Watching a David Attenborough programme clearly brings home the huge catastrophe that is facing our beautiful world and the fact that too few governments, companies and individuals are taking the situation seriously enough and actively trying to reduce their carbon footprint.
We owe it to our grandchildren and future generations to do our bit to save the planet and most of the steps suggested below are easy and relatively cost effective to implement.If you are a home owner, than the decision lies with you, but even as a tenant, many of the ideas will be well received by landlords too.
What Is Your Carbon Footprint?
Your carbon footprint is the mount of 'greenhouse gases' that you use to live your life. These comprise of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous gases etc. and these all damage the earth and are responsible for raising its temperature. The worldwide aim – and this is essential – is to decrease each person's carbon footprint to 1.87 tons by 2050. To put this in context, at present, the average American has a carbon footprint of 18.3 tons and in China, this is 8.2 tons per person.
It is essential that you know your / your family's carbon footprint and this can be calculated online on https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx
A Necessary Change in Life Style
There are many things that can be done at a personal level to reduce you and your family's carbon footprint – and it is essential that everyone does their best to do so quickly. The single largest and most effective step is to stop eating meat. If this sounds drastic, this is because meat and dairy produce are responsible for 14.5% of the world's greenhouse gases which is a huge figure.
Eat fruit, vegetables, beans and grains instead, but if you really can't, why not adopt the 4:3 diet which advocates meat on just three days each week? This diet is nutritious, healthy and economical and is the perfect compromise. Interestingly, someone on a vegan diet has a 20% reduction in their carbon footprint just for the food they eat.
Don't be tempted to buy fast fashion, buy clothes that will last and if you hanker after something new to wear, make it a 'new to me' outfit from the local charity shop. Any unwanted clothes and furniture can be donated to a charity shop, rather than disposing of it in landfill and instead of replacing furniture why not 'upcycle it’? You will find numerous websites telling you how to repair, paint and re-upholster old pieces of furniture and have it looking like new in no time at all!
The Responsibility of Home Owners
As a home owner, it is very important that you take responsibility for the size of carbon footprint created by your family and do as much as you can to reduce it. Although this may sound like an inconvenience, you will find that taking the steps will have benefits in the fact that you will feel positive that you are 'doing your bit', that your home will feel cosier and will be more economical to run and the real bonus is that you could save money as well as the planet!
Check Your Insulation
What is the point of heating the street? Whilst six million homes in the UK have cavity wall insulation another nine million homes do not. What this means in reality, is that the houses which do not have cavity wall insulation, lose up to 35% of their heat into the air or to give this statement more gravity, the average sized detached family home is losing £245 - or more - per year on its heating bill.
Cavity wall insulation is a good way to conserve energy, is surprisingly quickly and trouble free to have installed and saves you money – as a bonus, it will sound proof your home too! Even if you are a tenant, rather than home owner, why not discuss this option with your landlord.
To have your home insulated is not as expensive as you may think. A three bedroomed detached property costs in the region of £745, so with an annual saving of at least £245 on your heating bill, it will have paid for itself in three years. The average cost of cavity wall insulation for a semi-detached house is £475, a mid -terrace, £370 and a flat, £330 – certainly well worth considering before winter approaches.
With insulation in mind, 25% of your home's heat will be lost through your roof if it is not adequately insulated. Good loft insulation can make a huge difference in keeping your house warm, yet only 38% of homes have the recommended thickness of loft insulation of at least 125 mm. Quality loft insulation can last up to 40 years, but it is well worth checking your loft insulation regularly for any deterioration. Loft insulation will be fitted by experts speedily and economically, but is one of those DIY jobs that you can successfully tackle yourself – as long as you don't cut corners!
Check Your Appliances
Are your appliances energy efficient? True, you will have been given an energy efficiency rating for your home when you bought it, but what about all the appliances that you bought along with you? Are they the most energy efficient you could buy?
The number one appliance to check is the boiler in your property, as an inefficient boiler can add up to 50% to your fuel bills. If your boiler is 15 years old, it should be changed and the money you save will definitely cover the cost of the new boiler. Check your hot water tank too, is it well insulated? If not a simple remedy is to buy an insulating jacket from a DIY store for about £25 and fitting it yourself.
Whilst there is the expense of buying a new washing machine or fridge to replace older models, if you buy the most energy efficient model – the one with the best energy star rating - you will get the money back that you spent on the appliance in the money you save in a year or two. Thinking of the size of your carbon footprint, don't be tempted to buy a washer/drier or tumble drier as these are very wasteful of energy – conservationists dry their washing on a washing line – or on lines in the garage during the winter months!
When you do wash your clothes, make sure you use a cold water program. Modern washing liquids are designed to work efficiently in cold water.
Having a Smart thermostat installed in your home, is smart thinking as they are so reasonably priced to buy and will ensure that you only heat your home when you need to as you can accurately program the meter to switch on your heating when it is needed and maintain it at a constant temperature. A smart meter, is another wise buy as it indicates the exact amount of energy you have consumed.
With a smart meter you can track your energy consumption accurately and this will help you pinpoint where you can make further cuts to the energy used and this will bring more savings on your bills – a win-win situation!
Change Those Light Bulbs
After so many campaigns to get everyone to switch to LED lighting, it is a great shame if you do admit to using conventional light bulbs! Many people still have halogen bulbs in their kitchens and bathrooms - but don't feel guilty – but do act NOW!
LED bulbs save a massive 90% on energy compared to the old style bulbs which as well as light produced a huge amount of heat too! Switch light bulbs today – they may be more expensive, but you will save money in the end as they last 25 times longer (about ten years!) and importantly reduce your carbon footprint too.
Think Solar Panels
Consider having solar panels fitted to your roof top. There are several schemes to help fund having the panels fitted. Don't be deterred because of the British weather either as solar panels can work well even on a cloudy day. As well as enjoying your own lovely hot water whenever you want to, any spare energy can be sold to the National Grid – another real win-win situation.
It is very fashionable to have a garden and outside space for relaxing and al fresco dining, but it is also very trendy to grow your own vegetables! This is certainly beneficial as it reduces your carbon footprint noticeably and has the double benefit of better tasting vegetables and fruit – with no supermarket bills or cling film packs.
If you have a garden, there is no need to spend money on nutrients for the soil if you use compost and what better than making your own compost? Compost bins are available in all garden centres and are relatively cheap to buy. All non-animal kitchen waste is simply put into the compost bin and the result is perfect for all your gardening needs.
Other Energy Saving Tips
- When you are leaving a room, turn the light off – saves energy.
- Turn the heat of your water down to 120ºF/ 48.8ºC – saves a surprising amount of energy.
- Turn your central heating down by 1ºC – if someone is cold, they should pop on a jumper.
- Reduce your family's mileage. If you can reduce your annual mileage from 15k to 10k you will save a ton in CO2.
- Reduce air travel. If you can, travel by train and if you can't travel economy not first class.
- Don't change equipment. If you can, keep using things and don't change them just because they are a year old such a mobiles and laptops. 80% of the footprint of an Apple laptop if created by its manufacture – not its use.
Well, we have provided plenty of 'food for thought' to help and encourage you to reduce your carbon footprint as quickly as you can. If you feel you would like to do more, why not invest in one of the companies providing renewable energy?
You can buy shares in wind, solar and hydroelectric power and true, you will probably only get about 5% annual dividend, but they represent the vital way forward to save our beautiful planet and you will certainly be helping to make this possible.
With thanks to Chris Stevens for providing this article.