Plans to cut carbon emissions in half by 2025 may seem a little ambitious to many. But one energy-guzzling family was put to the test to see if they could reduce their emissions. By moving into a climate smart house, driving an electric car and changing their energy-wasting habits over a six month period, each family member cut their emissions from 7.3 tonnes to 1.8 – a massive 80% reduction.
Unlike the Lindells, whose video diary can be found at the bottom of this page, we can’t all be fortunate enough to live in an eco-house, so here are a few energy-saving tips to reduce your carbon footprint from the comfort of your own home.
1. Switch to 30°C
By switching your washing machine temperature to 30°C, you are saving energy and cutting your utility bills too. With the help of modern detergents, a lower setting will still provide excellent washing results and can save at least 40% of electrical energy.
2. Sign up to the Mail Preference Service
Are junk letters and leaflets blocking up your letterbox? Around 3.4 billion items of addressed direct mail are sent out every year requiring 180,000 tonnes of paper. Act now by reducing your paper waste and register online with the Mail Preference Service. Just signing up can stop around 80% of addressed direct unsolicited mail to your door.
Around 13 billion items of unaddressed direct mail are also sent out yearly. To stop leaflets and unaddressed mail being delivered by Royal Mail, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and request their ‘door-to-door opt-out form’.
3. Go online
Switch to paperless billing by going online to manage your money and access your monthly bank statements. As most UK newspapers and magazines are now based online too, so you can save money and paper by catching up with the news online.
4. Vermicomposting or keeping worms
A great way to reduce your carbon footprint is to keep worms as pets in your kitchen or if you are a little squeamish – in your garden. We aren’t kidding. Worms are an effective and eco-friendly way of composting hundreds of pounds of kitchen waste every year. They are said to be much faster than normal methods of composting. When green waste is properly composted at home, it doesn't give off methane, a gas which contributes to climate change. The leftover compost can then be used in gardens and to plant houseplants which in turn create oxygen. For tips on making your very own wormery, click here.
5. Turn electricals off standby
Couch potatoes who are too lazy to walk over to the TV and switch it off should know they are wasting money and energy. According to The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the average household wastes around £40 a year simply by leaving appliances on standby.
6. Collect rainwater
Protect the environment and save on your water bills by collecting water from your very own garden to water the plants, wash the car or even your hair in it. The average rainwater collection amount for a house with a 2,000-square-foot roof can be approximately 190,000 liters per year, depending on how much rain your area gets. Put a big bucket in your garden to collect the rain or install rainwater storage tanks. It will runoff the gutters on your roof and fall directly into the tank. You can even heat it up after – using lower temperatures of course!
7. Say no to plastic bags
Plastic bags are massive eco-villains. Their production contributes to air pollution and lots of energy consumption. One plastic bag can take an astonishing 1,000 years to decompose.
If you haven’t already noticed, a number of retailers across the UK are charging for the use of plastic bags (usually 5p per bag) or encouraging shoppers to buy eco-friendly bags made of natural fibres to reuse over and over again. These schemes are set to reduce the amount of ‘white pollution’ as 17 billion plastic bags are issued in the UK everyday. If you are one of those people who rely on plastic bags, then reuse them to line your rubbish bins at home, rather than buying more polluting bin bags.
[Related story: Sahara Forest Project that breathes life into desert claims Climate Week award]
8. Grow your own food
Growing vegetables at home diminishes the need for transport required to get food to your table otherwise known as ‘food miles’. It also allows you to grow your food without the need for harmful and polluting chemicals. If you don’t have a garden, you can still grow some delicious vegetables in even the smallest of spaces such as a balcony or patio space.
If keeping a vegetable patch is too much of an effort, you can reduce food miles and therefore your carbon footprint by buying local organic produce. As the distance food travels decreases, so does the need for processing and refrigeration to reduce spoilage.
9. Load up
When using your washing machine, or dish washer, run them with full loads. Do this and save water, electricity, and washing powder. Also avoid wasted energy from tumble drying by drying clothes outside or on indoor dryers.
10. Keep mobile phones for longer
In a world ruled by technology, it is difficult not to be tempted by the latest shiny new iPhone or Blackberry with all the latest features. But the DECC suggests we can save on electrical waste by not replacing our mobile phones every year. They say most will work for at least five years. By recycling phones, you can help stop harmful chemicals getting into the environment rather than putting them with household rubbish.
11. Take showers instead of baths
According to the European Environment Agency, taking a bath consumes an estimated 80 litres of water compared to showers which consume a much more economical 35 litres for every use. If you opt for a shower, make sure you keep them under five minutes long and keep them cool to lower carbon emissions. One minute off your shower time based on a family of four would save 12,000 litres of water a year.
12. Go meat-free
This is probably one of the most drastic lifestyle changes on the list. Findings from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation suggest that grazing livestock (cows especially) are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems. Reduce carbon emissions by decreasing the global demand for grazing animals and the deforestation of trees for cattle farms by cutting your consumption of red meat.
A vegetarian diet generates only half the carbon dioxide in comparison to a diet which consists of 30% meat, dairy and poultry. Animal flatulence, processing, packaging and transportation of products all help to generate excessive greenhouse gases. If going meatless doesn’t appeal to you, try replacing red meat with fish, eggs and poultry or eat meat-free meals every other day.
To see how the Lindell family from Sweden successfully reduced their carbon footprint over six months, watch the video below.