How your home can help fight climate change
The combination of Earth Day and David Attenborough’s powerful new documentary Climate Change – The Facts has got many of us thinking about the environment. Consumer Journalist Ruth Jackson looks at how you can make changes in your home that will help the world.
April 23, 2019
David Attenborough’s latest BBC documentary Climate Change – The Facts is “a rousing call to arms” that is “designed to do for climate change denial what 2017’s Blue Planet did for single-use plastic,” says Rebecca Nicholson in The Guardian.
The hour-long show features amateur footage showing the very real effect climate change is having on our planet from 11,000 dead flying foxes, unable to cope with extreme temperatures to people in Louisiana becoming the first climate refugees. They’ve been forced to move due to rising waters.
Combine the documentary with Earth Day and last week’s protests by Extinction Rebellion and climate change is at the forefront of many minds. So, what can you do around your house to help the planet?
The good news is there are plenty of simple things you can do to make a significant difference.
Get green energy
Green energy comes from renewable sources producing a smaller carbon footprint. For example: wind power; solar power; hydroelectric power; wave power; tidal power and bio fuels. The traditional source of our energy – burning fossil fuels such as gas, coal and oil – emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which is a major cause of global warming.
Switching to a 100% renewable electricity and carbon-neutral gas tariff can halve your carbon footprint, according to Good Energy.
There was a time when a renewable electricity or gas tariff was difficult to find and it would cost you more to be green. Thankfully that is no longer the case. There are several energy firms that now offer part or all renewable energy at no extra cost.
All you need to do is shop around and switch to a green energy provider. There are lots out there such as Bulb or Ecotricity. Alternatively, you could contact your current provider to see if you can move to having your energy come from green sources. That’s what I did this morning and now 100% of my electricity is coming from renewable sources and our household gas is carbon-neutral.
Use less energy
Green energy isn’t perfect. For example, getting gas from renewable sources is expensive so many firms offset the CO2 emissions from producing gas from fossil fuels rather than using renewable sources. This is commendable but means the energy you use is still damaging the planet.
So, try to cut back on the energy your household uses. Make sure your home is properly insulated so the energy you use to heat your home isn’t wasted. If your boiler is getting on in years replace it. About 60% of what you spend on your energy bill in a year is on your boiler. Upgrading it to an A-rated high-efficiency condensing boiler could save you up to £300 a year and help the planet.
Even something as simple as turning your thermostat down makes a huge difference. Setting it just 1 degree lower could cut your energy usage by 10%.
Read our top 10 energy saving tips for more ideas.
Produce your own power
If you want to take things one step further you could consider producing your own power. It is possible to fit solar panels to your home or install air source heat pumps, or biomass boilers. You can use this to power your home and could even make money selling it back to the National Grid. The government sets feed in tariffs for how much you will be paid per kilowatt hour you generate and send back to the grid.
You can find out more in our guide to making money from your home.
Improve your recycling habits
Most of us have been recycling around the home for many years now. But, how good are you at it? Many of us think we are doing the right thing but inadvertently sending out recycling to landfill. For example, plastic bags are difficult to sort and time-consuming so many recycling plants throw them away, even if they are filled with recyclable items.
Don’t put plastic bags in your recycling, even if you are using them as a container. Instead keep plastic bags out of your household recycle. Any you can’t reuse take to a specific plastic bag recycling point – most supermarkets have one.
Don’t shred paper. There are certain documents that you should always shred – anything with personal data on. But don’t habitually shred paper as some recycling centres can’t cope with it, or it can’t be recycled as easily.
Check your local council’s advice on recycling to make sure you are getting it right and to ensure your efforts aren’t in vain.
Make your garden green
Fighting climate change isn’t just about what you do indoors, your garden is a powerful weapon too. Using solar powered garden lights, or switching your outdoor lightbulbs to energy efficient ones is an often overlooked way to cut your energy consumption. Also, avoid power tools and opt for human-powered where you can. For example, use push mowers, hand clippers and rakes instead.
Growing your own veg can help you to eat more seasonally and cut the food miles on your plate. Composting your kitchen and garden waste will not only reduce your carbon pollution it will also provide you with excellent compost too. You can also consider installing a wormery in your garden. They take up very little space – you could fit one on a balcony – and worms can munch there way through plenty of household waste turning it into fertiliser for the garden.
Finally, if you have the space plant some trees. In the fight against climate change trees are warriors. Not only do they absorb carbon dioxide they also provide shade which can help keep your home cool in summer and they reduce the effects of flooding. Just make sure you don’t plant them too close to your home as that might cause problems with your insurance in the future.