Being eco friendly means living in a way that is not harmful to the environment. This way of life is becoming increasingly important, as we need to protect our planet from man-made damage. There are various ways that an individual can make sustainable changes in order to lessen the negative effect that our daily lives usually contribute to.
It is possible to be eco friendly in different areas of our lives.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change continues to issue severe warnings of the failure of governments and systems to suitably react to the rapidly changing climate which continues to rip through the poorest areas of the world, displacing more than 20 million people each year, and intensifying global supply-demand dynamics.
The seismic shift required to circumvent further worsening the effects of climate change does require action from individuals on a community level. This involves energy-based home improvements and reducing over-consumption. Currently, emissions from consumption in high-income cities are set to double by 2050. This must be reduced urgently by two-thirds by 2030 to ensure the health and happiness of generations to come.
This extensive list spans 7 areas of your life where you can make changes to your routines and reconsider your engagement with the systems around you. From small energy efficiency measures to energy system upgrades, from realising your purchasing power to adopting eco tourism habits. Making a start and having an awareness of personal changes that you can make can contribute towards system change and improve your local community.
While homes may not pollute as much as corporations do, there are many things you as a homeowner can do to make your home a more eco friendly house. It is important to make a change wherever possible, and your home is something you have control over – so why not make the change? Here is a list of things you can do, from home improvements that require significant up-front capital to small, easy changes that can have a big impact.
1. Renewable Energy for Electricity
Solar photovoltaic (PV) installations convert the sun’s energy into electricity, using photovoltaic cells, or solar panels. This allows you to generate your own reliable, sustainable and low-maintenance source of energy, saving the average UK household one tonne of carbon per year, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
Once installed, they don’t release any emissions in their lives and they don’t produce any noise or air pollution. This can greatly improve local air quality which has respiratory health benefits.
Solar PV can also be combined with electric heating systems, such as heat pumps so you can potentially run your heating and hot water entirely from renewable sources.
Installing solar battery storage to accompany your solar PV system allows you to store energy and use it at any time of day and during power outages. This gives you complete independence from the oil and gas-fuelled power grid.
In the UK there are many solar panel grants to make these switches more affordable.
2. Smart Thermostats
A home efficiency solution that is more easily implemented in the short term is a smart thermostat. These wifi-enabled features can be remote-controlled from any smart device. They can be connected to your central heating system, all types of boilers and air conditioning systems.
This ever-evolving technology remembers your home’s heating patterns and they know when to heat up or cool down your home based on outside temperatures. They use presence sensing technology that will automatically switch off your system when you leave the house and fire it up in time for you coming home.
This is useful in reducing energy demand from fossil-fuelled power plants, which has great cost benefits for your energy bills. Data collected from customers using Google’s Nest thermostat revealed that UK homes saved on energy use by 16.5% compared to homes without the smart controls.
3. Energy Efficient Lighting
Energy-saving light bulbs last up to 12 times as much as traditional bulbs, providing the same amount of light quality for much less energy. 80% of the energy used to power traditional bulbs is lost in heating energy, whereas LED light bulbs run at 80-90% energy efficiency.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, they can reduce your carbon emissions by up to 40kg a year.
4. Upgrade to Energy Efficient Appliances
Every year, the UK produces 1.5 million tonnes of electrical waste. However, new regulations from the UK government mean that fixing up your faulty appliances is much easier because suppliers are now obligated to offer spare parts for products.
Once it’s time to replace your washing machine, fridge freezer, oven or dishwasher, new efficiency measures have upgraded market standards so that energy-saving appliances are readily available for a range of prices. You can identify its energy efficiency by checking the energy efficiency label which runs from A-G, with A being the most energy-efficient.
5. Use Eco-Cleaning Products
A lot of mainstream cleaning products containing detergents, preservatives, or foaming agents are made from various toxic chemicals that wash up into streams and rivers, causing water pollution that enters ecosystems and damages biodiversity.
Switching to products that contain sustainably grown or raised ingredients and non-synthetics reduces the risk of exposure to toxic chemicals that are harmful to humans as well as the environment.
You can also easily make your own natural cleaners by mixing vinegar, lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda. This is a sustainable and cheaper alternative that reduces toxic chemicals and packaging waste in your home.
6. Biodegradable Household Products
While you cannot control whether or not the products that you dispose of will end up being recycled and reused, you can purchase products that are made of non-synthetic ingredients and are biodegradable to limit the impact of this waste.
Biodegradable products dissolve due to contact with bacteria and fungi. This means that if they come into contact with nature, they won’t cause any environmental harm, as they disappear through natural processes.
These products might include:
Recycled toilet paper
Natural ingredient shampoo
Washcloths made from hemp or agave fibres
Insulation and Draught Proofing
40% of the heating energy produced in your home is lost through gaps in windows, doors and floor. There are several ways to fill these to save energy and keep the heat in!
