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Climate Top Tips - At Home and At Work

Aug 19, 2008
Tips for reducing your CO2 emissions fall into a number of categories; this article focuses on what you can do at home and in the workplace to reduce your carbon footprint.

At home

Simple measures could substantially reduce the emissions from your home, and save you money as well - you could currently be paying much more than you need to in gas and electricity bills.

1. Does it need to be so hot? Turning the thermostat down by just one degree can save you up to $60 a year on your heating bill and make a real dent in your household's emissions.

2. Set your timer efficiently. If you are working regular hours, avoid wasted heat energy by timing your heating to go off 30 minutes before you leave the house, and come on again 30 minutes before you are due to get back.

3. Insulate your loft. You can cut up to 20 per cent from your energy bill by installing good quality loft insulation; it stops heat from escaping and thus requires less energy to keep your house warm.

4. Beat draughts. They're the most uncomfortable and obvious signs of a badly insulated house and can be fixed easily with either draught-proofing or secondary glazing. You could also fit double glazing and the most popular energy saving measure, although it actually saves less from a typical fuel bill than installing (much cheaper) cavity wall insulation. Make sure that you specify low glazing, which has a special heat-reflective coating that reduces heat loss through the window by nearly half.

5. Watch the floors. Rooms can sometimes feel cold due to strong drafts rising up from gaps between the floorboards or between the skirting board and the floor. This is easily resolved by investing in a tube sealant, such as silicon. Another way of reducing draughty floors is to insulate underneath the floorboards on the ground floor.

6. Dress your hot-water tank correctly.

7. Reflective radiator panels can fit perfectly behind radiators. They are cheap to buy, easy to install and reflect back heat that would otherwise drift through the wall. They can be bought from DIY stores (avoid those made from PVC), or you can make your own by wrapping tinfoil around cardboard.

8. Draw your curtains at dusk. Sounds obvious, but a thick pair of curtains can stop a huge amount of heat from escaping through your windows.

9. Put a lid on it. Saucepans with lids on heat much quicker, using less energy in the process.

10. Use your oven sensibly. Don't keep opening it to check whether your food is ready as this allows heat to escape and will only make your meal take longer to cook, using more energy, And by switching it off just a few minutes before your food is ready you'll find that it'll stay hot enough to finish cooking the food. Don't buy cut flowers. Because of their short shelf life, the flowers are usually flown in which gives them a massive climate change footprint because of the aviation emissions. To avoid this you can buy local grown plants; if you're still going to buy flowers, choose those that are local grown and in season.

11. Turn lights off! For comparison, lighting an empty office overnight can waste the energy required to heat water for 1,000 cups of coffee.

12. Buy energy-saving light bulbs. Some of these can use less than a quarter of the electricity of their equivalents, and can last up to 12 times longer. Just one energy efficient light bulb can save you $20 a year on your electricity bill.

13. Make the most of nature. Light-coloured walls, ceilings and floors, as well as mirrors, reflect daylight, making maximum use of natural light and reducing the need to use artificial lighting.

14. Use infrared. If you have exterior lights, ask your electrician to fit infrared sensors so that the lights only come on when you pass in front of them.

15. Resist stand-by. If all UK households turned off their TVs at night instead of leaving them on standby. That goes for PC screens too.

16. Unplug equipment once fully charged. Mobile phones, shavers and electric toothbrushes keep drawing electricity even when the battery is full.

17. Keep fridge and freezer doors closed. Each minute a fridge door is open it can take three energy-intensive minutes for it to cool down again. Similarly, it can take as much as half an hour for a freezer to regain its temperature once a door has been opened for just sixty seconds. And remember to install the fridge or freezer away from hot appliances and direct sunlight.

18. Keep your freezer full. It takes less energy to keep a full freezer cool than it does an empty one. If you don't have enough food to fill it, use plastic bottles filled with water or even scrunched up newspaper. If you find your freezer is often half empty, you might want to think whether you need such a large model when it is time to replace it.

19. Think how you cook. Pressure cookers and steamers both save energy; steamers are particularly easy to use and very healthy.

20. Chop finely and boil smart. The smaller you make your vegetables, the less time they'll take to cook. Don't forget to boil only the amount that you need, and match the size of the ring to the size of the saucepan or you'll be paying to heat air and keep electric hobs clean so the rings can work more efficiently.

21. Only use a washing machine on full-load. Ninety percent of the energy that washing machines use goes toward heating the water, so switch to a cooler wash temperature: using 40 degrees for all clothes can use a third less electricity per wash. Today's washing powders are just as effective on low temperature programmes, saving both energy and money.

22. Turn down your thermostat.

At Work

23. Reduce office paper consumption. A government-funded Envirowise campaign report, says that office paper consumption is rising by 20 per cent per year. On average each worker uses 50 sheets of A4 a day. If you work in an office, add the slogan "Think before you print" at the bottom of your emails. If you do have to, print double-sided.

24. Switch office equipment off at night. A photocopier left on overnight uses enough energy to make 1,500 photocopies.

25. Invest environmentally. For as little as $500 it is possible to join a co-operative which invests in wind energy projects that promote emission-free technology. Or you could adopt a local renewables project.

26. Install your own renewable energy system. Grants are currently available for up to 50 per cent of the capital costs of installing renewable energy. You might even make a profit: if you produce more than you need, you could sell the excess back to your energy supplier.
About the Author
James Nash is a climate scientist with Greatest Planet (www.greatestplanet.org). Greatest Planet is a non-profit environmental organization specialising in carbon offset investments.

James Nash is solely responsible for the contents of this article.
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