The fact that you are even reading this post is a statement that you see that somehow, something is not quite right in our modern society. We consume and consume endless amounts using copious amounts of energy to run all of our modern gadgets. We are mostly disconnected from nature, seeing it as a danger and nuisance rather than a key element of aiding us to live on the planet. You might feel disempowered and disengaged from the environmental situation which we see unraveling in front of our eyes worldwide but please, know that you can have an impact.
The green revolution is showing us that we can be the masters of our destiny and by finding out how to be sustainable at home we can make a positive contribution to the planet and lead by example. By leading your life differently you show friends and family what is possible and can have fun whilst doing it! It is so important that if you feel drawn to reducing the impact you have on the environment, that you start!
Start today, start small and build your way up. Humans are beings of habit and when a new habit is part of our individual culture it becomes second nature.
“Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
When we start making our positive thoughts into small actions it cements patterns of behaviour, which combined with those around us, make up our society! Every little gesture is contributing to a brighter future.
So which habits can we develop at home, which tools and attitudes can we utilise to take control over our lives to be more sustainable? Let’s find out below:
The light bulb argument is already about a decade old but still stands. If we use more energy efficient light bulbs like Light Emitting Diode (LED) and Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) then we save energy, save money and save resources!
There are a couple of arguments why people resist using these light bulbs. Edison would be rolling in his grave to think we might be resisting advancements in light bulb technology. As the story goes he went through 10,000 revisions of his light bulb design before finding the best:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
One reason is that they are actually more expensive than their original incandescent counterparts. However, these old school light bulbs actually use much more energy over their life time and so cost more in the long run! Think beyond the price tag you see in the shop! A typical CFL bulb will provide light for the same length of time as 7 incandescent bulbs, whilst an LED bulb will last a massive 25 times longer than an incandescent bulb! This figure is increasing as technology develops.
The second is that they don’t provide as much light which, whilst possibly true, with LEDs we measure their output in Lumens not Watts. We are trying to reduce how much power is being used whilst maintaining the amount of light emitted.
I encourage people to think about where in their home they feel they need the brightest lights and possibly buy different Wattage LED bulbs based on this. LED bulbs can last for upto 20 years so make a plan of where you need the brightest light. You can even experiment with different colour LEDs in different parts of your home.
Reduce (if not eliminate) plastic packaging from your fruit and veg shopping:
As far as reducing packaging is concerned, I appreciate that sometimes it is not always possible to do. In Sainsbury’s or Walmart very often vegetables are sold in pre-sealed bags which have to be scanned at the checkout before the product can be consumed.
If possible, seek out alternative sources for these products from other supermarkets or better yet local markets or traders.
And if there are those strawberries which just taste so good from that particular shop, and unfortunately they come in a plastic container, make sure you recycle!
Yes, we all know that recycling is key in making sure we are not sending packaging (or other items for that matter) into the ground at landfill when we could reprocess the material to be used again! Why send something to it’s grave for eternity when it can be reincarnated and live again as a bottle.
In most country’s around the world nowadays recycling is becoming accessible and common place.
Set aside your recycling bin and make sure to put your glass, plastic, paper and card items in there.
Save jars and containers:
I speak for myself when I say I always need different sized containers for storing nuts, seeds and pulses but I think holding onto useful glass and even plastic containers is a great way to reuse items. It requires less energy to keep hold of a glass and reuse it for a few years then recycle it and turn it into another jar. Think of ways which you can use them to store your coffee beans, tea bags, sweets etc.
This does fit in with diet and if we speak about combining your elimination of plastic waste, using glass jars and buying your food from packaging free shops such as Food for All in Hackney, London or even Wholefoods then you can fill up your grains and other loose items.
Source local, organic foods:
If you are like me, then you love to eat. Food production and transportation is a massive factor to consider when thinking about sustainability. Chicken thighs, bananas and rice don’t just appear in the supermarket. They have a long journey of growth, harvest and transportation to make it your belly. If we try and reduce the distance food travels to reach us, as well as the intensity of farming then we can make a great environmental impact that way.
You would be surprised what foods are actually available from your home country. Did you know that quinoa, the now famous protein laden seed from South America, is grown in Essex, just outside of London? Kale, one of the new favourite superfoods, is mostly perennial and so grows year round in almost any climate!
