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What It Means to Be Environmentally Friendly
Being eco friendly means living in a way that is not harmful to the environment. This way of life is becoming increasingly important, as we need to protect our planet from man-made damage. There are various ways that an individual can make sustainable changes in order to lessen the negative effect that our daily lives usually contribute to.
It is possible to be eco friendly in different areas of our lives.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change continues to issue severe warnings of the failure of governments and systems to suitably react to the rapidly changing climate which continues to rip through the poorest areas of the world, displacing more than 20 million people each year, and intensifying global supply-demand dynamics.
The seismic shift required to circumvent further worsening the effects of climate change does require action from individuals on a community level. This involves energy-based home improvements and reducing over-consumption. Currently, emissions from consumption in high-income cities are set to double by 2050. This must be reduced urgently by two-thirds by 2030 to ensure the health and happiness of generations to come.
This extensive list spans 7 areas of your life where you can make changes to your routines and reconsider your engagement with the systems around you. From small energy efficiency measures to energy system upgrades, from realising your purchasing power to adopting eco tourism habits. Making a start and having an awareness of personal changes that you can make can contribute towards system change and improve your local community.
Ηere’s a short list of 7 simple tips that cover each of the main areas that we focus on throughout this article.
7 Ways to be More Eco Friendly
- Use LED lighting throughout your home.
- Use more public transport
- Wash your clothes less often
- Eat less meat
- Limit plane travel
- Change pension supplier
- Invest in electronic devices instead of paper
Keep reading to learn more about applying these changes to your everyday life, and to get some more actionable tips that you can apply to these areas of your life.
While homes may not pollute as much as corporations do, there are many things you as a homeowner can do to make your home a more eco friendly house. It is important to make a change wherever possible, and your home is something you have control over – so why not make the change? Here is a list of things you can do, from home improvements that require significant up-front capital to small, easy changes that can have a big impact.
1. Renewable Energy for Electricity
Solar photovoltaic (PV) installations convert the sun’s energy into electricity, using photovoltaic cells, or solar panels. This allows you to generate your own reliable, sustainable and low-maintenance source of energy, saving the average UK household one tonne of carbon per year, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
Once installed, they don’t release any emissions in their lives and they don’t produce any noise or air pollution. This can greatly improve local air quality which has respiratory health benefits.
Solar PV can also be combined with electric heating systems, such as heat pumps so you can potentially run your heating and hot water entirely from renewable sources.
Installing solar battery storage to accompany your solar PV system allows you to store energy and use it at any time of day and during power outages. This gives you complete independence from the oil and gas-fuelled power grid.
In the UK there are many solar panel grants to make these switches more affordable.
2. Smart Thermostats
A home efficiency solution that is more easily implemented in the short term is a smart thermostat. These wifi-enabled features can be remote-controlled from any smart device. They can be connected to your central heating system, all types of boilers and air conditioning systems.
This ever-evolving technology remembers your home’s heating patterns and they know when to heat up or cool down your home based on outside temperatures. They use presence sensing technology that will automatically switch off your system when you leave the house and fire it up in time for you coming home.
This is useful in reducing energy demand from fossil-fuelled power plants, which has great cost benefits for your energy bills. Data collected from customers using Google’s Nest thermostat revealed that UK homes saved on energy use by 16.5% compared to homes without the smart controls.
3. Energy Efficient Lighting
Energy-saving light bulbs last up to 12 times as much as traditional bulbs, providing the same amount of light quality for much less energy. 80% of the energy used to power traditional bulbs is lost in heating energy, whereas LED light bulbs run at 80-90% energy efficiency.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, they can reduce your carbon emissions by up to 40kg a year.
4. Upgrade to Energy Efficient Appliances
Every year, the UK produces 1.5 million tonnes of electrical waste. However, new regulations from the UK government mean that fixing up your faulty appliances is much easier because suppliers are now obligated to offer spare parts for products.
Once it’s time to replace your washing machine, fridge freezer, oven or dishwasher, new efficiency measures have upgraded market standards so that energy-saving appliances are readily available for a range of prices. You can identify its energy efficiency by checking the energy efficiency label which runs from A-G, with A being the most energy-efficient.
5. Use Eco-Cleaning Products
A lot of mainstream cleaning products containing detergents, preservatives, or foaming agents are made from various toxic chemicals that wash up into streams and rivers, causing water pollution that enters ecosystems and damages biodiversity.
Switching to products that contain sustainably grown or raised ingredients and non-synthetics reduces the risk of exposure to toxic chemicals that are harmful to humans as well as the environment.
You can also easily make your own natural cleaners by mixing vinegar, lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda. This is a sustainable and cheaper alternative that reduces toxic chemicals and packaging waste in your home.
6. Biodegradable Household Products
While you cannot control whether or not the products that you dispose of will end up being recycled and reused, you can purchase products that are made of non-synthetic ingredients and are biodegradable to limit the impact of this waste.
