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We’re all becoming more aware for the need to be eco-friendly, and these days many of us do the basics, such as recycling rubbish, without really thinking about it too much. However, looking at the wider picture, there are lots of different ways – some big, some small – that will really go a long way to helping us all become much savvier about our home environment and encourage a more sustainable way of life.
Here are 17 ways you can make your home eco-friendlier.
It’s really easy, especially during the colder months of the year to leave the heating on for longer than you actually need. Our boilers and home heating systems are one of the biggest ways we consume energy as homeowners or renters.
One of the best ways to deal with this is to look into having a Smart Meter installed in your home. These ingenious devices can be programmed to only come on at certain times of the day, so could be used to heat the house up before you return from work or turn on a little while before you get up in a morning during Winter.
They’re a real boon for anyone who is concerned about their carbon footprint, not only that, but for those who are concerned about the rising cost of their energy bills and would like to decrease them.
It can be a real eye-opener and a good way to monitor your electricity consumption generally.
Although energy efficient light bulbs have been in existence for a good number of years now, it’s only in the last few years that the general public have really started to become more educated about their effectiveness and how they can save money around the home.
In the past, there have been complaints that they simply don’t throw out enough light, or that they take a long time to light a room properly. Improvements in their technology are happening all the time and now more than ever is the right time to make the switch. Not only do they use less electricity, they don’t need to replaced anywhere near as often as regular, old fashioned light bulbs did.
For any home wanting to really become eco-friendly, solar panels are an essential feature. They are a long-term investment, and although there will be an initial layout of money, in the long term you could potentially save more money than you spend.
Some people are lucky enough to find that solar panels make enough electricity for them to go completely off grid.
A well-insulated home holds in heat properly, meaning that it’ll take less energy to keep reheating your living space when you really need to. It’s one of the smartest ways to save money.
Good places to start include the walls of your house and the roof. Another tip is to think about your windows as insolation too – we’ll cover this more further on but think about double glazing any windows that aren’t already.
Whilst many people aren’t troubled by radiators or heaters, some people prefer a more minimalist approach to their home heating. Underfloor heating can be a worthwhile consideration to save money. Often more associated with more newly built homes, it can just as easily be installed in older properties too.
It might seem a bit of a simplistic point to make – but isn’t it better to think locally if your house need work doing to it? Why employ a tradesman who has to travel fifty miles to come and repair your boiler, when there might be someone around the corner who can do it more inexpensively and without traveling miles and miles.
When decorating, opt for water-based paints that contain natural pigments. Most paints currently used in home decor are oil-based and not as eco-friendly as they could be. Some people also find that water-based paints offer a nicer variety of colour and are more aesthetically pleasing.
Gone are the days of unattractive double glazing – there is now no reason not to have your entire home’s windows glazed in this way. It saves money in the long run and will also help reduce energy costs and keep your home well insulated.
Whilst double glazing is a boon for saving energy, the UPVC surrounds that are often associated with windows like this can be very polluting as they emit compounds which can be toxic. It’s more environmentally friendly to opt for wooden frames which, if looked after properly, can be just as durable and hard working.
We all have our favourite detergents and cleaning products that we’ve used for years, and never really thought about the harm they could be doing to the environment. Once they’re washed down the drain they go into the water supply, and it can often take a lot more energy and hard work to purify the water again at treatment works.
There are some simple switches you can make. Bicarbonate of soda, lemon juice or vinegar can all be used in place of bleaches and detergent to kill bacteria and leave homes grease and odour free.
Switching to steam cleaners as a way to disinfect and kill germs is another green way of keeping homes clean – no cleaning products needed at all, except for water!
Turn any food waste and kitchen scraps into compost. You can buy a compost bin very cheaply from many home/DIY outlets and some refuse services will offer to give them free of charge to households, to place in their kitchens. Scrape any leftover, or old food into them and simply leave it be. Over time it will turn into useful compost that can be used in the garden.
Think about the appliances you use, and how you use them. For instance, if you have the oven on to cook dinner and keep opening and shutting it to check on food, it’s amazing how much heat you let out and then how much more time it takes for it to reach optimum cooking temperature again.
Some people invest in halogen ovens for cooking. They don’t need preheating, can cook food in a quarter of the time and don’t throw out too much unnecessary heat.
Don’t go to a big brand furniture store to buy the latest and the newest! More and more furniture is coming to the market made from recycled wood, or other materials, which can be more eco-friendly than buying new. You’re still getting a brand-new product, but it’s been made thoughtfully, from materials that might otherwise have gone to landfill or been thrown away.
To continue the theme, look to auction sites, or auction houses for bigger items of furniture that you need to purchase. Older, preloved items can often provide years more good wear to a family, and sometimes might only need a little bit of maintenance. It’s also a lot more fun to look for antiques, than it is to trudge round a huge department store!
The latest boilers on the market are a lot more heat and energy efficient than their older counterparts. They will still need to be serviced regularly in order to keep them in top order. Older boilers can still work well, provided they too are kept well maintained and used wisely. However, it is still recommended you refresh and renew your boiler every ten years or so.
On a similar note, take note of the temperature your thermostat is kept at, and look to reduce it by a few degrees to save money and ensure it’s working well for you. Turning it down by just one degree can make significant adjustments to your energy bill.
It’s more fashionable to have blinds in your home, and in some rooms, they can simply just be the better choice. However, don’t discount having thicker curtains in certain rooms, particularly the bedroom. They can be a great energy conserver and in Summer can help keep rooms cooler and darker.
Who doesn’t love a good cuppa, or a delicious hot cup of coffee? Before you boil the kettle again, think about how you fill it up. Brewing for one? Just use the water you need for that one cup – not for six cups. Investing in an eco-kettle can be a great boon, especially if you’re someone who drinks a lot of tea/coffee during the day. They boil quicker, use less energy and look smart!
We’re all told how showering saves energy and uses less water than having a bath. Many of us think we are saving loads of water, then spend thirty minutes under the running water – or use an incredibly powerful shower head that is less economical to use.
You will save more energy if you opt for an aerated or low-flow shower head. Spend less time under the water too. No longer than ten minutes. That should be optimal to wash hair, body and carry out your ablutions!
This article is provided for general information purposes only. Its content is current at the date of publication. It is not legal advice and is not tailored to meet your individual needs. You should obtain specialist advice based on your specific circumstances before taking any action concerning the matters discussed in this article.
People say they want sustainable products, but they don’t tend to buy them. Here’s how to change that. by Katherine White, David J. Hardisty, and Rishad Habib From the Magazine (July–August 2019)