No-one can have missed the recent media reports and stark messages about global warming. There is a general consensus that we must sit up and take notice that the effects of global warming are much more imminent than previously thought. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently declared that we have just twelve years to act if we are to avoid the worst effects on the planet. In this article, we look at how we can adapt our homes and lifestyle to reduce our impact on global warming and save money along the way.
In 2015, when the Paris Climate Agreement was made, the UN commissioned a report that looked at the possible effects on the planet of a global temperature rise. This report is currently the most detailed and accurate, and concludes that we are on track to reach an increase of 1.5C between 2030 and 2052 if things continue as they are. If we hit a 2C increase, the world will change hugely but in actual fact we are heading closer to a 3C increase which could have a catastrophic effect. We have twelve years until we reach tipping point. This is certainly alarming but we can all do our bit and there are practical ways to help. Every bit of carbon saved will help to reduce our footprint and just one person can make a difference. Recent changes in attitude towards plastics have shown that habits really can change quickly.
So, how can you reduce your carbon footprint and be more energy efficient at home?
Insulate your home
More than half of all the energy used in the home is for heating and unless we are using renewable energy, this increases our carbon footprint. You will save money and help the environment by insulating your walls, roofs and windows. You may have double glazed or even triple glazed windows but make sure they are in good repair or they won’t be effective.
Insulating your loft to the recommended 270mm level will keep the heat in and cut costs. You can save between £115 and £220 a year with good loft insulation. If you have a home that was built after 1920 then it is fairly easy to get cavity wall insulation but if your home is older it may require solid wall insulation. This is a bit more costly but you will definitely notice the difference with lower energy bills. To get the full benefit, check all rooms and flat roof extensions to see if they are properly insulated. Even draught excluders can help and financial support may be available dependent on your circumstances and where you live in the UK. Hang thick curtains where you can to help keep the heat in and make your home feel cosier, too.
Choose your heating wisely
If your boiler was fitted before 2005 it will be less efficient than more modern varieties. Approximately half of all UK homes are using old inefficient gas or oil boilers and new regulations stipulate that you must install an efficient condensing model when you upgrade. If you can afford to upgrade then it might be something to consider. With all the new modern, easy to use thermostats and controls at your fingertips, you may also find that you save money. You could fit thermostatic radiator valves and heat only the rooms you are using.
The government has debated whether to encourage a change from gas or oil heating completely in the future and use more renewable instead. This is an expensive option but if you live in a rural area without a gas supply anyway, then it may be a viable option.
Use energy-saving appliances within the home
Some appliances can use a lot of energy without us even noticing. Dishwashers, tumble driers and washing machines can be a real culprit for this and in large families these can be running up to 5/6 times a day. You could lower the temperature or dry clothes outdoors or on a clothing airer, whenever possible.
Kettles use a lot of energy and as a tea-loving nation we use them a lot! In your energy efficient home, consider investing in an eco kettle which uses up to 30% less power. Boil just the amount of water you need at the time instead of boiling a full kettle.
Its not just kitchen appliances we should be wary of, as items such as TVs, chargers or printers left plugged in can cost the average household an extra £86 a year.
Consider your lighting usage, too. You can change all your light bulbs to energy efficient ones which will use 80-90% less energy than standard or halogen bulbs.
To save on water consumption you could reduce your shower time and invest in a water-saving shower head. Some power showers can use more water than it takes to run a bath. Not only will you save water but you will save energy and money, too.
Be less wasteful; Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle wherever possible
Every single product we buy has some kind of carbon footprint due to the energy being used to produce it. As a nation, we are becoming more aware of what we consume and recycle, and people are starting to buy less single use plastic items. Recycling helps to reduce our footprint and local councils are supplemented by private initiatives such as RecycleNow and WRAP which has an online tool to guide you to recycling drop off points.
Food waste produces methane gas. If you throw less away, you are not only saving money but you are being better for the environment. In your energy efficient home, create a meal plan, find recipes that use up leftovers and freeze whatever you cannot use up quickly.
Eat fewer meat and dairy products ensuring you buy locally sourced, seasonal food
This is a fairly new discovery after research launched in 2018 showed that damage done by farming meat and dairy produce produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. If you decide to drop meat altogether, as a vegetarian you could save anything up to a tonne of carbon dioxide a year.
A seasonal fruit and vegetable calendar will tell you what food is seasonal, meaning the food you purchase has fewer ‘food miles’ before reaching the supermarket. This saves on carbon emissions and ensures that you get a variety of fruit and veg throughout the year.
Switch to a cheaper and/or greener energy tariff
Lots of gas and electricity companies now offer ‘greener tariffs’ which mean they contribute energy from renewable sources to the national grid, for any power you use in your home. There are many comparison sites which make it easy to view them all at a glance and find the best one for you.
Change your bad habits
Step up your energy efficient home by taking small measures at a time towards changing your habits, like remembering to switch off lights when leaving the room and switching the TV off at night instead of leaving it on standby. They may only be small steps, but the more people that make them, the bigger the impact on the environment.
The UK is home to around 67 million people. If we refuse to change, climate change will only get worse. It only takes a small change to make a difference and reduce our national carbon emissions. Not only will it help the planet, but it could save you money too.