7. Double or Triple Glazed Windows
Double glazed windows have two sheets of glass panels with a gap between them and triple glazed windows have three sheets with two gaps. The gaps keep air or gas (usually argon gas) vacuum sealed. The gas prevents heat loss since it is a poor thermal conductor and so heat cannot easily pass through it.
Low-E glass is most effective for preventing heat loss as it has an invisible layer of metal oxide on one internal layer which reflects heat directly back inside.
As well as keeping your home warm, upgrading your windows reduces outside noises traveling into your house, and increases security.
8. Cavity Wall Insulation
In older buildings with cavity walls, that’s an inner and outer wall with an air gap in between, it’s a good idea to fit some kind of insulation to optimise your home, especially if you’re considering investing in a heat pump. Insulation comes in a range of types and materials, including wood fibre and polystyrene.
Insulation boards are best suited to large areas and cavity walls. For keen DIY-ers, this type of insulation is fairly easy to cut and fit yourself.
9. Loft Insulation
Up to 25% of your home’s heating energy is lost in the roof, according to Simple Energy Advice. You can stop rising heat escaping through your loft by laying down blanket loft insulation rolls which you can alter to fit between the joists in your loft.
10. Filling Gaps Between Your Floorboards
Gaps between older floorboards are inevitable over time as the wood expands and contracts due to varying levels of humidity in the air. This causes avoidable draughts which wastes your home’s heating energy.
You can fill these to exclude draughts using dust, resin or acrylic fillers, or wood filler strips, which you can find in most DIY stores.
11. Radiator Foil
Radiator foil is a thin foil sheet that reduces heat loss into external walls by reflecting heat back into the room. This is a quick, simple and cheap alternative to wall insulation.
12. Draught Excluders
These can be adhered around window and door frames using foam, metal or plastic strips. You can also stop draughts coming in through your letterbox and keyhole. These excluders are usually cheap, easily installed and can be found in most DIY stores or online.
13. Window Seal Replacement
You should replace your window seals every 5-10 years since over time, they expand and contract with the changing temperature and lose their air-tight grip.
Resealing your windows prevents heat loss from draughts as well as preventing moisture from building up which can eventually lead to mold and further structural damage to the area around your windows.
Switch Heating Source
14. Upgrade Your Boiler
Modern boilers are now rated between A-D efficiency rating and are required to use condensing technology, which is 25% more energy-efficient than non-condensing boilers since it uses waste heat to preheat cold water.
Gas-fired boilers, like combi boilers, can provide heat on demand straight from the main lines so energy is not wasted from storing heat.
Hydrogen boilers work the same way as usual modern boilers, but they burn hydrogen gas instead of natural gas. This new energy source is also emissions-free, with the only by-product from combustion being water. Some manufacturers have also released ‘hydrogen ready’ boilers that run on hydrogen fuel should it be brought to market.
Biomass boilers use biological material, or biomass, to produce heat through combustion. Biomass can also be converted to produce sustainable fuels such as biodiesel.
Despite expensive upfront costs, biomass boiler running costs are less vulnerable to market spikes than gas/oil-fired counterparts. Additionally, they do fall under some government grants including the ECO4 Scheme, which helps cover the costs of installing them.
15. Have Your Boiler Serviced
It’s very important to have your boiler checked annually to ensure it’s running safely and efficiently. Your boiler might be burning more fuel to heat your home, especially as it gets older. This will cause your bills to rise and your energy consumption to increase. A licensed engineer will identify the problematic components and optimise your system for longer.
16. Heat Pumps
Heat pumps offer a sustainable alternative to boilers and air conditioners. They extract heat from the air, ground or water and transfer it into your home, or to cool your home in the summer months, they extract heat from inside your home and send it outdoors.
Heat pumps eliminate the need for gas pipes and oil tanks. 4kW of thermal energy is generated for every kW of electricity used by a heat pump, resulting in a 200-600% efficiency rate and significantly reducing your home’s carbon emissions compared to gas or electric heating.
The UK Governments Boiler Upgrade Scheme offers £5,000 off of the upfront costs of installing a heat pump.
17. Solar Thermal
Solar thermal systems use heat from the sun to provide space and water heating or, high-temperature collector solar thermal systems can also be used to generate electricity. They can be combined with your usual heating and hot water system to diversify your supply and utilise the sun’s energy at optimal times throughout the year.
This will reduce your carbon emissions and reduce your hot water costs, saving at least £50 on energy bills, depending on what type of heating source you switch from.
How We Get Around
18. Electric Cars
Diesel and petrol-fuelled cars are a major contributor to global warming, mainly due to the amount of CO2 emissions they emit. 27% of the UK’s total emissions came from transport in 2019, with 91% of this coming from road transport vehicles.
