Energy-saving, carbon-cutting tips for 2021
Liz Weston enlists Kirsty’s green home audit expertise and swaps out everything from toothbrushes to laundry dryer sheets. While showing us how to save energy at home, this audit also highlights ways to reduce plastic , save water, and make for a cleaner, greener home. Thanks to these simple changes, Liz estimated annual savings of more than £2,200
As a full-time working Mum, I have launched myself into 2021 with vigour and a grand plan of all I will achieve – after 2020 didn’t quite go to plan.
I’m currently: working from home with fibre broadband that is under as much strain as the Tesco delivery; home schooling two teenage boys who insist that they don’t really have five lessons to do each day; trying to explain to a dog that not everyone who walks past our house is a burglar; trying – and usually failing – to remember to get something out of the freezer so we can all eat before 9pm each night.
When people ask about the juggle, I tell them we’re doing ok with it. Truth be told, if we get to the end of each day with everyone still speaking, that’s a huge win – grand New Year’s resolutions have no place here. It’s challenging to say the least.
It gets ‘interesting’ when you consider the fact that I work for a business where we teach others about how to save money and cut their carbon footprint. I am hyper aware of the number of times we boil a kettle before actually getting to make a brew; how frequently I’m turning the thermostat dial down and how often I am shouting “it’s like Blackpool illuminations in here”. Suddenly the alternate week visit from the bin men is not enough and I have made it my mission to search out where my electricity meter is.
‘Swap-tastic’ home eco audit: reducing my carbon footprint at home
At this point you’d think I’d be telling my boys to layer up and that unfortunately Tesco has run out of their beloved hot chocolate powder for the foreseeable – but you would be wrong. Instead I am now making my boys genuine Cadbury’s hot chocolate topped with whipped cream.
And how am I affording to do that? You see, I decided something needed to change. I needed an easier solution to deal with all of this, that would save us money long term – without dropping one of my many spinning plates.
So, let me tell you about the home audit I embarked on, helped by a Go Pro and Kirsty our ‘swap-tastic’ pioneer, and all the easy planet and pocket saving swaps I have made. Grab a cuppa, and get cosy for this.
Let’s start with the lighting
I started in my home office, I use the word loosely because it’s actually the spare room we used to use as a dumping ground – I have a desk, chair and three screens none the less. I’m super conscious that LED can save you up to 80% on your electric bills and I’m also super conscious that I am not using LED.
Halogen vs LED bulbs: Seeing the light
We have one of those ceiling lights with about five spotlights in… all halogen… (hangs head in shame). Each halogen is costing us around £23 per year to run – I learnt that if we swapped the bulbs for LED, they would cost us £3.00 per year. At this point the lightbulb (LED of course) in my head lights up and I start to count up all the bulbs in our house… 6, 7, 8… and I arrive at 62. Blimey.
Let’s do some maths on it then. The spotlights in our kitchen and bathroom are currently left on for a good 10 hours a day by two forgetful teenagers. So, taking my current bill into consideration I could save a whopping £1240 a year! Not to mention the LED’s will last about 15,000 hours which is considerably longer than my old friend the halogen bulb which only lasts about 1000 hours. No more taking halogen bulbs to the local recycling centre thinking “another one bites the dust”.
Better yet, this swap I can do all by myself. So I save on my bills, produce less waste, and have no installation costs – winner, winner, chicken dinner!
Things start heating up
What else do I have in my office? Oh yes – a radiator. Our thermostat is sat at 25 degrees (I know, I know), but the thought of the bill still sends chills up my spine. Especially when I know we are currently keeping our Christmas decorations warm and toasty in the box room before they make the yearly expedition to the loft.
30% saving with a Radbot smart radiator valve
Then I found out that I – as in me, myself – can fit this nifty little product called Radbot onto our radiators wherever we have a TRV. As if by magic (aka some science) it understands if and when I am using a room, limiting the heat output if the room isn’t being used. No apps, no expensive programming or plumber needed. Fitting Radbot to all our radiators will mean we save about a 30% on our heating bill – which I calculate is about £341 a year. So, at this point we are at a total saving of over £1500 a year!
