We all bear a responsibility toward the environment, and it is important to acknowledge ways in which we can all act to improve our sustainable and eco-friendly behaviours. It is easy to make a small first step, which in turn will work towards making a meaningful impact, especially if you build on top of these behaviours.
There are numerous changes you can make within your household that can help start you on your eco-efficient journey to sustainability. For example, installing a smart thermostat can help to reduce energy demand from fossil-fuelled power plants. Smart thermostats are designed to remotely access your home’s heating system and let you control or schedule the system throughout the day. They will save energy, and in turn save you money, by ensuring that you are not heating an empty home. You can also track your energy and spending.
Not only does this have a great cost benefit for your energy bills, but it is also an efficient way to ensure your home is heated at the right time and temperature.
Solar panels are another useful installation. Emission, noise and air pollution free, they convert the sun’s energy into electricity, allowing you to generate your own reliable, sustainable and low maintenance source of energy. Although installation costs can range between £2,900 – £6,700, according to data from the Energy Saving Trust, once they are installed you won’t be paying for any of the energy you use that has been generated by the sun. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that a typical home solar system could save around one tonne of carbon per year. You can learn more about solar panels by listening to our podcast episode with special guest Paul Hutchens, a renewable energy expert and CEO of Eco2Solar, here.
In general, replacing your appliances with energy efficient ones, such as light bulbs and washing machines, will put you on the path to more sustainable living.
Although there are different types of tumble dryers available, the average cost to run a 9kg one is £2.20 a cycle, which averages at £261 per year (based on twice-weekly usage). If you have a tumble dryer but want to be more sustainable, you can opt to use the energy free option. By drying your clothes on a washing line or airer, the tumble dryer gets a break and your carbon emissions are reduced.
No environmentally sustainable household is complete without a cupboard of eco-friendly products. Many normal household cleaners have eco-friendly counterparts and are available as long-term products that are refillable and reusable, as opposed to the mainstream ones that may also contain toxic chemicals that wash up into streams and rivers, causing water pollution and damaging biodiversity.
This is also why biodegradable products are important. Items include products such as shampoo, toilet paper or toothbrushes. These products don’t cause any environmental harm when they meet nature as they disappear through natural processes.
Reduce, reuse, recycle! Reduce the amount of waste generated by everyday living – this can be as simple as going paperless with your bank and paying your bills online or dropping off unused food that’s still in good condition to your local food bank. Reuse objects such as plastic bags instead of paying 5p for a bag when you go to the shops, by using a stainless steel water bottle, or by using a reusable coffee cup. Recycle anything that can be recycled – this means it will be turned into something new and useful. There is also upcycling, which is when you creatively reuse an item that would have been thrown away by finding another use for it.
You could also consider composting your household food and garden waste, such as eggshells, vegetable peels, grass cuttings and weeds. Not only does it become a useful fertiliser, but it also means that there isn’t the added methane emissions caused by adding those items to a landfill.
Before leaving the house
As you get into a more sustainable eco-friendly routine, there are several extra steps you can take before you leave the house. Whilst you are out of the house, it makes sense to unplug all the electronic devices you aren’t using. Even if appliances are shut off or in standby mode, they are still using, and wasting, energy. According to GreenMatch, by unplugging your devices from the wall sockets, you could save around £50-£86 a year.
Another way to live sustainably is by using (and reusing) containers for transporting food. Tupperware is an effective way to store food, and it means you don’t have to use cling film, a single use plastic, or paper towels. There are even plastic-free ways of wrapping food including zero waste, 100% natural food wrap. As mentioned earlier, reusing plastic bags is a great way to live sustainably. You can take it a step further by using tote bags for the same purpose. Made of eco-friendly materials, tote bags are useful for carrying whatever you need, and can be folded up and kept out of the way when not in use.
Another way to be environmentally sustainable in your home is to consider what you’re eating! There’s no need to drop everything and become vegan, but by swapping our beef and eating chicken instead you could reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 48% and reduce your water-use impact by 30%. Whilst you’re making that change, you could also consider choosing to shop locally and buying organic products. Fresh food has a long way to travel before it hits the shelves, but by buying from local producers not only do you eliminate that unnecessary journey, but it strengthens the local economy’s supply chains as well as having the benefit of having fresh produce with a higher nutritional value. It’s also `important to limit food waste. In 2018, the UK produce 9.5 million tonnes of food waste, 70% of which came from households. Buy what you need and portion your meals reasonably, and compost what you can from the waste.
Sustainable living can also be achieved by examining how you use water in your home. The first thing to do is be aware of leaky toilets and faucets as those are just wasting water. Fixing them as soon as possible is good for the environment, and good for your water bill! You can also reduce your water bill by shortening your shower times or lessening your water usage whilst you shower. Much like how you should turn the tap off whilst you’re brushing your teeth until you need to rinse, you can also turn the shower off when lathering your shampoo or spreading the soapy suds. If you have a garden and want to sustainably water your plants, you can use a water butt to collect rainwater each time it rains, and use that to hydrate your flowers instead of using the hose.
Consider sustainability outside the home
Whilst these are all ways to live a more environmentally sustainable life in your home, there are also ways you can be eco-friendly outside the home. For example, you can donate used goods, such as clothes and toys, to local charity shops. This means they are more likely to be reused and not thrown away. You can also buy products with less packaging. Zero waste stores allow customers to bring their own containers from home to fill and refill with wholefoods, cleaning products and more. By doing this you can effectively reduce plastic waste. Another way to reduce plastic waste is to avoid buying bottled water. There are plenty of non-plastic, refillable water bottles that you can carry with you, and there are many opportunities to refill with fresh water when out and about.
The National Housing Group’s Green Homes Initiative means we work closely with our team of architects to make our properties as energy-efficient as possible. Our construction focus is on efficiency and sustainability and all our products are hard-wearing. Our Green Homes Initiative will remain a core theme for all National Housing Group developments.
We use the following sustainable solutions in projects where possible:
- Solar panels
- Low energy lighting
- Energy-efficient heating
- Radiant heating and cooling
Using energy-efficient, renewable or recycled materials lessens the environmental footprint and produces fewer carbon emissions via efficient energy use.