Sometimes it feels like there is so much to be done to reduce our impact on the planet and the environment that it is too overwhelming. When looking on the various social media outlets for inspiration its all too easy to be taken in by all these beautiful images of ‘zero-waste kits’ and feel that you have to spend significant money to be doing it ‘correctly’. In the light of this it can be easy to do nothing through lack of knowing where to start. Well I’m here today to show you five easy ways to reduce your impact right now without spending a single penny! And they may even save some of your hard earned cash too. Yeay! So lets dive in.
Only boil the amount of water you need
Now I understand that I’m probably on the losing side of the tea vs coffee debate. Tea wins every time. Coffee is, frankly, disgusting. But whatever your poison, there is nothing better than a steaming hot brew. That is, except for a steaming hot brew made by only boiling the mug full of water required for said cuppa. Now that is satisfying. Not only will you not have to wait unnecessarily for that, frankly, life affirming beverage, you’ll also waste far less water and electricity. According to Ethical Consumer magazine in an article about kettles from 2018, the number one way to improve energy efficiency with regards to kettles is to stop over filling them. This is reiterated in this article, which touts savings (correct in 2017) of £15 a year based on boiling your kettle twice a day, half full instead of full. I know I use my kettle significantly more than twice a day, and am sure I’m not alone. With modern kettles holding about 2 litres of water and the average mug holding around 350ml, you can see that routinely unnecessarily boiling over a litre of water will have a negative impact. By only boiling what you need you can do your part to reduce energy use and water waste. And save a few pennies too.
Air dry your clothes
I’ll be honest, I knew tumble dryers were wasteful, but I have to admit I was surprised when I looked up the figures. I found on this website (again 2017 costings) that the average 2.5kWh vented tumble dryer costs about £0.44 per full load, emitting 0.9kg of CO2. I’ll reiterate, thats for one load. Meaning if you use your tumble dryer 4x per week, and I’m sure people use them more than that, you’ll spend £91.52 in electricity and emit 198kg of CO2. Contrast that to air drying. Now I’m well aware that not everyone has the outdoor space in which to hang their washing, that having outdoor space is a privilege. But if you do have some, then take advantage. Not only do you get time outside with fresh air, which is not to be sniffed at, but you’ll prolong the life of your clothes, and the sunlight can even be helpful in removing staining on white clothes. Otherwise stand dryers inside do just as well.
Reduce food waste
This is a massive topic, and I encourage you to check out Love Food Hate Waste which is a cornucopia of information. Just from a quick scout at their information page, its clear theres a massive problem here in UK. [Note – this isn’t a problem unique to the UK, if you’re outside the UK its worth checking out the figures for your local area.] We waste 7 million tonnes of food a year, of which 5 million is edible. Thats heartbreaking, especially when there are people all around the world living in food poverty. And its not just the supermarkets fault, though thats another topic. Its here in our homes too. The bits that in wartime were all cherished, in our era of plenty we have no impetus to use. Veg peelings, stale bread, chicken bones. Check out their website for lots of recipes to use up the bits that you have left over. In the meantime, have you considered veggie scrap stock? Its ridiculously easy, and I’ll do a post on it soon, but essentially, keep all you peelings, carrot tops, onion skins, mushroom stalks etc, in a jar in the freezer, and once full add to your slow cooker/pot on the hob, cover with water, season and add herbs, then simmer. On the hob I’d say 5-6 hours on low, in the slow cooker I stick mine on low for 24 hours. You’ll never use crappy cubes again. And its effectively free!
Turn down your heating
If nothing else this is the best excuse to break out your lovely snuggly winter knitted jumpers, and cosy up under a blanket with a good book and a cuppa (boiling only the necessary, obvs!). Or a mug of cream of tomato soup. Mmm. Can you tell its winter, and I’m a bit chilly? Anyhoo, I found an interesting document from the Department of Energy and Climate Change – it’s dated 2012, but at lot of the energy saving advice is sound. It suggests if reducing average temperature from 20ˆC to 18ˆC you can reduce annual energy usage by 3000kWh, or 1500kWh if reduced from 19ˆC to 18ˆC. The current average price of electricity in the UK at the moment is 14.37p, so conservatively this could save you £215 per degree temperature reduction. We keep out house at 18 degrees, and turn the radiators off in rooms that aren’t used. Yes, every now and again I need to put on a wooly jumper. Poor me. But honestly, you get used to it. And wooly jumpers are nice. And, hopefully, sustainable!
Switch off all electrical items at the plug when not in use
Admittedly the savings for this aren’t going to be as impressive as reducing the heating to your whole house, but every little counts. That same government document suggests you could save 50-100kWh per year switching your TV off at the mains when its not in use, which equates to £7-14. But when you extrapolate that to your computer, phone, bedside lamp, speakers, internet rooter etc etc, it all adds up.
So there we are! Five things you can start doing right now to reduce your impact, and potentially save some hard earned money at the same time – I reckon up to £3-400 without breaking a sweat. Literally, because your house will now be freezing. But hey! You now have the pennies to go buy that instagram worth zero waste kit.
Until next time,