Keeping with the heating theme and moving on to the living room where we have a log burner… “We know it’s bad Kirsty, but isn’t there something we can do?” I found myself asking. “Well yes Liz, there is” Kirsty happily replied!
The natural firelighters swap
According to Kirsty, there’s an easy sustainable swap that won’t add fuel onto that fire. Paraffin firelighters are fossil fuel based and release chemicals and formaldehyde into the environment. And yes – the same formaldehyde used in embalming (gag). But the natural alternatives are made using vegetable oil and FSC certified wood, which is miles better.
By switching, not only are we waving goodbye to the nasty chemical-ridden firelighters, but we’re also saving £432 a year – bearing in mind our cosy evenings with the log burner run from September to July. They’re also great for BBQing – an all-year-round winner in my mind!
Onto our home cleaning products
Now, the kitchen, where I’m now looking upon my cleaning cupboard in disgrace – and not because it’s not reminiscent of Mrs Hinch but because of the amount of single-use plastic I can see. Fact of the day – did you know that traditional cleaning sprays can contain up to 90% water? No, me neither but it’s true.
Bring on the eco-friendly kitchen products…
So from Kirsty, I learnt we can switch around 95% of our current cleaners to OceanSaver EcoDrops. They are dissolvable pods designed to be used as cleaning refills – you fill a trigger spray bottle with water, pop an EcoDrop in, give a little shake and voila! No more chucking away plastic cleaning bottles when they’re empty! When you consider that plastic can take anywhere from 500 plus years to degrade, that’s a comforting swap to make. But let’s do the maths:
So if we look at just 4 of the bottles of cleaning sprays I use a month – I’m throwing away 48 plastic bottles a year. If 1 bottle takes 500 years to degrade, multiplying that by 48 means that my plastic use in 1 year equates to 24,000 years of plastic slowly degrading. Just let that sink in for a minute.
Degradable vs biodegradable: the difference
It’s also important to me to be clear on what degrading means, and that’s not the same as biodegrading. Everything degrades or breaks down but not everything does so naturally – plastic is one of those such things. As it degrades it’ll be broken down into smaller and smaller pieces of plastics, called microplastics, and it’ll also leave behind toxins and chemicals in the environment.
‘Come on’, I hear you say, ‘moving to eco cleaners is surely going to cost the Earth’! Well, no, it won’t – when the boys run in from their bike rides with their trainers still on, I can actually remain quite zen. As a family of four with teenage boys, we go through a lot of cleaners – a bottle of anti-bac a month easily. So cheating on the love of my life Method doesn’t feel so bad when I find out that 0the EcoDrops will save me just over £100 a year – that’s a pair of school shoes for the boys each!
Next up: disposables and single-use
Next on the list is our trusty kitchen roll, used for all major spills and the odd tear. We can easily swap this out for reusable bamboo kitchen roll, where each sheet can be washed and reused up to 88 times! Move over Plenty, there’s a new sheet in town, that’s “strong as bull”!
How does buying bamboo reusable kitchen roll = cleaner air?
We easily go through about two rolls of kitchen roll a week, so swapping to bamboo will save us £67 a year. Not only this, but 52 packets of plastic won’t be going to landfill – considering this, the bin being collected on a biweekly basis isn’t causing me so much stress. There’s more to feel good about though, because bamboo is a plant that absorbs 30% more CO2 and releases 35% more oxygen than regular trees. I’m conscious of our current need to reduce emissions and although I’m sometimes confused by what I can do, supporting the bamboo farming industry makes me feel like I am contributing that little bit more.
Now we move to the washing up area where we have cloths, sponges, scourers… I think that’s it? Little did I know that not only do my sponges come wrapped in plastic, they are also themselves made of plastic, which can take hundreds or thousands of years to degrade (there’s that word again).
