It’s impossible to avoid headlines and news reports about the future of the planet. In recent years, the gravity of the situation facing us has become increasingly apparent, and many of us are eager to do our bit to save the Earth. If you’re keen to go green, and you’re ready to make a few simple changes, here are some steps to get you started.
Creating an eco-friendly home
If you’re on a mission to do more for the environment, the best place to start is your own home. Whether you’re in the throes of renovating or building a new house, or you’ve lived in the same property for as long as you can remember, there are ways of making your pad more eco-friendly. While it may not be possible to alter the materials used to build your home, it is viable to make changes that will save energy and water, and help you to spend less at the same time.
One of the most important aspects of making your home greener is increasing energy-efficiency. If you tend to use heaters in the winter or crank up the air conditioning in the summer because your home doesn’t retain heat, or it’s too hot, it’s worth considering how you can improve insulation and make your home a more comfortable environment all year-round. If your home loses heat easily, it’s worth investing in insulation and plugging gaps in walls and around doors and windows. Roof and cavity wall insulation is ideal for those who live in parts of the country that do get the occasional cold spell, while options like installing shutters and using paint that reflects heat are beneficial for hot spots. Heat reflective paint is capable of reflecting up to 80% of solar rays, leading to a much cooler home in the warmer months.
Another way of improving energy-efficiency is investing in the latest technological appliances for the home. You might not think that something as simple as swapping the type of light bulb you use could make a difference, but you’d be shocked at just how much energy can be saved by employing energy-efficient gadgets. LED bulbs last up to 50 times longer than standard bulbs, and they use a lot less energy. You can also buy energy-saving kettles, washing machines, ovens, and refrigerators.
You can also turn your home into an eco nest by using natural materials to decorate your rooms and buying upcycled and recycled furniture made from sustainable products. Whether you’re shopping for bedding, a new chest of drawers or a kitchen table, look out for labels that show you exactly where that product has come from. Buying sustainable materials helps to protect the forests and the animals that call them home.
If you don’t already recycle, this is a really easy and effortless way to live a greener lifestyle. We use products and items that can be recycled all day, every day. If you drink wine or beer from glass bottles, you write notes on a pad of paper, or you buy food or household items packaged in plastic cartons or containers, make sure you recycle them rather than throwing them in the rubbish bin. You can also recycle tins, and some waste sites will also accept electrical items and clothing. Look for signs on the products you buy at shops and stores that indicate that the packaging is recyclable, and try and purchase items made from recycled materials.
According to the Department of the Environment and Energy, the average household in Australia produces 7 tonnes of greenhouse gases. This figure could be reduced substantially by lowering energy consumption and investing in greener energy sources.
Many of us would like to have a little more disposable income at the end of the month, and reducing energy bills is a great way to save money and the planet in one go. If you’re guilty of leaving lights on, running taps while you’re brushing your teeth or taking showers that last for half an hour, there are some very simple things you can do to reduce your energy consumption. Switch normal bulbs for LED lights and turn the lights off whenever the sun is shining or you leave the room. Take a quick shower, turn the taps off when you don’t need water, and invest in a solar hot water system. Solar power may carry installation costs, but you’ll save a huge amount of money in the long-term. A solar hot water system can fulfill up to 90% of a household’s water needs, and it’s a much more environmentally-friendly and cost-effective option.
If you tend to overspend, and you get a fright when your energy bills arrive, check your meter on a regular basis or install a smart meter. This will enable you to keep track of your usage and make you more conscious of wasting energy. It’s also beneficial to get into the habit of turning appliances off at the socket, rather than leaving them on standby, and to look out for appliances with a high energy rating when you’re shopping for new kitchen gadgets or gizmos for the living room.
Commuting and getting around
How often do you get in the car when you could walk, or drive when you could catch a bus or a train? Many of us commute to work by car and we also take trips that aren’t entirely necessary. If you’re eager to go green, there are ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. If you live close to work, could you cycle or walk instead of driving? This would save you money and improve your health, as well as ensuring you avoid traffic jams. If you do drive, you can do your bit for the environment by offering to take colleagues with you or by investing in an eco-friendly vehicle. Electric and hybrid cars are becoming increasingly popular, and they represent the future of motoring. Next time you’re about to pop down to the local shop in your car, think about stretching your legs instead. If you’re passionate about this cause, why not talk to your boss about introducing a scheme at work, such as a cycle or walk to work programme, which offers incentives for leaving the car at home? A growing number of businesses and organisations are taking steps to lower their carbon footprint, and this is a venture everyone can get behind.
Reducing plastic usage
Plastic is one of the most Googled words of the last few years. David Attenborough’s groundbreaking Blue Planet documentaries, which aired on the BBC in the UK, have paved the way for a major clampdown on plastic usage across the globe. Statistics show that since 2015, 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced. Of this vast quantity of plastic, only 9% was recycled, with 79% ending up in landfill sites or in the natural world. Based on current predictions, it is estimated that by 2050, there will be 12.5 billion tonnes of plastic in landfill sites and in oceans, seas, and other natural settings.
The numbers are staggering, and the scale of the problem alarming. So, what can we do to bring those estimated numbers down and start trying to repair the damage our plastic consumption is causing? There are actually several ways you can make a difference. Perhaps the most important measure to employ at home is to buy less plastic. Instead of buying bottles of water that are consumed and chucked away, fill up a reusable cup or a flask. If you’re used to buying a bottle a day, this could save you 365 bottles per year, and that’s just one single person. You can also reduce the amount of plastic you use by swapping plastic straws for paper ones, buying clothing made from sustainable materials, and by buying from manufacturers that have cut down on plastic packaging. It’s also beneficial to arm yourself with reusable bags when you go shopping. Free plastic bags are becoming increasingly uncommon, but many people still head to the supermarket intending to buy new bags.
Plastic is an incredibly important and versatile material, and of course, it’s not possible to cut it out of modern life completely, but if you do buy or use plastic, make sure you recycle it.
With news of mountains of plastic bottles ending up in the oceans and the ice caps melting in the poles, it’s more important than ever to think about what you can do for the planet. If you’re keen to go green, what better time to start than a brand new year? Even making simple changes to your home, your lifestyle and the way you travel around can make a huge difference. Step up your recycling game, invest in energy-efficient water systems, bulbs and household appliances, and think about walking or cycling rather than relying on your car all the time. Get involved in green commuting schemes, make sure you turn the lights off when you leave the room and think about how you could reduce your personal and household plastic usage.