Taking small steps to create an eco-friendly house can add up to make a big difference. Here are our five favourite ways to make some easy but important changes at home.
1. Use the dishwasher smartly
If you have a dishwasher there’s one neat trick to help get your eco-friendly house in order. It’s simple as this: don’t run the drying cycle. Let good ol’ air do the job. After the rinse programme has finished, open the dishwasher door and let physics do the rest. Cutting out the drying cycle can save up to 50 per cent of your dishwashing energy use. (For more energy-saving tips around the home check out our guide to keeping warm in winter.)
2. Use efficient light bulbs
Lighting accounts for 15 per cent of a typical household’s electricity consumption, so make sure you are using energy-efficient bulbs as much as possible. The technology is continually improving to the point where old-style incandescent bulbs – the worst performers – have been banned in the UK. Halogens use about a third less energy, but some of these are also being phased out.
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) are considered the second-best option, up to 80 per cent more efficient than incandescent bulbs. But leading the pack are Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) that are 90 per cent more efficient. Unlike some older energy-saving bulbs, they reach full brightness instantly. They also have an average lifespan of 10 years.
3. Reduce paper usage
Another small step in creating an eco-friendly home is to reduce the amount of paper you use. Switch to online billing where possible – most companies offer it these days – as it saves on carbon emissions as well as water and chemical usage.
However, when it comes to wasting paper, junk mail is the biggest offender. Fortunately, there are ways you can opt out. Firstly, tell Royal Mail you’re not interested. They have a junk mail opt-out programme (accessed from their website, royalmail.com), which stops delivery of unaddressed mail (things like “To the occupier”). Next, get in touch with the Mailing Preference Service (mpsonline.org.uk) and Direct Marketing Association (dma.org.uk) and register to opt out of marketing mail altogether.
If you don’t want unsolicited charity mail, then contact the Fundraising Preference Service (fundraisingpreference.org.uk). And to really cover your bases, make sure you’re not on the “open register” at the electoral registration office as these lists, which can be bought, contain your address. (Want to cut out more waste? Try three easy ways to get started with low waste living.)
4. Use cooler washes
Washing machines can be a major energy burner, but you can use them more efficiently – and just as effectively – by using cool water. Reducing the temperature from 40oC to 20oC (a setting required on all washing machines made since 2013) can reduce energy use by up to two thirds. The majority of clothes can be run through a cool-water wash – only difficult and stubborn stains will need a higher temperature.
5. Start a vegetable garden
Growing your own food is perhaps the epitome of an eco-friendly lifestyle. It saves on packaging and reduces carbon emissions twice over (you’re not journeying to the supermarket – and neither is the foodstuff). It’s the ultimate way to source food locally. Plus, you’ll always have a fresh supply of herbs and greens.
You don’t even need much space for a garden, or a green finger for that matter, to cultivate herbs and greens on a window sill or countertop. With a large pot, soil and good sunlight, you can grow the likes of sage, basil and thyme in your kitchen. With space outside, growing vegetables in containers is a good way to get to grips with the fundamentals of gardening. You’ll be a master in no time. Eager to get started? Head over to our step-by-step guide to growing your own veg.