Electric vehicles are the most sustainable way to drive since they don’t use traditional fuels at all to run. They don’t produce any air pollutants, in the form of gas, particulates, or air toxics.
Hybrid cars on the other hand use both traditional combustion fuels and an electric motor, which is powered by a battery. Plug-in hybrids run primarily on an electric battery until the power runs out, then the gasoline-powered engine takes over.
What We Wear
19. Wash Your Clothes Less
Synthetic material sheds microplastics in the washing machine, which find their way to the ocean. The ocean floor holds over 14 million tonnes of microplastics. This number is increasing with textiles contributing 500,000 tonnes yearly. 16% of the microplastics released into the oceans come from washing these synthetic clothes. The toxic fibers degrade ecosystems and are ingested by sea life and eventually mammals, including humans.
Over washing your clothes at high temperatures will also affect their quality over time. It’s also a great waste of water and energy from your washing machine. Also, be sure to only buy non-toxic detergents and avoid the use/overuse of tumble dryers.
20. Don’t Throw Wearable Clothes Away
The UK produces around 1 million tonnes of textile waste per year. Once in landfill, they can then take hundreds of years to decompose and release greenhouse gases (GHG) in the process.
Ultra-fast fashion, a mutation of fast fashion, has emerged as online clothing stores produce and release thousands of new items per day. Participating in these rapid trend cycles is creating a culture of over-consumerism.
You can make easy alterations and repairs to your clothing to keep them for longer or to adjust to current trends. Vintage and second-hand outlets will offer more affordable alternative options, often based on the same items of clothing.
If you would like some new clothing, be sure that it’s of good quality so that it lasts you a long time. You can also research sustainable brands that limit the impact of production and are transparent about their supply chains.
What We Eat
21. Eat Less Meat
Meat and dairy are responsible for the majority of GHG emissions in the agriculture industry.
Emissions occur from the stage of production, to processing, packaging, and to finally being delivered. Farming releases two powerful greenhouse gases: methane from livestock during digestion, and Nitrous Oxide as an indirect product of organic and mineral nitrogen fertilisers.
As the majority of emissions are a result of production and preparation of meat and dairy, consuming less meat would be a positive contribution to reducing GHG emissions. While some opt to drastically change their diets to a vegan one, simply reducing your intake of meat can already have a big impact.
22. Shop for Local Produce
The average item of fresh food travels 1,500 miles before we buy it. These carbon-heavy value chains create emissions through transport, refrigeration and across production processes.
You can eliminate this by buying from local producers where you can. A well-established local food economy strengthens supply chains meaning there are more supply options during shortages. Local, seasonal produce also has higher nutritional value since it has spent less time from its source. Meanwhile, international produce is grown to artificially exceed its natural shelf life which compromises its nutritional value.
23. Limit Food Waste
The UK produced 9.5 million tonnes of food waste in 2018, the equivalent of 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. 70% of this was found to come from households. This raises emissions through increased industrial production and transportation.
You can limit your household food waste by portioning your meals reasonably, only buying what you need and using food waste as fertiliser for soil and plants.
How We Travel
24. Limit Plane Travel
Emissions from aviation could take up one-sixth of the carbon budget remaining to limit 1.5 degrees of global warming. Within the aviation industry, options for rapid decarbonisation are slow and limited, therefore, personally limiting flights is the best way to reduce emissions. This is until sustainable aviation has become a viable, mainstream alternative.
Train travel is fast becoming a more pleasant and economical option, with new expanding train networks developing across Europe.
25. Avoid Cruise Holidays
Cruise holidays have become increasingly popular. However, these big ships contribute massively to GHG emissions. Carnival Corporation’s fleet of 47 cruise ships emits 10 times more sulphur oxides (SOx) than 100 million cars do.
It is important to be aware of your holiday’s footprint on the environment, and opt for more sustainable holidays when possible.
26. Practice Sustainable Tourism
Following the pandemic, people have become more aware of their cultural, economic and environmental impacts as tourists, with 72% of people surveyed by Booking.com admitting that they think sustainable travel is vital.
Increasingly, people are engaging more in sustainable tourism which involves limiting their carbon footprint while traveling, being tactical with their spending power and helping to sustain the natural environment that they have the privilege to visit.
This helps prevent over-tourism which is the overcrowding of tourist destinations that disrupts the local way of life such as through the rise in housing and renting costs and the commodifying of local traditions.
Pollution, especially through excess waste, leads to the degradation of natural or archeological sites and depletion of natural resources including water, soil nutrients and biodiversity.