Changing to compostable sponges
So, we are swapping to compostable sponges. These look and feel like our normal choice of sponge but are reusable and will compost at the end of their life – yes, no toxins! We can save £4.80 a year (as the phrase goes, every little helps) and even better, the 52 sponges a year we were using will not go to landfill. That is, wait for it, wait for it…. 52,000 years of degrading! Bearing in mind 52,000 years ago was around the time of the Stone Age – gives you an idea of how long that is.
What about my water consumption?
Whilst I am hovering by the sink, let’s talk about water savings? The home audit taught me I can fit all my existing taps with aerators. These handy little devices can cut my water usage by 60% and I can even fit them myself. So over the 4 taps we have I can save £184 a year and 49,640 litres of water – that’s roughly 164 baths!
Moving on to where our waste goes
Then Kirsty wanted to audit my bin next… ‘good lord’ I thought please don’t judge the fact we have eaten oven chips for the last two nights!
The wonders of compostable bin liners
Obviously, we use black bin liners – doesn’t everyone? Apparently not and we can swap these out to the aptly named Waste Not compostable bin liners. As the name suggests, they are completely compostable – we love that word, because it means it’ll break down naturally without releasing any toxins. Obviously our whole family is either working from home schooling from home so snacks are rife and our waste volume is increasing. If the three black bin liners we usually throw out a week will now compost that’s 156 bin liners a year now not going into landfill – the plastic ones would’ve each taken over 100 years to degrade (oh I am sick of that word now).
So, let’s just take a moment to recap savings before we move upstairs. In total we have annual savings of £2206 a year, not to mention the landfill and plastic reduction thrown into that.
Off to find more plastic
To the bathroom we go, where I am hunting out plastic straight away in the form of four toothbrushes. We can switch these immediately to bamboo toothbrushes which are the same price as our favourite Colgate ones. Bamboo is compostable, and we obviously are aware by now that plastic isn’t, so by my calculation, we can save 48 plastic toothbrushes going to landfill per year by switching – hurrah!
Saving the planet with Uranus Wiper
The elephant in the room is now our biggest bathroom product expense – toilet roll. We use loads of it, a 16-pack a month easily and it’s obviously an essential. This is my top no brainer swap – Uranus Wiper plastic free recycled toilet roll. It has a brilliant name, its 4-Ply which means its thicker than our branded favourite, it doesn’t come wrapped in plastic, it’s made from recycled paper and there are no chemicals in that recycling process – out of this world, or what! What’s more, we will have saved 13 plastic packets from landfill, as well as over £8 a year back in our pockets.
What about the laundry?
Okay, we’re on a roll now – I’m now in the deepest darkest depth of my utility room where I shamelessly have a bottle of Fairy Non Bio on the counter top. I quickly remove these from my favourites list on the Tesco delivery when I learn about how we can swap to a laundry egg.
Making this easy swap will stop us throwing away at least 14 plastic bottles a year – that’s 7000 years of degrading saved. Not only this but its cheaper as well, we’ll save just over £49 a year by switching. What a small but mighty planet positive hero. At this point I’ve called in my boys, the laundry egg uses solid pellets you see, not liquid – so its time for a bit more home schooling aka learning how to use the washing machine!
An eco-friendly dryer sheet alternative
Whilst I am in the utility room my tumble dryer is on – let’s face it, we live in the UK so we have too many rainy days get by without one. Here we can invest in some dryer eggs, these aren’t necessarily a swap, as we don’t use tumble dryer sheets in this house, but they’ll still help to reduce my drying time by 28% – which will be about £39 a year off my electricity bill. At this rate the electricity company are going to be owing me money!
Drum roll please…
Kirsty is finished auditing our house and it’s time to tally up the savings. Drum roll please… In total I am going to save over £2200 a year, 49,640 litres of water a year, and over 200,000 years of harmful degrading. I can tell you I’m not usually lost for words, but this has certainly left me speechless. All of these changes are so simple but make the world of difference. Planet Positive status achieved; I am off to find my cape!
P.S. A disclaimer: alas, I couldn’t grace you with photos of my own home, which, due to serious building work being carried out and all the disorganisation that home-schooling and working from home brings, is looking less than its normal show home grandeur!