The decisions we make as homeowners can make a real difference in reducing our carbon footprint and combating climate change. Did you know that the built environment in the UK contributes around 40% of our total carbon footprint?
Whilst newer homes are much better insulated and often utilise greener forms of energy, a major priority has to be decarbonising existing homes.
Today, we explore five key ways you can make your home more environmentally friendly. Even if you aren’t undertaking a complete rebuild or renovation project, there are many changes you can make to bring financial benefits as well as help the environment.
So let’s get started… We’ll focus on the simplest and easiest first!
1. Switch to a green energy provider
The UK generates much of its electricity from burning fossil fuels like gas and coal, as well as importing electricity from countries such as Norway and Russia. This process releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that cause global warming and climate change.
Generating electricity from renewable sources doesn’t release these harmful gases. So switching to 100% renewable electricity providers makes your home much more environmentally friendly.
There are dozens of affordable green energy suppliers you can choose from such as Bulb, Octopus Energy and Green Energy UK – all offering 100% renewable energy. Switching over to a green energy tariff is easily done. As well as the environmental benefits, green energy is set to become cheaper, more sustainable and more resilient to fluctuations in global markets than carbon-intensive sources.
2. Energy efficient features
There are plenty of everyday eco-friendly features you can install without a big price tag. Switching to energy-efficient lighting helps lower electricity bills and carbon dioxide emissions, all without reducing the quality of light in our homes.
If you replace all the bulbs in your home with LED lights, you could reduce your carbon dioxide emissions by up to 40kg a year. This is equivalent to the carbon dioxide emitted by driving your car around 140 miles. Lighting makes up 15% of the average UK household electricity consumption, so small switches such as this can add-up fast.
You could also consider installing a smart meter. This is usually a free service offered by your energy provider, which will track your usage and let you know exactly what it’s costing you. Technology such as smart meters encourages homeowners to think about their energy use and allows the national grid to respond to demand more efficiently – cutting both carbon and costs.
3. Insulate your home
Improving the insulation of your home is a great way to become more environmentally friendly. Better insulation reduces heat loss, decreasing the overall amount of energy needed to heat your home – and thus reducing bills and ecological impact.
You can insulate your home by installing cavity wall insulation throughout the structure of the building. All new-builds already should have cavity wall insulation as standard but if you live in an older property, it may be worth checking what options are available. There are various grants and government incentives to help with improving your insulation.
Around 25% of heat lost in UK homes is through attic and loft spaces – so don’t forget the roof! As heat rises, poorly insulated attics allow heat to escape, meaning you’ll spend more energy heating your home. You can also keep the heat in by investing in double, or even triple-glazed windows that vastly improve your energy-efficiency.
If you’re undertaking an extension or new build project, talk to your architect about ways to make your building more environmentally friendly – they’ll be able to provide further advice on windows, insulation and integration of renewable energy sources.
4. Invest in renewable energy
Homeowners who invest and install renewable energy systems can expect to receive numerous benefits: lower electric bills, lower carbon footprints, and even a higher-value property!
Solar-powered home installations are becoming increasingly affordable as demand grows and homeowners are becoming more aware of the economic and environmental benefits of generating their own electricity.
At present, just over 1.5 million UK homes have some form of solar powered panels – but this number is expected to soar in the coming years. Technologies such as solar generate clean and sustainable electricity to power homes, with any excess sold back to the National Grid.
Despite the initial costs, investing in renewable energy means you can begin generating your own electricity for free, reducing your energy bills and carbon emissions in the long run. By signing up to the government’s feed-in tariff scheme, your energy provider will actually pay you for each unit of electricity you produce as well. It’s a win, win.
5. Use sustainable raw materials
Using sustainable and recycled raw materials is a fantastic way to reduce your carbon footprint and ensure your home is eco-friendly.
In the design and building process, make sure your architect is aware of your sustainability goals from the start, and that your builders use raw materials meeting high environmental standards. For example, you can use FSC certified wood from well-managed forests, natural earth clay and plaster for brickwork, low VOC sustainable paint, biodegradable bamboo, bio-plastics, recycled glass… the list goes on.
Also where do your fixtures and fittings come from? The UK or China?
Buying local as well as sustainable is also worth considering. If you’re looking for an environmentally-friendly build, think twice about importing Western Red Cedar from Vancouver or Brazilian Walnut from São Paulo (for instance!). The transportation industry is a massive contributor of carbon emissions, so bear this in mind when assessing your own supply chain.
Homeowners across the UK have the power to create more sustainable living spaces by making smart and environmentally-conscious decisions. Often, these changes hardly affect our current lifestyles or living standards, but they do have a huge impact on the environment and financial savings.
If you’re embarking on a renovation project or new build, talk to your architect about ways to make your home more environmentally friendly. From the position of the building (taking into account natural light and ventilation) to green roofs, natural materials and renewable energy sources – they’ll have a wealth of experience in creating sustainable, energy efficient homes.
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