Below are just some eco-tourism tips to consider for your next trip:
Choose tour operators that invest in the local communities where they conduct their business
Choose less tourist-heavy locations
Use public transport as much as possible
Stick to footpaths
Use reusable containers and bottles rather than disposable paper plates, cutlery and cups
Limit your energy use in accommodation such as by taking shorter showers, reducing air-conditioning use
Spend in local shops and restaurants
Use Environmentally Friendly Travel Products
27. Green Key Certified Accommodation
When looking for accommodation abroad, it’s important to look for places that are most sustainable in their business. Selecting Green Key certified accommodation is one way to do that.
To be Green Key certified, there are 13 criteria that need to be fulfilled. Being Green Key certified means that the accommodation respects local cultures and traditions, takes care of the environment and treats its employees fairly.
28. Unplug Before Travelling
Even if electronic devices are shut off or in sleep mode, they are still using energy. Being away for too long wastes a lot of energy that could otherwise have been plugged off. So, before going on vacation, make sure to unplug your devices from the wall sockets, in order to save electricity.
Each UK household spends around £50 – £86 a year to power appliances left in standby mode or not in use.
29. Pack Light
Flying to foreign destinations will emit emissions no matter what. However, if flying is the only option, then travellers can try to pack light in order to be able to still minimise the amount of pollution. The more luggage a plane carries with them on their travels, the more fuel the airplane needs to fly.
30. Give Away Perishable Food Items before Travelling
Before leaving for vacation, make sure to check if any food item in the fridge is about to expire. If possible, consume it before the expiry date, otherwise donate it to people in need and avoid food wastage.
Being conscious of the environment does not have to be limited to the home. There are many different things that employees can do to minimise environmental damage and make activities at their workplace more sustainable.
31. Change Pension Supplier
Pension funds represent the largest group of investors in the UK, holding around 2 trillion pounds in assets. By 2021, an estimated £128 billion was invested in fossil fuels from UK pension funds, that’s nearly £2,000 for every person in the UK, Friends of the Earth found.
A mass switch from fossil invested pension suppliers across the UK would reduce 19 tonnes of GHG emissions per year. Investigating your pension supplier and making a switch should you discover their investments in fossil fuels puts increased pressure on suppliers to diversify and decarbonise their investments.
32. Be Mindful of Printing Paper
A lot of paper is printed in an office space. It’s unavoidable that paper will be printed, whether it’s for a meeting or to sign a contract. However, printing out a document may not be entirely necessary.
The best thing you could do is to think if it is absolutely required to have a document in hard copy. If not, you could consider to send it in an email. In order to minimise their carbon footprint, contracts can be sent and signed digitally.
33. Encourage Public Transportation for Employees
Depending on the distance from the employee’s home to the workplace, there are different ways to commute to work. While using a car may seem like the easiest and fastest option, taking the train or bus would pollute less. Depending on your city’s biking infrastructure, you could even opt to ride a bicycle to work.
34. Use Electricity Wisely
Offices naturally require electricity to power their equipment, amenities, facilities. However, it’s important to be aware of the energy consumption and be conscious of what is required.
One way companies could contribute to a greener office is by ensuring to plug off electric devices when not in use. It’s good to stay aware of the energy consumption and to make changes when the usage is predicted to go above the limit set for the month.
Moreover, an increasing number of large tech corporations are using green energy to meet their electricity needs.
35. Encourage the Mantra ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’
These three well-known principles of waste management will make your office more eco friendly. Offices should set up different containers for different types of products. Use recycling bins for paper, plastic, and soft drink cans, rather than throwing everything out in one bin.
36. Use Recyclable Food Containers to Minimise Waste
When serving food at the office cafeteria, offer employees recyclable food containers so that they can take any leftover food home. This will greatly reduce food waste, which is a big issue in the UK.
There are a lot of things that parents can do to ensure that their kids are more environmentally friendly at school. Whether it’s walking your kid to school or ensuring that they use environmentally friendly school supplies to minimise the damage done to nature. Inspiring kids to contribute to a greener environment and world is something we could and should do.
37. Make Green Choices to Go to School
As driving emits pollution, parents should consider alternative ways of getting their children to school. Whether that is walking them to school or making them use public transportation. Using the car less can make a huge difference to the environment in the long run. In some cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, parents use cargo bikes to ride their children to school, which is a great eco friendly solution to using a car.
38. Donate Clothes
As children grow older, their school uniforms will undoubtedly have to be changed. Instead of throwing the clothes out, parents should consider donating the clothes back to the school or to other parents who are in need.
39. Use Containers, Not Paper Bags
When making lunch for children to bring to school, parents should invest in lunch boxes that are reusable, instead of giving them food in paper bags that are to be thrown out. If a food item truly needs to be wrapped, avoid using cling wrap and opt for more environmentally friendly wrapping materials like beeswax.
40. Invest in Electronic Devices Instead of Paper
As technology is adapting different scenarios in our life, there are a lot of different products that can be used to take notes with. Although investing in a laptop or a tablet may be expensive, your child could not only save time in taking notes but can also help reduce paper waste at school.