0Helping the Environment

I’ve been mean­ing to start writ­ing some “polit­ic­al” art­icles for a while, and thought I’d start by shar­ing some ideas for little changes you can make that are good for your envir­on­ment and often good for your health and your wal­let too. Where I live in Eng­land we only have 2 real choices for gov­ern­ment: a party that believes in indi­vidu­al liberty and cap­it­al­ism in an almost totally unres­tric­ted sense, which leads inev­it­ably to sig­ni­fic­ant wealth dis­par­ity; and a party that believes to vary­ing degrees in some policies to redis­trib­ute wealth and a fairer soci­ety but also seems to find itself want­ing to over-reach and inter­fere in areas of peoples lives that gov­ern­ment need not and should not meddle in. Some­times it is genu­inely dif­fi­cult to find a bal­ance, but very often both parties miss easy wins. My sug­ges­tions are for those kinds of “easy wins” and whilst not all of them are suit­able for every­one, I hope every­one can find some­thing useful

Energy efficiency at home

If you can use less energy you help the envir­on­ment and save money. Often these tips require an ini­tial invest­ment, but they do pay for them­selves quickly

Switch to offset gas and renewable electricity

You can change your energy sup­pli­er to one that is “green” by gen­er­at­ing elec­tri­city with renew­ables and provid­ing car­bon-off­set gas. There are sev­er­al green sup­pli­ers and they are often cheap­er than the big 6. It is not unusu­al for them to be amongst the cheapest energy sup­plies and switch­ing is easy. I recom­mend using Money Sav­ing Exper­t’s Cheap Energy Club.

Insulate old windows

Seal draughts

Get LED bulbs

Dehumidify damp instead of turning the temp up

Enable autosleep on consumer devices

Declag your central heating

Close the curtains when it’s cold

Use lids on pans

Insulate around your bath

Install smarter heating controls and TRVs

Install adblockers to reduce wasting energy on transfering and processing ads

Clean your oven

Fix / replace / fit extractor fans in bathrooms and kitchens

Put any extra fridges / freezers somewhere cold (cellar, shed, garage?)

Fuel savings

If you can use less pet­rol and dies­el you can reduce car­bon emis­sions, save money, and reduce oth­er envir­on­ment­al pol­lu­tion too

Keep tyres well inflated

Find a job closer to home or work from home

Remove unnecessary junk (weight) from your car

Put premium fuel in car once or twice a year

Buy “from concentrate” drinks

Cook local season foods

Water savings

Col­lect­ing, treat­ing and pump­ing water all takes energy. If you can use less of it you’ll save energy, and (assum­ing you have a water meter) you’ll save money too.

Use a dishwasher

Get waterbutts

install watersaving taps and showers

Insulate hot and cold pipes

Wee in the shower

Use a powerhose to clean your car

Don’t rinse dishes before putting them in a dishwasher

Reducing plastic use

Unless you’ve been liv­ing in a cave you’ve heard about the plastic pol­lu­tion in our oceans thanks to the work of the Blue Plan­et 2 team. You can do your bit.

Use a milkman

Use a soda stream

Order from places that use cardboard not plastic packaging

Buy fruit and veg loose

Use loose leaf tea or non-plastic tea-bags instead of regular (plastic based) teabags

Use reusable nappies/wipes

Buy foods in glass and metal containers rather than plastic

Rent movies online or stream instead of buying boxsets

Switch to reusable straws and coffee cups

Use biodegradable dish cloths

Instead of a plastic-based dish scour­er which gets thrown away after a few weeks, use cot­ton cloths for wip­ing sur­faces, and use coconut husk based scour­ers for wash­ing stub­born pots. Both are bio­de­grad­able and the cot­ton cloth can be washed in a wash­ing machine and reused.

Reducing other waste and chemical use

Plastics and Car­bon aren’t the only things that pois­on the envir­on­ment, there are oth­er chem­ic­als to avoid too — and the bene­fits often include your own health.

Use rechargeable batteries

Avoid palm oil

Switch shampoo and soaps to ones that don’t contain mineral oils

Give old clothes/toys/books/DVDs etc to charity instead of the bin

Recycle worn out clothes

Hang up dishcloths

Use friendly toilet roll and kitchen roll. Or use a bidet

Use biodegradable pet litter

Aim for longer-lasting clothes

Helping the Local Wildlife

Men­tal health gets a lot more focus today than in the past, but we’re not there yet. A healthy loc­al envir­on­ment is good for your phys­ic­al and men­tal health, and of course is good for the envir­on­ment too

Compost at home

Join a litter picking group

Put scrap food on a bird table

Dig a pond

Put up boxes for birds/bats/hedgehogs

Plant things that produce edible fruits

Use biological pest controls on the garden

Buy local honey

Other tips (that didn’t fit anywhere else)

Eat less beef, swap to chicken

Look for furniture in antique/second hand shops

Use peat free compost

Finally — some lazy “false tips” to beware of

Walk, don’t drive

Whilst this is reas­on­able for short dis­tances, most of us don’t live with­ing work­ing dis­tance of work. I mostly drive for work, and to go to the shops. Whilst there is a mini super­mar­ket nearby it is much more expens­ive than the lar­ger stores, and even if it was large, I would­n’t be able to carry a months worth of shop­ping home by hand. We need to be able to stop harm­ing the envir­on­ment without telling people they have to lower their qual­ity of life

Eat less meat and dairy

Comparisons between animal products and plant products are usually exaggerated by people with an agenda. Whilst like-for-like veg products are lower carbon than animal products, there is a lot more to it. Most meat sold in the UK is relatively local on a global scale, whilst many veg products come with a large dose of “air miles”. Better advice for meat lovers is to eat less red meat and have more white meat instead. Such a swap is also better for health.

Don’t shower every day (and other OTT water conservation tips)

This is ter­rible advice, giv­en by people who have for­got­ten just how much mod­ern hygiene has con­trib­uted to bet­ter health. It is good to con­serve water where pos­sible, but there is no less water on earth today than there was 4 bil­lion years ago. We’re not “run­ning out of” water. Sup­ply­ing clean water does take a lot of energy, which is the main envir­on­ment­al jus­ti­fic­a­tion for try­ing to use it sens­ibly. We don’t tell people to heat their homes to 12 degrees in winter to save energy, because we recog­nise doing so would be det­ri­ment­al to health. We ought to apply the same reasoned approach to water conservation.

Dry clothes on a drying rack

A dry­ing rack will evap­or­ate the water into your home. This will lead to damp, which has the poten­tial to encour­age fungal spores which cause health issues. It could also even­tu­ally cause dam­age to your home which will require energy and mater­i­als to repair. The feel­ing of damp also tends to make us feel cold with the nat­ur­al response being to turn the ther­mo­stat up a notch. You could open a win­dow, but then you’re just pump­ing your heated air in the house out of the win­dow! When the weath­er is suit­able then the use of an out­door dry­ing rack is good advice, but in winter the use of a mod­ern con­dens­ing tumble-dry­er is a bet­ter choice than a clothes horse inside.

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