Yesterday, the Government announced it was going green and bringing forward their climate change targets, aiming to reduce carbon emissions by 78% by 2035.
When this is enshrined in law, it will mean the UK will adopt a “world leading position” and will also include the international aviation and shipping industries.
Is this enough?
While the Government is expected to announce its plans in the coming days, there are plenty of things we, as individuals, families and businesses can do to contribute to reducing carbon emissions.
Around 40% of all carbon emissions come from domestic homes and travel meaning we, as individuals, have a huge part to play.
What is a carbon footprint?
Our “Carbon Footprint” is a measure of how much greenhouse gasses are released into the atmosphere as a result of our everyday life.
Greenhouse gases are released by things like burning fuel, producing or manufacturing goods and food, transportation and everyday life.
Even things like how you cook and clean, heat your home or travel to work can have an impact on the size of your carbon footprint.
Here we look at some ways we can all reduce our carbon footprint – not only will it help our environment it will also save you money.
Insulating your home
Just over a quarter of our domestic greenhouse gases come from heating our home. This gives plenty of room to reduce this amount.
If you are in a position to do so, insulating your roof can save you up to £150 a year on energy bills*. Loft insulation can cost around £300 or so to install, meaning it will pay for itself after 2 winters!
Similarly, cavity wall insulation can save around £140 a year*, meaning against an average cost of around £400 – £500 it too will pay for itself after a few winters.
*These figures are obtained from renewableenergyhub.co.uk and are based on a gas-heated 3 bedroom semi-detached home.
In the autumn of 2020, the Government created the “Green Homes Grant Scheme” offering homeowners in England vouchers to make energy saving improvements.
This was then extended until 2022, so there is still plenty of time to get involved and apply.
Heating your home
Around 60% of our total cost of heating our homes is down to the boiler installed. New modern boilers are around 94% efficient, meaning, 94% of the energy uses goes straight into heating the home, and just 6% is “wasted” or used for the running of the system.
Boilers that are over 10 years old are around 64% – 66% efficient, meaning for every £100 you spend on energy, around £34 is literally thrown away.
Replacing a boiler that is over 10 years old can save you around £315 a year.
Again, upgrading or replacing your boiler can be a very expensive thing to do so the Government has set up a scheme offering reduced price upgrades, typically £200 – £300 against a normal cost of around £2,300.
The more energy efficient your everyday appliances are, the more you can save over the year.
For example, by upgrading to a modern, energy efficient washing machine can use up to 80% less energy – it can also help your clothes last longer by washing on a lower temperature – a win win!
Tumble dryers are one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gasses in the home – around 90kg of CO2 per year – wherever possible, try to dry your clothes on an airer – this will also help see your energy costs tumble.
Make working from home work for you
If, like the thousands of others, your home has become your work place too, you might find your energy bills, and therefore your carbon footprint creeping up, especially if your home was usually empty during the day.
Here are a few things to think about if you’re still working from home.
- Keep an eye on the temperature of the room. Ideally, our bodies work best at 18 – 21 degrees – if you have a thermostat remember by reducing the temperature by just 1 degree can save around 10% on your heating costs
- According to energysavingtrust.org.uk you can save up to £35 a year just by unplugging your TVs, PCs, Printers and other devices
- Only charge your devices when needed
- Set up your home office / desk in a room of the house that is light and airy. Keep the curtains open and the lights off to use the sunlight to warm your room
- Make a flask of coffee or tea and have it with you at your desk – this way you are not constantly boiling the kettle.
Not all the things we can do to reduce our carbon footprint have to cost the earth.
Here are some everyday changes we can all do to contribute, making little reductions that do add up over the year – and will also save you money.
- According to The Sleep Council, our bodies sleep better when the temperature is set to 16 – 18 degrees. Update your central heating settings to not only save money but also to sleep better
- Bleed your radiators regularly
- By swapping your light bulbs to more energy efficient ones you can save up to £40 a year
- Controversial, especially now we are ok to socialise responsibly, but if you and your hair can take it, throw the hairdryer and go au natural
- If your oven and hobs are going to be on for a couple of hours cooking tonight’s dinner, why not make a bigger batch and freeze meals for the future – reheating takes so much less energy than cooking
- Instead of defrosting dinner in the microwave, take it out a few hours before to defrosts using the huge sun shaped microwave in the sky
- Keep your boiler serviced and in good working order – as said above, your boiler is responsible for around 60% of your total heating costs
- Only keep the setting on your hot water as hot as you can stand – there is no point heating water to put cold in to cool it down so you can use it! This is more important if you are taking a bath
- Try not to put the dishwasher on unless it is full – also, if you do wash up by hand, use a filled sink. This can literally save you up to £25 a year compared to running the tap
- Use a slow cooker – it might be slow, but it’s also low – A slow cooker uses roughly the same amount of energy as a 60 watt lightbulb. See here for some amazing slow cooker recipes – they’re not just for stew!
- You can save around £38 a year just by buying a more efficient shower head – who knew?
Be smart about energy use
The majority of energy suppliers now offer smart meters.
These allow you to see exactly what you are spending – and more importantly, what you are wasting.
Modern central heating systems and meters also allow you to monitor and update your heating controls using an app allowing you to penny pinch 24/7 even if you’re not at home.
Contact your supplier to find out more information on smart meters and the benefits they offer.
The rising costs of energy
Over the years we have all seen the cost of heating our homes rise dramatically. As the traditional fossil fuels become more scarce and the environment suffers more, companies and governments are investing heavily on renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gases.
Many energy suppliers in the UK now offer green and renewable energy to residential customers.
This investment in development and upgrading the industry, coupled with the rise in wholesale prices means families up and down the UK are sometimes struggling to meet the costs of a basic human need of a warm shelter.
If you have experienced financial hardship due to the costs of essential bills like gas and electricity there are organisations out there that can help.
These grants are dependent on your personal situation so you will need to provide some information first.
Who can I speak to if I am in financial hardship?
If, however, you feel your financial difficulties are more far-reaching there are a number of options available – please see our previous blog “Help and Advice” for more info, but it is summarised below:
If you have multiple debts building up and they are affecting your priority bills (such as mortgage/rent, gas/electric, council tax etc.), then you may be able to speak to a Debt Management Company (DMC).
They will fill in an income and expenditure form with you to work out where your money is being spent. This will leave an amount to be split between the companies you owe money to.
The DMC will contact the companies for you explaining your arrangement. They will then make an Offer of Payment which is affordable to you.
If you need help or advice on how to speak to or deal with the various creditors you may have and you are in a position to speak to them yourself then phone the National Debtline on 0808 808 4000 – they can also offer budgeting advice and have an online free self-help tool called My Money Steps.
There is also The Money Advice Service. They offer free and impartial money advice and was set up by government.
Head to moneyadviceservice.org.uk for advice and guides to help improve your finances, tools and calculators to help keep track and plan ahead with support over the phone and online if needed.