If you live in Essex, you are unlikely to be able to travel very far without seeing a few new houses being built in a tiny space or maybe even major housing developments.
But look past the construction chaos and what do you see? Nice looking homes, maybe, but with hardly any garden, very little greenery, no trees, and rarely a solar panel in site! All new homes must meet certain levels of sustainability, but are the current requirements high enough? Shouldn’t we doing so much more to ensure all new constructions are as energy-efficient as possible? And shouldn’t we also be ensuring that people have enough green space in their local neighbourhood. That isn’t just a ‘nice to have’: studies increasingly demonstrate the importance of green space for physical and mental wellbeing.
Many people are taking big steps to make their own homes more energy efficient, such as having solar panels installed. And if you are having any major works done, especially extensions, than it is important to choose builders in Essex that can advise you on the most energy-efficient options. The initial cost may well be greater, but your return on investment will in most cases be repaid in only a few years. And how much better will you feel if you have not only reduced your monthly outgoings but also reduced your environmental footprint?
But if you are not planning to buy a new house or have any major works done and are feeling a little bit overwhelmed by all the talk of energy-efficiency, going green, sustainability or being more eco-friendly – whatever label you want to call it – here are some quick wins to get you started.
8 easy ways to be more eco-friendly at home
Wash your laundry in cooler water
Around 80 to 90 percent of the energy used as you run the washing machine comes from heating water for those hot water washes. For most washes, reduce the temperature to 30 degrees or use the eco mode setting in your machine. Apart from reducing the amount of energy you are using, modern fabrics will last much longer if you use a cool wash, Additionally, do think about the laundry products you are using and consider changing to one of the many excellent eco-friendly plant-based options available.
Compost your food waste
Perhaps one of the first steps to be more eco-friendly is to reduce your food waste. Did you know that households in the UK are responsible for approximately 7.2 million tonnes of food waste every year? The average family with children is throwing away as much as £60 worth of food every month! That’s £720 a year. But fear-not, our Love Food, Hate Waste article gives lots of really easy ways to stop wasting food.
But once you have taken steps to cut down on your purchases and use up some of the leftovers in your fridge, why not turn the remaining food waste into compost? Cooked food can’t go straight into your normal home composting bins, but by using a Kitchen Composter or Bokashi Bin, in a few weeks you’ll have nutrient rich compost you can either add to your normal compost bin or dug straight into the ground, plus a liquid feed which is packed with beneficial microbes and can be diluted as a plant feed or poured down the drain to prevent algae build up and odours. Even better, if you are an Essex resident – and also available in some other areas – check out the Get Composting web site to get your bin at a special price.
Fix those leaks
Apart from the constant drip, drip which will drive you crazy, and possible staining caused, you’ll be amazed at how much water you are wasting. One-drop every second results in five gallons of water wasted every day. So, without any excuse, call a plumber and get those leaks fixed ASAP.
Replace light bulbs
The old-fashioned incandescent bulbs waste around 90 percent of energy in the form of heat. LED bulbs can slash your energy consumption. In most cases, you will be able to find an LED bulb that can be used with your existing fitting. you don’t need to do anything to your current lighting fixtures. Just get the latest bulbs and change them.
While LED lights are admittedly quite expensive to purchase, a standard 40W incandescent light bulb lasts about 1,000 hours while an equivalent LED light lasts around 20,000 hours. Additionally, an LED bulb that uses only 5 watts of power does the same job as a filament bulb that uses 40 watts. This drives real energy savings. The initial cost of your purchases will be repaid very quickly!
As The Energy Saving Trust says: “There are many simple yet effective ways to insulate your home, which can significantly reduce heat loss while lowering your heating bills.” There are options for every part of your home including: roof and loft; cavity walls; tanks, pipes and radiators; under floorboards, solid walls and draught-proofing which can be one the cheapest and most effective ways to save energy and money in your home.
Using solar-powered lights for outdoor settings
You can get a wonderful variety of solar-powered lights to lighten up your driveway, walkways and your garden. The lights will look stunning and are a great way to reduce energy consumption as opposed to wired electric lighting effects.
Plant climbers and shrubs
Planting climbers and shrubs, particularly on south and west sides of your house, will not only look beautiful but can help to insulate your house, keeping it cooler in summer and insulating it in winter to save on your energy bills.
Avoid single-use plastic
Most of us avoid using single-use plastic carrier bags now. Since the 5p charge was introduced, sales by the big supermarkets has fallen by 90%. But check your weekly shop and you will probably still find copious amounts of single-use products such as milk cartons, juices, yoghurt, soup, ice cream, cleaning products, coffee pods…. The list is endless! So what can you do? An increasing number of shops are offering the option to bring your own containers but if that isn’t available for you, please consider how you might be able to reuse those containers. Many will make excellent storage containers, or maybe be a bit creative with the kids and grow some seeds or make a train. And if you really can’t re-use them, ensure they are rinsed out properly and recycled.
We all are aware of the need to adapt to more eco-friendly ways of living, but with the hectic schedules of modern life, changing your regular habits may feel impossible at times. So why not start with some of the small steps mentioned above? You’ll soon find they become second nature and you’ll be saving money and also feeling much better about yourself.