted each year.

Therefore, responsible, sustainable production, consumption and end of life management is at the core of this sector.

Additional benefits

Benefits to individuals, businesses and the environment through shifting to more sustainable consumption and circular processes.

The scale of the challenge

In order to meet the Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership’s (ZCCP) ambition of net zero carbon emissions by 2037, the assessment of Cumbria’s greenhouse gas emissions estimates that emissions associated with residents and visitors need to be reduced by 74% by 2037.

How do we achieve the vision?

To achieve the goal of a reduction of emissions by 74%, national targets in the Sixth Carbon Budget and the National Food Strategy have been accelerated to align with the 2037 target.   For Cumbria this means an annual reduction in emissions associated with this sector of:

    • An average of 6.5% per year between 2019 and 2030 
    • An average of 8% between 2030 and 2037 

The Emission Reduction Pathway (ERP) is a set of strategic priorities and proposed actions that have been developed collaboratively by the consumption and waste sector group to meet the targets above. The Group has analysed a range of data and research, taken a deep dive into current and future local and national policy, identified stakeholders and explored examples of best practice and innovation in order to identify the strategic actions that would contribute most to significant emission reduction in the sector, whilst also delivering benefits for people and places. The strategic priorities align with the widely accepted waste hierarchy which focuses encouraging more environmentally sustainable behaviours, developing a circular economy and keeping high value materials in production and significantly reducing the single use waste sent to landfill or to energy from waste plants. The strategic priorities are summarised below.

Strategic priorities

Strategic priority 1. 

Sustainable consumption (avoid)

Shop locally

Strategic Priority 2.

Reuse, repair, composting and a circular economy (reuse/repair/refurbish)


Strategic priority 3.

Waste reduction (recycle)


Strategic priority 4.

Reducing emissions through waste management (disposal/other recovery)

waste management plant

The Consumption and Waste Emissions Reduction Pathway has been co-produced with a range of organisations with varied interests and experiences across the broad spectrum of activity within this sector, taking guidance and expertise from those within recycling and waste management, tourism, food security, composting and sustainable living within the county.

However, the group acknowledge there is a greater understanding of local supply chains, consumer demand and waste practices and processes required to ensure a systemic and holistic shift to a circular economy. 

For the full list of emissions reduction and enabling actions which are proposed to deliver each strategic priority read the Consumption and Waste Emissions Reduction Action Plan

The emissions reduction action plan also identifies some of the key challenges, considerations and potential collaborators for each action.  

Who needs to be involved

Engagement and collaboration with residents, businesses, local authorities and other organisations in the county will be crucial to the successful delivery of the recommended actions. A range of organisations have been identified that are rooted in place and connected to their communities and which could progress the brokering of partnerships, refine the solutions, and be key strategic delivery partners.  

The ZCC Partnership will continue to develop, review and update the pathway and actions to ensure it reflects learning from new research, delivery of actions and any strategic changes including policy, legislation and technology.

Key documents

The Emissions Reduction Pathway sets out a strategic direction to reduce carbon emissions. It includes a carbon baseline, a vision and objectives for a net-zero Cumbria, priority areas for reducing emissions and how we should tackle decarbonisation.

The Emissions Reduction Action Plan sets out detailed proposed actions for emissions reduction in each sector.  Actions are built around priority areas for decarbonisation, identifying potential targets and key stakeholders for delivery.

We welcome your feedback!

Your feedback is critical to the development of the plans. It will help inform the Cumbria-wide decarbonisation plan, due to be published at the end of the year. If you would like progress updates, please indicate that you would like us to contact you at the bottom of the form.

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