So eco! 4 ways you can make your home more environmentally friendly
PUBLISHED: 12:00 16 January 2019 | UPDATED: 12:19 16 January 2019
From reducing waste to saving energy, Luke Rix-Standing shares some small switches that can make a big difference in the green-living stakes.
As a wise frog puppet once said: “It’s not easy being green.”
Kermit wasn’t wrong, but as environmental awareness spreads, it’s certainly getting easier. Indeed, whether you live in a town or the countryside, following some simple steps (along with some bigger ones, practicalities and budget permitting) could turn your home from a fuel-guzzling glut of greenhouse gases, into something approaching more of an environmentalist’s Eden.
There is no one right way to go about this - more a series of small steps which, taken together, will reduce your home’s environmental impact from ‘heinous’ to ‘mostly guilt-free’. So grab your recyclable coffee cup and discard your plastic straws, it’s time to slash your carbon footprint with a thousand tiny cuts...
Watch out for wasteful waterworks
The most straightforward way to make your home more sustainable is to cut down on needless waste.
Water is a perfect first port of call. Employ the ‘navy shower’ approach, by switching off the water while lathering. You could pick up a waterpebble (£9.99, Amazon) - a waterproof timer that sticks to your bathroom wall and flashes green, amber or red to let you know when it’s time to switch the shower off. While you’re at it, you can save energy by turning down your hot water thermostat by one or two degrees (we guarantee you will not notice the difference).
Hundreds of gallons of water are lost every year by homeowners waiting for their taps to run hot, so ask your local plumber about installing a recirculated hot water pipe. And fix any leaking or dripping taps or toilets immediately; estimates suggest that a single drippy tap releases up to five gallons of wasted water per day.
Go back to basics
Minimising waste is largely about shifting your mindset and changing how you shop too. It goes without saying that recycling is a good idea - but even better is to purchase products that don’t come with as much packaging in the first place. For example, swap disposable kitchen towel for longer-lasting cloths - or cut up an old shirt to make reusable rags. Put on thick socks and a jumper when you feel chilly, instead of instantly whacking the heating up. Eschew the tumble-dryer in favour of putting up a traditional washing line (which, apart from possessing a certain Victorian charm, is also much kinder to your clothing).
It’s not always possible, but where you can, see products as investments: Buying a high-quality (ideally second-hand) wooden desk might not seem very ‘save the rainforest’, but a really sturdy unit might not need binning for decades. Longer-lasting equals less waste.
Be more switched on about energy efficiency
As for reducing your home’s energy usage - and bills - slightly cooling your water is a good start, but we’re betting you can manage a degree off your radiators too. Insulation is the word of the day: The more heat stays within your home, the less your heating system has to work overtime.
Arrange an annual home energy audit to pick up on any cracks or fractures in your brickwork that might be leaching precious degrees into the outdoors. Windows are a common culprit: Double glazing provides a formidable defence against heat loss, while for the unclothed window, a simple set of curtains works wonders for heat retention too.
But perhaps your biggest bother lurks up above, at the top of the house. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that a quarter of all heat loss occurs through the roof area, so sealing up the loft or attic with insulation could be a financial and environmental boon. Unless you’re a longstanding DIY ninja, get a professional in to help.
Now for the fixtures, fittings and fiddly stuff. Long-life, energy-efficient LED bulbs really do make a difference (and they don’t blow and leave you in the dark so often), while investing in a pressure cooker could save you valuable cooking time and energy usage in the kitchen.
Not leaving electricals and chargers on standby is always good practice too: Try attaching several devices to a multi-plug extension cable, allowing you to shut everything down with the flick of a single switch when leaving the house in a hurry.
Again, try to come up with your own methods, as the best energy-saving tricks depend on your own lifestyle and how you were using energy in the first place. The truly committed can cut out entire devices: There are hand-powered coffee makers, hand-powered blenders, even wind-up radios and washing machines (yes, really!).
But being eco-friendly doesn’t require a return to the dark ages, and it can be equally green to double down on tech. There’s now a range of apps and gadgets that enable you to switch appliances in your home off and on as needed when you’re out and about, or turn off any rogue left-on lights needlessly guzzling energy, from the comfort of you favourite armchair.
Up on the roof - install solar panels or a ‘green roof’
Alongside the small switches and swaps, there are some big, statement moves for those willing to make sweeping changes to a home.
Solar panels are an established option for the eco-conscious builder, and hundreds of thousands of UK homes have now had them installed. While initial costs may apply, homeowners could save money in the long term as well as denting their energy usage, by harnessing the sun’s rays as a planet-friendly energy source.
Another rooftop solution? How about installing a ‘green roof’ or ‘living roof’. Halfway between a regular roof and a garden, this basically means having live plants or grass occupy the space. Companies like Eco Green Roofs (ecogreenroofs.co.uk) will coat your chosen building with earth and vegetation, insulating against noise and temperature, boosting air quality, and providing a verdant oasis for wildlife even in the heart of the city.