Want to live a more eco-conscious life but not sure where to start, or whether your efforts will even make a difference? Going green can sometimes seem overwhelming, and it’s easy to think that unless you’re going full-scale zero-waste-producing eco-warrior, there’s no point really bothering.
Think about it this way, though: If we all started taking more small steps, between us, that would make a difference – and like most things, it starts at home.
So aside from recycling, what else can you do to make your home a little greener?
1. Don’t leave everything on standby mode
It can seem like a nuisance when somebody keeps turning everything off at the plug, but did you know that appliances can still be draining energy even when they’re not in use if they’re left plugged into a live socket? So do the environment a favour and break the habit of leaving everything on standby. (The Solar Centre says the average household could save £30 a year doing this too.)
2. Limit your laundry
OK, no one’s suggesting you let your hygiene slip, but unless a longer hot wash is absolutely necessary, use your washing machine’s cool option on a short cycle when doing your laundry, and only put clothes through the wash if they absolutely need it. Small marks can sometimes be sponged off, and things like woollens and jeans really don’t need washing very often – try airing your clothes to freshen them up between washes.
3. Think carefully about what you’re buying
Could you be more mindful with your purchases – perhaps buying new things less often, enabling you to spend a little more on sustainably-produced goods that are made to last?
“Sustainability starts with not consuming. Ask yourself if you really need what you think you need,” says TV interior designer Naomi Cleaver, who’s teamed up with Moda (modaliving.com) on projects to help revolutionise city centre living across the UK. “Look on websites like Freecycle and eBay (plus charity shops) before you buy anything. There are lots of sharing websites and apps popping up enabling you to hire household equipment, such as occasionally-used tools, so you don’t have to buy them. Only buy things for your home that, to paraphrase William Morris, you love and will endure years of use, as well as passing trends.”
4. Get crafty
And on that note, getting in touch with your crafty, creative side could help you buy less too (and discover a stress-busting pastime in the process). “Learn how to make things, like cushion covers and draft excluders – which will cut your heating bills too – out of no longer worn clothes,” suggests Cleaver.
5. Don’t just chuck things out
Tend to automatically chuck things away if they stop working or break, and get an upgrade? It’s always worth considering whether it’s fixable first. “Learn how to repair things. Take courses in DIY if you need some skills, or to brush up existing ones. People too often throw items out when a simple fix is all that’s needed,” says Cleaver. (And if you’re not up to the job, there’ll probably be a local handy-person who is.)
6. Grow your own herbs
Grow-your-own is a great way to reduce some of the packaging waste those grocery shops produce – and a few herbs is a great place to start. Why? Because all you’ll need are a few pots and a suitable windowsill, and once you see how rewarding that feels, you never know, it might inspire a whole veg box or patch in the garden!
7. Upgrade to more energy-efficient appliances
Are your energy bills sky-high? And your fridge-freezer/tumble-dryer/boiler a little archaic? Then that’ll probably be why. Modern appliance ranges include far more energy-efficient designs, so it’s worthwhile considering whether a more planet-friendly (and purse-friendly in the longer term) upgrade is due.
As solar light specialists, The Solar Centre (thesolarcentre.co.uk) notes: ‘You could save as much as £240 a year by installing a more efficient boiler. While the initial cost may seem daunting, it’ll work out as more cost efficient over the years.’
8. Be an insulation pro
Look for any opportunity to keep warm without having to resort to cranking up the central heating or chucking coal on the fire. As well as the ‘big jobs’, like double glazing and ensuring your walls and loft are well insulated, consider whether heat’s being lost up unused chimneys (you can get them blocked), draughty doors and ‘cold’ decor – if you’ve got exposed flooring, laying some rugs, and having snuggly throws and cushions on your sofas and chairs will help you keep cosy.
9. Invest in solar
Getting solar panels can be good news for the planet, by helping significantly reduce carbon emissions, and your household energy bills. As The Solar Centre highlights: ‘While there’s a huge initial cost to install solar panels, you can save about £800 a year once installation’s been completed’.