At Bagmaya, we’re passionate about living a sustainable lifestyle. That’s why, over the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing articles about the little things we can all do to live more sustainably, in pursuit of a truly sustainable lifestyle. This week, we’re going to discuss how to make your home more sustainable.
We hear a lot about how domestic energy use contributes to carbon emissions. For readers in the UK, a lot of progress has been made; in June 2020, we went without coal for a record-breaking two months, probably thanks to the reduction in emissions due to COVID-19. The Climate Change Act 2008 provides some legally binding emissions reduction targets. It specifies a reduction of at least 34% in UK greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and at least 80% by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels). Unfortunately, so far, we are not on track to meet these targets. While the biggest changes must occur at the policy level, there are still some things that individuals can do.
Make your home more sustainable with insulation
The UK housing stock is among the most energy inefficient in Europe. If you bought or rented your current home after 2008, you should have been given an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which assesses the relative efficiency of your home and makes specific recommendations about how it could be improved. If you don’t have one, it costs between £60 and £120 to have your home assessed, so it’s worth getting a few quotes.
Generally, a key recommendation is to ensure that your home is properly insulated. Insulation traps the heat inside your home, meaning that it takes less energy to keep it warm. For things like cavity wall or loft insulation, it’s best to employ a professional. However, smaller jobs, like installing secondary glazing on your windows, caulking windows, or adding stick-on insulation to drafty doors, are things you can do yourself, at a relatively low cost. Hanging thicker curtains can also have an insulating effect. Making sure your insulation is effective is a big part of making your home more sustainable!
Sustainable appliances at home
Another thing to consider is the efficiency of your appliances. A big one is your boiler — boilers account for 60% of domestic carbon dioxide emissions. So not only does an inefficient boiler contribute a significant chunk of your carbon footprint, but it could also be costing you a lot of money. If your boiler is over 10 years old, you should be considering upgrading.
All large domestic appliances, from boilers down to kettles, are graded on a scale of G (inefficient) to A (efficient). For some appliances A is further divided into A+, A++, and A+++. When your current appliances reach the end of their lifespan, you should look at energy efficiency ratings when considering replacements. Of course, it is best to avoid using large appliances where you can. You could do this by making sure your washing machine is full, or line-drying, rather than tumble-drying, your clothes.
Of course, things like fitting insulation or replacing your boiler can cost a lot of money. Even though you will save more money in the long term, many people struggle to pay the upfront cost of making their home more efficient. In the UK, there are some financial assistance schemes open to you — you can find out more about these on the Energy Saving Trust website.
Make your garden more sustainable
You can also make use of your outdoor space to pursue sustainable lifestyle goals. You could grow your own fruit and vegetables, reducing your reliance on industrialised farming practices. With a few, small changes, you could make your garden more wildlife-friendly, and contribute to saving the bees! The Wildlife Garden Project provides excellent guides to the best way to make space for wildlife in your garden. You could consider fitting birdhouses or bird feeders, building insect hotels, and planting bee and butterfly friendly plants like daisies, heather, or primroses.
If you have space, you could even install a wildlife pond, which provides a habitat for endangered frogs and newts, or plant trees. This guide on British trees from the Woodland Trust is a good place to start. When managing your garden, remember that pesticides can harm both your health and the environment, so it’s best to use natural and organic alternatives.
For readers who don’t have gardens, you could consider fitting window boxes, or buying small planters for your balcony (if you have one). Some plants can thrive in small spaces — for a more thorough guide, check out this one from Gardener’s World. Home-grown strawberries are far more delicious than their store-bought cousins. Plus, there’s something very satisfying about snacking on fruit that you’ve grown yourself. Many herbs are also window-box friendly, and as a bonus, they’re great sources of nectar and pollen for bees! Indoor plants are another option. Indoor plants have been proven to improve people’s mental health and improve air quality. So no matter how small your space is, think about getting some plants in with you!
How can renters make their home more sustainable?
If you are in the 37% of the population that either privately rents, or lives in social housing, some of these options might not be available to you. This does not mean that there is nothing you can do. You can fit energy-saving bulbs, and hang thicker curtains or blinds. Consider speaking to your landlord about making small changes to the property, like fitting draft-stoppers on doors or caulking windows yourself. You could even ask if they intend to make larger changes themselves — recent legislation means that landlords owning the least efficient homes are legally obliged to upgrade them.
Where does your energy come from?
Everyone could benefit from thinking about their energy supplier. If you’re not sure how green your current supplier is, you can check on the Earth Day Switch website. There are many which support the use of clean, renewable energy and nowadays, they’re often cheaper than polluting alternatives. For more information on green energy suppliers, check out this guide from Money Saving Expert. Many energy suppliers will also fit a smart meter into your home. These allow you to monitor your energy usage throughout the day, which reminds you to turn off appliances that you aren’t using!
Is your bank sustainable?
While you’re considering switching your energy supplier, think about your bank, too. Is your bank using your money to fund polluting industries? You can find out on the Earth Day Switch website. If you discover that your current bank is performing badly, the site also provides some greener alternatives. In the UK, the current account switch guarantee means that your banks will sort out the switch between themselves. Once you’ve signed the paperwork, the transition should be smooth.
Think about whether you need paper bank statements — one study found that, if just 20% of US households went paperless, 1.8 million trees would be preserved each year! If you have online banking, you can probably switch to paperless banking with a single click.
If you are an investor, you should also consider whether the companies you invest in are pursuing sustainability. Some investment management services, such as Nutmeg or Canaccord, score companies according to their environmental and social responsibility practices, allowing you to ensure that your money only supports sustainable causes.
Overall, there are lots of little changes you can make to your home to make it more sustainable.
Tell us about any sustainable changes that you feel inspired to make to your home in the comments below!