Introduction We all know that individually we have a responsibility to take steps to act against climate change. And in the last few years, sustainability has increasingly been at the top of the agenda, with many considering what their impact on the environment is, and what steps they can take to reduce it. While countries and businesses are setting targets to reach net zero, it’s equally important to consider the role that all of us can play. This simple guide gives you some ideas into how you can accelerate your sustainable journey. With tips and tricks to help you reduce your energy, usage and water consumption, to considerations around how to be mindful when shopping or changes you can implement in your own home. Not only will these steps help to reduce your environmental impact – but they may also help you save a few pounds too!
Turn off all devices at the power outlet
Especially at night and when you go on holiday, as leaving electronics on standby continues to consume and waste energy. Your phone charger continues to use energy even when your device isn’t attached, so remember to turn this off at the mains when it’s not in use.
Banks and other utility providers now offer the option to sign up for digital statements and bills which will reduce your paper usage. Also consider other ways you can digitalise your life – from keeping an online diary to unsubscribing from junk mail. And don’t forget to think before you print.
Evaluate your diet
One of the best ways to reduce your environmental impact is to eat less meat and dairy. While you may not want to go fully vegan, working in a few meat-free meals per week will make a difference. Meal planning boxes offer plenty of vegan and vegetarian options if you’re looking for inspiration.
Grow your own
Whether it’s potting a few herbs, installing a vegetable garden or harvesting your own honey, growing your own produce can ensure you are eating food that is organic and has no air miles. It will give you a real sense of achievement too!
Making home improvements
There are steps that you can take to ensure your home is as energy efficient as possible. Insulation and draught-proofing are both easy and efficient ways to ensure heat from your home isn’t lost and it helps keep your heating bills down too. And with the government’s new rules on EPC ratings, ensuring your home is as energy efficient as possible will help you sell in the long run too.
Manage your carbon footprint
Every decision you make will have an impact on your carbon footprint, but that doesn’t mean you should miss out where you don’t have to. If you can’t reduce your carbon impact, make sure you’re offsetting. For example, when going on holiday abroad, many airlines now give you the option to offset your carbon impact when you book your flight.
Buy local produce
Purchasing locally not only supports small businesses but also reduces pollution caused by long-distance transportation of goods.
Vet the brands you buy from
Avoid fast fashion and instead choose companies making sustainable products. Also, be sure to look out for kite marks like Fair Trade or Forest Friendly when buying products.
Buy low-phosphate washing-up products
Phosphates can be really harmful to the water systems on our planet, as they stimulate the growth of algae which lowers oxygen levels and kills plants and fish.
to reduce energy costs
Upgrade your appliances to be energy efficient
Technology continues to advance and now newer appliances will tend to be more energy efficient. If you are due an upgrade, consider the energy efficiency of the replacement. For example, a low energy light bulb uses 90% less energy than a usual one and lasts 10-20 times longer. Also, consider switching to a renewable energy provider.
Turn the lights off
An easy step to take but one that can be difficult to follow through with every time. Turning the lights off once you leave the room can make a significant impact not only on your energy consumption but your bill as well!
Use your appliances as designed
Misusing your appliances can have repercussions, whether ensuring your pan is on the right size hob burner, to not staying too long in front of the open fridge door, taking these small steps can have a big impact.
Avoid single-use plastics
Single-use plastics may be convenient, yet they have a dire impact on the environment. Not only do they pollute our waterways and oceans, but they also require energy to produce and recycle. Say no to plastic cutlery and straws, ditch the cling film and remember your reusable water bottle and coffee cup when you are out and about. Also, avoid single use products when you can. For example, start using rechargeable batteries for your appliances rather than throwaway ones.
Turn down your thermostat
19 degrees is about the norm for in the UK. Some people do like their homes a bit warmer, but as a rule of thumb, for every degree you turn your thermostat down you will save about £50. Consider adjusting the temperature of your fridge and freezer too. Does it really need to be that cold?
As it gets into the colder season make sure to check your radiators and bleed them if necessary. This will remove air bubbles and ensure they are working as efficiently as possible. Also avoid blocking radiators with furniture or placing clothes or other items on them.
Embrace the smart meter
This will enable you to see where you’re using the most energy and where you might be able to reduce it. Every home in the UK should have a smart meter by 2024 but the sooner you can get one from your provider, the better. Or try tracking your energy consumption with apps such as the Energy Cost Calculator to see where you can improve.
Reduce your water usage
Use tap aerators
Check out tap aerators which ‘inject’ air into the water as it comes out the tap, using a fraction of the water. These are especially useful if you are on a water meter. Also, only boil as much water as you need – i.e. don’t boil a kettle full of water for one cup of tea!
Turn the tap off
Turn the tap off when you’re brushing your teeth or washing your face – leaving it running can waste more than six litres of water per minute!
Shower, over bath. Every time
Baths typically use 50 gallons of water which is twice the amount of a ten-minute shower.
Wait until your dishwasher is full
If you use a dishwasher, only start it when it’s full. A half load uses the same amount of electricity and hot water as a full load, so waiting until it’s full means you’ll do fewer washes and save more energy. For old school washing up, try filling a washing up bowl rather than running water freely from the tap.
Cars: the necessary evil
Reduce your reliance on your car
Be mindful of how much your use your car and try and drive less. Why not share the load and the fuel bill by carpooling. Even better, lace up those boots for shorter journeys and take public transport or cycle when you can. When you do drive, be aware of how you behave behind the wheel. Switch off the engine when you park up, ease up on your throttle and drive smoothly. Electric vehicles are beginning to come down in price, and whilst they may still not be accessible for everyone, they are certainly worth considering when you’re thinking of changing your car.
Check your tyres
Remember to check your tyres are pumped up correctly, as running on soft tyres creates more rolling resistance decreasing your miles per gallon. Avoid storing items permanently in the boot of the car as the extra weight needs to be shifted, requiring extra fuel.
Manage your fuel usage
Simple adjustments like turning off the engine when you’re in a queue and slowing your speed down all help with fuel consumption. Driving at 50mph uses 25% less fuel than 70mph.
Green your pension
The investments behind an average UK pension pot can generate a carbon footprint equivalent to running several family cars or emissions that would take acres of forest to offset. A number of major pension providers now offer green and sustainable portfolios to invest in, which allow you to preserve the future of the planet as well as your savings.
Reduce your data footprint
According to a Greenpeace study, globally cloud computing storage consumes more electricity than all of Germany put together! Be diligent and regularly clean up your data files by deleting files and messages you no longer need. Do you really need to backup 25 practically identical photos? USB sticks or external hard drives are a good storage alternative and they protect your private data from unauthorised access by others too.
Remember the 3 R’s
We all have a responsibility to recognise the threat of climate change and lower our environmental impact and it is only by changing our behaviours and keeping in mind the 3 R’s in our everyday lives, that we will start to see a meaningful difference.
If we as individuals can all make small changes, collectively we can make a big impact.
Further resources For small business: Business Climate Hub https://businessclimatehub.org/uk Exponential Roadmap Initiative https://exponentialroadmap.org For individuals: Energy Saving Trust https://energysavingtrust.org.uk Simple Energy Advice https://www.simpleenergyadvice.org.uk