To many, the term “home improvement” means installing a new kitchen island or reinforcing the bathroom floor to support the weight of an onyx bathtub. But environmental concerns are leading many people to worry more about the state of the environment and climate.
Eighty per cent of UK home energy usage goes into heating either air or water. It’s an astonishing statistic. Lights and appliances make up the rest of the total. And that tells you something: just warming things up is the biggest way in which homes drain natural resources and pump carbon into the atmosphere.
The good news, though, is that there are plenty of ways to improve your home along environmental lines. Often, it’s just small changes, not mega-projects, that make the most significant difference. You could transform your energy use at a surprisingly low cost, all without damaging your finances or falling foul of planning rules.
Your home isn’t as green as you think. But there’s a lot you can do about it. Take a look at the following.
You Are Still Using Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
Compact fluorescent bulbs were marketed as the future. But a decade after they became popular, people are beginning to realise that they aren’t the best. Not even close.
CFL bulbs use around 75 per cent less energy than traditional Edison-style lightbulbs. They waste very little compared to their predecessors, but they’re not the best. LEDs use about half the energy again per unit of light emitted.
The other great thing about LEDs is that they light up your room immediately, without requiring a warm-up first. They’re great for when you want to show guests around your property or want some brightness on a long, dark winter’s evening.
You Haven’t Installed A+ Integrated Appliances
Integrated appliances look great. They blend into the surrounding decor in your kitchen and bathroom and generally make your home appear more seamless. You don’t want ugly standalone white goods ruining your interiors.
The problem, however, is that most appliances aren’t particularly efficient. Remember, lighting and appliances combined use around 18 per cent of total household energy.
Our homes force the release of enormous quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The average home emits double the CO2 of the car on the driveway, underscoring the immense impact that our homes have.
Energy-saving appliances, properly integrated, can cut your emissions by a third and improve the appearance of your home. Not only are they quieter, less prone to breaking down and reduce carbon emissions, but they lower bills too. Who wouldn’t want that?
You Haven’t Installed Solar Panels
Solar panels help you to take carbon out of the environment. Even though the manufacture of units releases carbon dioxide, within a few months, solar panels make it all back.
What’s more, solar is becoming more desirable in the housing market. People want homes that have solar pre-installed so that they can avoid paying utility companies large bills every month. Solar makes an enormous difference to the amount that the average homeowner pays over a year, nearly halving costs (when you include incentives). What’s more, once home battery storage technology comes online, expect to see prices fall even further.
You’re Still Using Traditional Cleaning Products
Over the years, cleaning product companies have convinced us that we need an endless supply of bleaches, surface cleaning agents, sprays and perfumes. But buying into this nonsense is having a detrimental effect not only on our health but the environment too.
There are more than 200 industrial compounds contained in the products present under the average home’s kitchen sink. We use toxic chemicals for pretty much everything, including washing our bodies. It’s a nightmare.
Over the years, scientists have pointed out that many of these chemicals are harmful, and the industry has switched. There’s little regulation on what can go into these products, so avoiding them is the best policy. The good news is that there are natural alternatives you can use with no unsafe ingredients.
Remember, whatever these products are doing to your body, they’re also doing to the broader environment. This includes the animals that live near to your home in your garden.
You Haven’t Rewilded Your Garden
Rewilding your garden is a priority if you want to encourage local ecosystems and provide a habitat for lots of different species. The problem is that the majority of people either have a plain grass lawn which does little to encourage wildlife or gravel paths combined with deck.
If you want to do your bit for the planet, think about how you might rewild your garden. By rewilding, we don’t necessarily mean leaving it for weeds to take over and dominate. Rewilding is about carefully planning your garden to provide a home for as many species as possible. You want your garden to become a sanctuary for local wildlife and a place where species can mingle and interact, as they might in the wild.
A garden is an opportunity for you to help wildlife in your area actively. You don’t have to stick to the mould. You can break out and create something which has genuine utility.
You Are Not Choosing Sustainable Garden Furniture
It’s tempting to go down to the garden centre and pick up rattan-style furniture. It’s cheap, looks good and comes in all shapes and sizes. To say that it’s tempting would be an understatement.
But, of course, fossil-fuel derived furniture comes with a variety of problems. Eventually, it’ll end up in landfill, and you’ll be contributing to the planet’s waste woes.
There is, however, a solution: furniture made of bamboo and reclaimed wood. Bamboo and wood products will eventually break down, but not before you’ve had a decade or more of use out of them. Bamboo is a sustainable material which grows quickly, reducing its global land surface footprint. Bamboo is not the new palm oil. It’s tough and durable and surprisingly flexible. It’s a bit of a wonder material.
Is your home as green as you’d like it to be?