From fixing leaks and buying locally produced food to choosing a cleaner energy supplier, these little changes will go a long way to making your household more sustainable – and save money too.
Some of these are things your parents shouted at you for decades ago, others hadn’t been invented yet, but all of them will leave you with a greener home …
Change Your Lightbulbs
You could go around turning off all the lights your family members have left on (it’s a full-time job), but have you thought about just changing your lightbulbs to save you the hassle? LEDs use 80% less energy than traditional fluorescent lightbulbs and last up to twice as long, which means a lot less time up the stepladder replacing them. One thing to remember though – most energy-saving bulbs have mercury in them, so make sure you recycle them properly.
Stop Buying Bottled Water
With water quality standards being rigorous in the UK, drinking straight from the tap is completely safe (unless indicated). But if you aren’t keen on the taste, you could install a tap filter in your kitchen or buy yourself a water filter jug to keep in the fridge. Then, make sure you always leave the house with a reusable bottle instead of buying a plastic one at the train station. The BBC’s Blue Planet taught us that there’s an ocean of plastic choking the world, and bottled water is one of the biggest and least essential culprits. David Attenborough wouldn’t lie to us.
First of all, tell your bank to stop sending you those statements you never open (you can download the PDFs via online banking). Think twice before printing that document at work, and if you really have to, go double-sided. Also, instead of steaming through rolls of paper towels every week, why not buy some reusable microfibre towels or cut up old T-shirts as rags to use for cleaning instead? Then chuck them all in the washing machine when you’ve got enough for a full load. Similarly, switch to fabric napkins you can wash and reuse. It’ll save on trees, it’ll save on cash, and your nana will be super into it when she visits.
Turn Down the Water Temperature, Just a Bit
You could time your showers so you don’t waste water, but if you have the kind of hair that should be in a shampoo commercial, and a shorter shower just isn’t enough, there is another way to make it greener: turn down the temperature of your water heater by just a few degrees. You probably won’t notice the difference by the time you’ve mixed it with the cold water anyway. It will save on your energy bill, and you can still sing in the shower while feeling like you’re making a difference. And with most detergents now working well at lower temperatures, if you wash your clothes at 30C, not only will it preserve colours and fabrics, but you’ll also save even more energy.
Fix Leaks As Soon As You Notice Them
The gentle drip, drip, drip of an annoying tap may seem like it’s not wasting that much water, but those drips add up. Check your water bill every month and if you notice there’s a marked increase, you may have a leak you haven’t noticed yet, or one that you have noticed but haven’t fixed yet (ahem). Phoning the plumber early will also save you later – widespread water damage is neither fun nor cheap.
Do Some Googling
As each of your household appliances stops working over the years, don’t just automatically replace them with the same machine. Do some research to find out what kinds of energy-efficient designs and alternatives have been developed since you lugged that kettle home from the shop five years ago.
Switch to Greener Cleaning Products
Switch out your usual cleaning brand for one that uses natural and renewable ingredients to produce its products. They are the ones you normally walk past in the supermarket because their logos aren’t burned into your brain from childhood. Companies such as Ecover manufacture ecologically sound cleaning products using natural ingredients that biodegrade in the water treatment plant and leave nothing bad behind.
Be Wiser With Heating
A huge chunk of your energy bill will come from heating your house. So, before you crank up the heat, why not echo your parents and tell everyone to put a jumper on first? You could also spend some extra cash on cosy blankets and throws for the sofa, that will make you wish it were colder. Also, make sure all drafts and cracks where heat could escape are sealed up. Finally, keep your heat just a couple of degrees below where you’d ordinarily have it over the winter: you’ll barely notice the difference and over the months your heating bill is sure to shrink.
We don’t mean eat your greens (but you should do that too). Cutting out animal products entirely is one of the best ways to eat green – production of meat, dairy and eggs consumes a lot of energy – but there are less extreme options if you’re a die-hard fan of steak. Think quality over quantity, and try having meat-free days. Buy organic – fewer chemicals going into your body and less pollution going into the soil – and support local farmers as much as you can. If you favour local products and eat foods that are in season, you’ll be saving extra energy and preservation costs of having food sent on long-distance transport, or grown in artificially warm greenhouses.
Switch To a Greener Energy Supplier
Making the swap to a greener supplier is not as expensive as you think – depending on how long you have left on your current deal, it could even be fee-free – and it’s way less hassle than you’d imagine too. Bristol Energy offers a 100% renewable electricity deal, the My Green Plus tariff, which helps you instantly reduce your carbon footprint. Its energy is purchased from a number of independent generators in the UK, and the electricity can be traced back to the individual generator producing it. It also includes 15% green gas, which is made entirely from sewage waste from 1m Bristol residents – yes, local poo. The more people who make the switch, the less reliant on imported fossil fuels we’ll be, and the more support there’ll be for UK-based renewable generators. It’s better for the environment, good for your home, and great for the economy. It pays to support green energy too. According to Bristol Energy, its green tariff is around £160 less on average per year than the price you’d pay on a standard deal with other major suppliers.