8 Ways to Reduce the Carbon Footprint in Your Home
Image by Emilian Robert Vicol
We all have a carbon footprint – the amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere as a result of our actions. Whether it's through heating our homes, driving, flying or even the food we eat, it all has an impact on the environment.
It's a major concern and priority for many lobby groups and campaigners, and politicians are keen to make it one of their top priorities. Why? Because it affects all of us. That should be sufficient reason for everyone to play their part - by reducing our carbon footprint on a daily basis. And what better place to start than in the home?
You don't have to completely reorganise your life or throw your daily existence into turmoil - just a few simple adjustments can make all the difference. Here are a few basic ways you can reduce the carbon footprint in your home.
Switch to 30 Degrees
An ideal way to save energy and also reduce the cost of your energy bill – up to 40% in some cases - is by switching the temperature of your washing machine down to 30 degrees C. This is also made more practical by the fact modern detergents can facilitate a lower setting whilst still providing excellent washing results – so dialling down the temperature doesn't mean you'll still have a reminder of yesterday's gravy stain.
Mail Preference Service
Never a day goes by without junk mail of some description slipping through our letter boxes. Advertising brochures, fast food leaflets, flyers for the local hair stylist are all guilty contributors. Around 3.4 billion items of addressed direct mail – needing 180,000 tonnes of paper - are sent out every year. So how do you cut back on all this unnecessary paper wastage? Just register online with the Mail Preference Service. This can prevent you receiving around 80% of addressed unsolicited mail.
The days of paying for bills by sending cheques or queuing up at the Post Office are all but gone, and paying online has become the preferred option for many – and for good reason. Not only is it more convenient, but switching to paperless billing and paying online saves money – many utility providers offer a discount for paying this way – and reduces paper usage.
Keeping Worms or Vermicomposting
Vermi-what?, I hear you cry. Though it's not an approach that's suited to everyone, the creepy-crawly approach to reducing your carbon footprint is to keep worms in your kitchen or garden. They're an eco-friendly and effective way of composting kitchen waste and work much faster than traditional methods of composting.
This way of compositing doesn't produce methane, a primary contributor to climate change. And what do you do with the leftover compost? Use it in the garden and for houseplants, of course, which in turn creates oxygen.
Put Appliances on Standby
We're all guilty of not switching off the TV properly, preferring to use the remote to flick it onto standby mode. This is just wasting money and energy. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) revealed the average household wastes around £40 a year purely through leaving appliances on standby.
Living in the UK we're no strangers to the odd drop of rain, so what better way to save on your water bills and protect the environment than by collecting rainwater from your garden and using it to wash the car, water the plants, or even wash your hair. Depending on much your region gets, the average 2,000 square foot house can collect up to 190,000 litres every year. You just need some outside space and a bucket (or storage tank) to collect the rain. Simple. It will run from the roof guttering into the bucket/tank to make your very own water supply.
Farewell to Plastic Bags
True, they're invaluable when it comes to transporting the weekly groceries home (though the plastic handles can cut like razors through your fingers). However the majority of supermarkets now charge for plastic bags to reduce the amount of 'white pollution', as an astonishing 17 billion plastic bags are used in the UK every day. They also encourage shoppers to use eco-friendly bags and ones made from natural fibres which can be used ad infinitum.
There's no question that plastic bags are eco-villains of the highest order, contributing to air pollution and consuming energy. A single plastic bag can take an incredible 1,000 years to decompose. And if you do use or rely on plastic bags, reuse them as bin liners rather than getting new ones.
Grow Your Own Food
Tom and Barbara of the Good Life had it sussed years ago, and now has never been a better time to take a more self-sufficient approach to producing and eating food. Going organic and growing your own is the contemporary lifestyle trend du jour, so why not reap the rewards and give it a go yourself? It reduces your 'food miles', and you can grow your own fruit and veg without pumping them full of harmful chemicals. Even if you don't have a garden you can use patio or balcony space.
And even if all that is too much like hard work, you can reduce your food miles and carbon footprint by purchasing local, organic produce. The more local it is, the less it will have travelled, reducing refrigeration and processing costs.
Keep Mobile Phones Longer
Mobile manufacturers seem to launch a new and improved phone with monotonous regularity, boasting about its most revolutionary, up-to-date technology and functions – until it's replaced by the next model the following week.
The DECC advises that by not replacing our mobile phones so regularly we can dramatically reduce electrical waste, particularly when you consider most mobiles will work perfectly well for at least five years.
And if you recycle unwanted mobiles properly rather than dumping them in the normal household rubbish, you can also prevent harmful chemicals permeating the environment.
Have a Shower Instead of a Bath
Research conducted by the European Environment Agency revealed a bath uses approximately 80 litres of water for every use as opposed to a shower's more economical 35 litres. Keeping the shower cool and under five minutes will also reduce carbon emissions.
Research conducted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation suggests that grazing livestock, particularly cows, is a major contributor to today's environmental problems. So you can reduce your carbon emissions by eating less red meat.
A vegetarian diet generates half the carbon dioxide created by a diet consisting of meat, poultry and dairy. Greenhouse gases are also added to by animal flatulence, processing and packaging. And if you don't like the idea of going completely meat-free, you can replace red meat with alternate days of poultry, eggs and fish.
These are few easy and practical suggestions to reduce the carbon footprint in your home and great way to help protect the planet. You don’t have to do all of them, but incorporating just a few could help a lot.
Have you got any other environmentally-friendly ideas? Share them in the comments below.
By Lee Gilbert
Category: Articles, News & Tips