Earth Day 2022: invest in our planet with our easy energy saving tips
As Earth Day approaches, it’s a great time to consider how we can all reduce our carbon footprints. Although the latest UN report states some aspects of global warming are now irreversible, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) declares there’s still time to avoid disaster; increasing the urgency to act now.
The theme of this year’s Earth Day is ‘invest in our planet’. In other words: the responsibility for reversing climate change rests with us. While this seems daunting, there are simple things we can all do to make a difference. A significant proportion of greenhouse gases are within our control, including daily energy use and the fact that 40% of the world’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions come from heating our homes.
Why do we need to adjust our behaviour?
Over 80% of the world’s energy currently comes from fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas. When they’re burned, the greenhouse gases stored within these fuels are released into the atmosphere, leading to global warming.
In the UK, heating our homes is heavily contributing to this problem, with the average household emitting around 2.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. Recent findings have also revealed that gas boilers in British homes produce twice as many emissions as all the gas-fired power stations in the UK combined. In addition, an average two-person household in the UK uses 2,900 kWh of electricity per year, which equates to over half a tonne of carbon dioxide.
Global carbon emissions have more than doubled since 1971, and the UK accounts for 1% of these. This seems small, but it still amounts to an estimated 480 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, a long way off the net zero target. As energy prices are currently rising, switching up our habits is a great opportunity to not only reduce our environmental impact, but also save money.
Here are some simple ways we can all conserve energy to limit our environmental impact.
1. Unplug, switch off, be mindful
When it comes to climate change, many of us don’t realise just how much our everyday actions are contributing to the problem. It would be reasonable to assume that an electronic device consumes most of its energy when it’s in full use, but this isn’t the case.
Only 5% of the power drawn by a mobile phone charger is used to charge the phone, and a typical microwave oven uses more power to keep its digital clock on standby than it does to heat food. Meanwhile, 75% of the electricity used to power devices is consumed while they’re on standby.
These surprising statistics reiterate the importance of turning devices off at the wall when they’re not in use or even unplugging chargers completely; easily achievable solutions that could also also save you around £55 a year. And there are many other similarly simple changes that can make a big difference to energy efficiency, for instance:
- Only boiling the amount of water you need in a kettle, which could save you £11 a year in addition to reducing waste and environmental damage.
- Ensuring washing machines and dishwashers are fully loaded before use.
- Washing clothes at 30 degrees and using the dishwasher’s eco setting.
To take the energy saving mission to the next level, you could consider replacing the most energy intensive appliances such as tumble driers, kettles and toasters with more efficient versions. Moreover, switching all the bulbs in your home to LED lights could reduce your carbon dioxide emissions by up to 65 kg a year.
2. Heat your home, not the planet
The easiest way to heat your home responsibly is to switch to a green energy supplier, such as Octopus or Ecotricity. These companies rely on renewable energy such as wind and solar rather than fossil fuels, as well as carbon-neutralised natural gas. Another option for houses with a gas boiler is to join a heat network, whereby heat is taken from a central source and distributed to multiple households or buildings via insulated pipes. This could help save up to two tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
Those who are aiming to make even bigger changes can invest in a heat pump, which recycles previously generated heat, carrying it to where it’s needed and reducing waste. This could save oil-heated homes 3.2 tonnes and electric-heated homes 0.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. In addition, the UK could save 1.18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year if everyone reduced their thermostat by just one degree.
3. Don’t hesitate – insulate
For those who want to ensure their improved heating strategy is as effective as possible, upgrading insulation in the home is another solution worth considering. A typical household loses 10% of its heat through its windows, while one-third is lost through the walls.
One way to bolster your home’s efficiency is by installing cavity wall insulation, which can reduce your bills by 20% and cut your emissions by more than half. To fully feel the benefit of a well-insulated home, you could extend this to loft insulation as well as double glazed windows if possible.
4. Taps on, taps off
If there’s anything we’ve learnt about sustainability, it’s that every change counts, no matter how small. Dripping taps may not seem like a huge problem, but they can actually waste over 5,500 litres of water per year — so get them fixed as soon as possible.
You can also reduce water waste by turning the taps off while you brush your teeth and taking showers instead of baths. Moreover, switching to a water efficient shower head could save a four-person household up to £38 a year on gas for water heating.
There are simple steps we can all take to reduce our impact on the planet. From switching energy suppliers to insulating our homes, there are many solutions to choose from — and they don’t have to disrupt your everyday routine. It’s a win-win situation, helping to reduce global warming and saving you money in the process. What changes will you make around the home to invest in our planet?