These days, there’s more to being eco-friendly than simply recycling your rubbish and buying organic. Domestic property alone counts for a large percentage of the UK’s carbon emissions; eco-friendly living means conserving natural resources as much as possible.
Embracing a more eco-friendly lifestyle not only contributes to a sustainable environment; it can also save you money. We’ve rounded up a list of some of the easiest changes you can make in 2020.
1. Install a smart meter
Heating is one of the biggest culprits for wasted energy, especially in the winter months. Avoid spending more than you need to by having a smart meter installed.
Smart meters are essential for anyone looking to reduce their carbon footprint and save on household costs. You can program your smart meter to come on at certain times of day – just before you get home from work, for example. Options like the Nest Learning Thermostat will learn your routine over time, optimising temperature to conserve energy.
2. Start composting
Between composting and recycling, you can significantly reduce the amount of waste you send to landfill each week. Kitchen scraps such as tea leaves, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable peelings, and almost any organic matter can be composted, with the exception of cooked food, fish, meat and eggs, which can be collected separately by your local council.
Invest in a kitchen compost caddy for all your organic food scraps and periodically move the contents to an outdoor compost bin. The resulting compost will be rich in nutrients, ideal for gardening and growing food. It’s also worth investigating compostable caddy liners and bin bags to reduce plastic waste.
3. Plug draughts
How well is your home protected from extreme heat and cold? Rattling windows, draughty doorways and unused chimneys could all be draining energy from your home.
- Opt for double-glazing if you can – or look into temporary double-glazing film. Heavy curtains will also help to contain heat
- Wooden window frames are more insulating, long-lasting and less polluting than UPVC
- Block gaps around ill-fitting doors and block up unused chimneys. Sausage-dog doorstops can be used to mitigate draughts
- Have your hot water tank looked at and consider loft insulation. Many councils offer financial help with this
4. Upgrade your toilet
Toilets account for almost 30 percent of the average household’s indoor water usage. An easy way to save water in the bathroom is to upgrade to a low-flush toilet. Eco-friendly models can save nearly 50,000 litres of water per year, using 4.8 litres or less per flush, as opposed to 6 litres or more. A dual-flush toilet is a variation of the flush toilet that uses two buttons to flush different amounts of water.
5. Hold your fire
Wood-burning stoves are responsible for 10 percent of the air pollution in London alone. If you can’t do without your wood burner, only burn dry, unpainted, untreated wood – never burn rubbish or packaging. If you’re currently in the market for a wood-burning stove, choose a low-emissions model and have chimneys swept and inspected regularly.
6. Fit LED light bulbs
Incandescent bulbs are much less efficient than other types of electric lighting, converting less than 5% of the energy they use into visible light. The remaining energy is lost as heat.
LED light bulbs, by comparison, use 90% less energy than halogen and last up to 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs. The low wattage and environmentally friendly design ensure years of cost-saving illumination, and it’s better for the planet, too. If you’ve yet to switch to LED light bulbs in your home, then this should definitely be next on your list.
7. Choose low-energy appliances
Many older models of dishwashers, washing machines and fridge-freezers are not very energy-efficient. When you come to replace them, seek out low-energy alternatives with an A+ rating to maximise your eco-friendly efforts.
While appliances are working well, it’s best to get them regularly maintained and use them as efficiently as possible. For example, you should always run a dishwasher with a full load and wash clothes at the lowest temperature.
Heating accounts for about 55 percent of what you spend in a year on energy bills, so an efficient boiler makes a big difference. Modern boilers are more efficient for several reasons, but their main advantage is that they are all condensing boilers. Condensing boilers capture some of the heat that would escape from the flue of a non-condensing boiler and re-use it, which means they get more heat from the same amount of fuel.
8. Switch to a low-flow showerhead
A low-flow showerhead is just what it sounds like: a shower head designed to use a minimum amount of water. A quality low-flow showerhead will feel good at both high and low water pressures; look for one with good reviews that specify a powerful spray despite the restricted water use.
If you don’t fancy replacing your shower head, other devices that help to save water in the shower include flow-control inserts and shut-off control valves. These fit between the shower pipe and showerhead and cost around £12.
While you’re at it, fix those leaky faucets! As much as 180 litres of water can be lost each week from a leaky faucet – all the more reason to get them fixed.
9. Use natural cleaning products
When you wash chemical cleaning products down the sink, you are putting them into the water supply. That means water will take more purification before it is safe to use again.
Thankfully, in the majority of cases, we really don’t need to use them. Natural products like white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and lemon juice can be used in place of caustic chemicals for most day-to-day cleaning tasks. Check out this list of homemade and natural cleaners.
10. Generate your own energy
Ready for a bigger project? Solar panels and wind turbines can generate enough energy for all your own needs – and you can even sell any surplus to the National Grid. For solar panels, you’ll need a strong roof that faces within 90 degrees of south. Even on a cloudy day, you should get enough for baths and washing up.
Additionally, ground-source heat pumps use pipes that are buried underground to extract heat, which can then be used to heat radiators, underfloor heating and hot water in your home. However, this is a more ambitious project that will require digging up your garden!
With changes in the climate posing a serious threat to our way of living, it is our collective responsibility to make changes that will reduce our impact on the planet. The best approach is to take small steps; start with lifestyle changes and work up to the bigger, costlier projects that will save you money in the long run. Find out more at energysavingtrust.org.uk.