Biodegradable products dissolve due to contact with bacteria and fungi. This means that if they come into contact with nature, they won’t cause any environmental harm, as they disappear through natural processes.
These products might include:
- Recycled toilet paper
- Natural ingredient shampoo
- Natural deodorant
- Bamboo toothbrush
- Washcloths made from hemp or agave fibres
Insulation and Draught Proofing
40% of the heating energy produced in your home is lost through gaps in windows, doors and floor. There are several ways to fill these to save energy and keep the heat in!
7. Double or Triple Glazed Windows
Double glazed windows have two sheets of glass panels with a gap between them and triple glazed windows have three sheets with two gaps. The gaps keep air or gas (usually argon gas) vacuum sealed. The gas prevents heat loss since it is a poor thermal conductor and so heat cannot easily pass through it.
Low-E glass is most effective for preventing heat loss as it has an invisible layer of metal oxide on one internal layer which reflects heat directly back inside.
As well as keeping your home warm, upgrading your windows reduces outside noises traveling into your house, and increases security.
8. Cavity Wall Insulation
In older buildings with cavity walls, that’s an inner and outer wall with an air gap in between, it’s a good idea to fit some kind of insulation to optimise your home, especially if you’re considering investing in a heat pump. Insulation comes in a range of types and materials, including wood fibre and polystyrene.
Insulation boards are best suited to large areas and cavity walls. For keen DIY-ers, this type of insulation is fairly easy to cut and fit yourself.
9. Loft Insulation
Up to 25% of your home’s heating energy is lost in the roof, according to Simple Energy Advice. You can stop rising heat escaping through your loft by laying down blanket loft insulation rolls which you can alter to fit between the joists in your loft.
10. Filling Gaps Between Your Floorboards
Gaps between older floorboards are inevitable over time as the wood expands and contracts due to varying levels of humidity in the air. This causes avoidable draughts which wastes your home’s heating energy.
You can fill these to exclude draughts using dust, resin or acrylic fillers, or wood filler strips, which you can find in most DIY stores.
11. Radiator Foil
Radiator foil is a thin foil sheet that reduces heat loss into external walls by reflecting heat back into the room. This is a quick, simple and cheap alternative to wall insulation.
12. Draught Excluders
These can be adhered around window and door frames using foam, metal or plastic strips. You can also stop draughts coming in through your letterbox and keyhole. These excluders are usually cheap, easily installed and can be found in most DIY stores or online.
13. Window Seal Replacement
You should replace your window seals every 5-10 years since over time, they expand and contract with the changing temperature and lose their air-tight grip.
Resealing your windows prevents heat loss from draughts as well as preventing moisture from building up which can eventually lead to mold and further structural damage to the area around your windows.
Switch Heating Source
14. Upgrade Your Boiler
Modern boilers are now rated between A-D efficiency rating and are required to use condensing technology, which is 25% more energy-efficient than non-condensing boilers since it uses waste heat to preheat cold water.
Gas-fired boilers, like combi boilers, can provide heat on demand straight from the main lines so energy is not wasted from storing heat.
Hydrogen boilers work the same way as usual modern boilers, but they burn hydrogen gas instead of natural gas. This new energy source is also emissions-free, with the only by-product from combustion being water. Some manufacturers have also released ‘hydrogen ready’ boilers that run on hydrogen fuel should it be brought to market.
Biomass boilers use biological material, or biomass, to produce heat through combustion. Biomass can also be converted to produce sustainable fuels such as biodiesel.
Despite expensive upfront costs, biomass boiler running costs are less vulnerable to market spikes than gas/oil-fired counterparts. Additionally, they do fall under some government grants including the ECO4 Scheme, which helps cover the costs of installing them.
15. Have Your Boiler Serviced
It’s very important to have your boiler checked annually to ensure it’s running safely and efficiently. Your boiler might be burning more fuel to heat your home, especially as it gets older. This will cause your bills to rise and your energy consumption to increase. A licensed engineer will identify the problematic components and optimise your system for longer.
16. Heat Pumps
Heat pumps offer a sustainable alternative to boilers and air conditioners. They extract heat from the air, ground or water and transfer it into your home, or to cool your home in the summer months, they extract heat from inside your home and send it outdoors.
Heat pumps eliminate the need for gas pipes and oil tanks. 4kW of thermal energy is generated for every kW of electricity used by a heat pump, resulting in a 200-600% efficiency rate and significantly reducing your home’s carbon emissions compared to gas or electric heating.
The UK Governments Boiler Upgrade Scheme offers £5,000 off of the upfront costs of installing a heat pump.
17. Solar Thermal
Solar thermal systems use heat from the sun to provide space and water heating or, high-temperature collector solar thermal systems can also be used to generate electricity. They can be combined with your usual heating and hot water system to diversify your supply and utilise the sun’s energy at optimal times throughout the year.
This will reduce your carbon emissions and reduce your hot water costs, saving at least £50 on energy bills, depending on what type of heating source you switch from.