Top 10…cheap ways to green your home

Greening your home doesn’t have to bust the budget. 

Making your house a more eco-friendly place can sometimes seem daunting, not to mention hugely expensive. Whether it’s ripping out your entire heating system and replacing it with something greener, or dispensing with your standard insulation and using straw bales instead, many green home ideas require serious investment. But giving your house a greenover doesn’t always have to cost a lot and there are plenty of ways to make your home a little greener without spending your life savings on it.  Whether you’re a student in a short term rental or raising a family in a suburban semi, here are our top 10 cheap and easy ways to make your home a greener place

Reduce water consumption

According to the Environment Agency, the average person in the UK uses around 150 litres of water a day - 50 per cent more than 25 years ago. Most of this water is used for washing and toilet flushing, so the first port of call should be your pipes. Make sure none are dripping or leaking, and don’t leave your taps running. An easy way to reduce the amount of water you use is to invest in a tap  fitting such as the Spraymagic water saving tap insert, £5 at Eco Ark, which can reduce water consumption by up to 70 percent. Another hotspot is the toilet, most of which use between six and nine litres of water per flush. A simple way to reduce this is to displace the water in your toilet cistern by placing a plastic bottle inside. A brick in the toilet or a Hippobag, £8.94 for three, will do the same job. 

Get a draught excluder

Make sure windows and doors are properly insulated by investing in a draught excluder such as the Tesa Draught Excluder, £13.19 at All Things Green. Draught excluders can reduce energy loss by around 30 percent and keep a room warm without the need for constant central heating. Crafty types with a sewing machine can try making their own draught excluders using beans or rice for stuffing, a pair of old stockings to hold it all together and a long piece of material to sew a cover. 

Heat with care

Minimise your carbon footprint by only heating the rooms you actually use and close the doors to keep the heat inside. Another way of keeping heat in is to stick aluminium foil to the wall behind your radiator. The foil reflects the heat back into the room, keeping it warm for longer. Make sure that the foil doesn’t touch the radiator and that there’s no furniture in front of the radiator so that the warm air can make it past the sofa. Your regular brand will do the trick. 

Maintain your appliances 

Switching appliances off when not in use goes without saying but also try and make sure they work properly. Set your fridge at the right temperature (around -5°C) and defrost your freezer when ice builds up, as this makes your freezer less energy efficient. If you’re thinking of getting a new fridge or stove, check their energy efficiency rating before you buy. According to the Energy Saving Trust, A-rated appliances can save up to 60 per cent more energy than the lowest rated G version. Greenpeace also has a handy guide to suppliers, ranking  them based on energy saving commitments, recycling and use of toxic chemicals.

Invest in energy efficient bulbs
Energy efficient fluorescent light bulbs are up to 80 percent more efficient than the conventional equivalent, with newer versions producing a warmer light. Old C-rated light bulbs are currently being phased out, so it makes sense to replace them in advance. You can also buy light bulbs certified by energy watchdog, the Energy Saving Trust, which have to meet strict efficiency and quality standards.

Switch to chemical free cleaning products

One of the easiest ways to green-over your home is to switch to eco-friendly cleaning and laundry products, and there are some great alternatives available. You can even make your own using natural ingredients, like lemons, vinegar or baking soda. Alternatively microfibre cleaning cloths can clean up surfaces using only water. They have a long life but are made of synthetic fibres, which cannot always be recycled. Ecover or BioD are easy-to-find commercial alternatives to standard washing products but keep costs and carbon footprint down by using them sparingly. Another natural alternative for laundry are wash balls, £10.56, which contain cleansing minerals and last you for well over 100 washes.  Soap Nuts are another eco-alternative, which at £11.00 per kg, make your money go further than conventional washing powders but not quite as far as wash balls. Both alternatives contain natural ingredients so you don’t pump any soapy water into the drainage or end up with soapy residue on your clothes.

Recycle everything

Zero waste is practically impossible if you live in a city and are reliant on supermarket and the gadgets of modern life, such as your phone or your computer. That said, it is possible to minimise the amount you send to landfill by recycling as much as possible and composting old food. Also remember to take your own carrier bags to do your shopping and consider having a go at upcycling old clothes and furniture. If you’re short of ideas, sustainability expert, Deborah Eden Tull’s Natural Kitchen which has plenty of useful tips and is well worth the £12.99 investment.

Invest in a composter

Whether you have a garden or not, you can still try composting. An easy option for a flat with balcony is a worm composter which you can make yourself  or simply set up using a ready-made kit. You can use the compost to fertilise your garden and pot plants or donate it to neighbours with a vegetable patch in exchange for some of the produce. In a garden, compost using an old rubbish bin or, if you've got a talent for DIY, you can even make your own.

Use a greener brand of paint

Paint is one of the most toxic additions to any home, so if you’re thinking of brightening up a room, check out the eco-friendly paints available from Little Greene and Farrow & Ball. Paints are available in every colour imaginable, for all surfaces and all finishes. Best of all, all are toxin free, mineral based and CO2 neutral.

Grow your own veg

To truly green up your home you need plants and lots of them. But flowers alone just won’t cut it, so try growing your own herbs on your windowsill or balcony. If you have a bit more space, try creating a vegetable patch and produce your own supply of organic cucumbers, tomatoes and carrots. Not only do you know exactly how they were grown, there’s no food miles to worry about either.

Sella Oneko

29th April, 2011

The Ecologist

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