Depending on where you are on the Blue Marble’s surface there will be different local food growers with delicious and nutritious foods. Cost of locally grown veg can sometimes be higher than what you find in the supermarket though there are other important factors to consider. Besides, if you follow some of the other tips on this page the money you save elsewhere can be spent on buying the right foods.
If we think about the pesticides, chemicals and preservatives which usually go into growing non-organic produce to increase yields and life span as they travel across the globe, it is not only the planet which will benefit from eating local organic, but also your health!
Have a look where the nearest farmer’s market is in your neighborhood, pop along when you can and see what farmers are growing near you!
Once you have cooked your food or had your cup of tea, where do you put the food cuttings, coffee beans or tea bags?
If the answer is the normal rubbish bin, then think again! In 2015 in the UK, where I live, an estimated 7.3 million tonnes of food went in the bin. The environmental impact which could be avoided by collecting this food waste rather than sending to landfill has been compared with taking one in four cars off the road! Unbelievable!
This food waste can be turned into energy through Anaerobic Digestion and different biomass initiatives.
Whether you are looking to go full sustainable and grow your own food, or want to take the next step and separate your organic waste, there are some great options out there.
Garden sized composter’s can be purchased for £20 and will allow you to create nutrient rich soil for growing herbs, fruit and vegetables, which can make you a saving in the long run. Tomatoes, strawberries and basil are easy to grow!
If you are a caffeine fan, then think twice before dumping that morning’s French Press cafetiere batch into the garbage! Organisations like Bio Bean are turning waste coffee smush into energy and bio products. Not strictly for the home just yet, but I think this shows you the potential that our food waste really has.
Eat Lower on the Food Chain:
Wait a moment, I know what you’re thinking, is this some vegan propaganda!? Well, no, ultimately you make your own decision but the fact is that eating meat is less efficient in terms of getting energy to the human consumer.
Farming animals is more energy intensive and this has environmental impacts. Instead of using land to grow crops which are sent across the world to be fed to animals who are reared to be sent across the world to be consumed, if we more directly consume crops growing on the land we not only are using resources for production and transportation but we are more directly accessing energy from the sun. Ultimately this is what we are consuming whether plant based or meat.
If an animal as large as a cow can survive on grass, we can thrive on highly nutritious plant based diets!
Watch the documentary Cowspiracy for more information on this topic:
Small Scale Renewable Energy:
Making your own energy at home has never been more accessible, if you have a window, a garden or even better a rooftop you can produce electricity from solar energy!
If you have a balcony, or any access to an outside space you can produce electricity from wind energy!
If you have a rooftop and live in a warm country (unfortunately myself not included) then you can probably produce hot water using solar thermal systems!
As I cover quite extensively, it is possible to make your own solar panels at home. Of course different models are available for different applications and there are many options for reducing your energy bills by taking your energy destiny into your own hands through the use of solar energy.
Even wind power is becoming more accessible. Have a look at this new design called the Micro Wind Turbine:
Make your own cleaning products:
Vinegars, hydrogen peroxide, bicarbonate of soda, essential oils and fresh fruits will be all you need to make environmentally friendly, non-toxic cleaning products for your whole house. There are many recipes out there to experiment with. Why not try some eucalyptus oil?
Smart technology means we can now remotely set our devices and systems at home to only come on when need them to
Products like the Nest Learning Thermostat actually absorb your daily patterns and optimise your home heating system for when you come home. This means not waiting for heat up times, saving you money and frostbite!
There are also increasingly more smart controls for your home appliances which mean you can choose to turn your washing machine on remotely, to benefit from lower energy tariffs in the off peak times of day.
If you’d prefer to keep it more simple you can use your boiler’s timer settings for heating or find simple dial timer plugs that allow you to set the time you want your heating and other electrical appliances to come on.
Energy Efficiency in the Home:
If you feel that your home could do with retaining heat better there are many things you can look at to improve the use of energy. These measures are probably the most significant cost wise in the home and are most directed at home owners but again, over time the savings will be huge!
- Double glazing
- Draught proofing
- Fix leaks (water plumbing & heating)
- Install underfloor heating
- Consider solar thermal heating
- Avoid stand alone electric heaters
So, there you have it. From food to cleaning products, from thermostats to packaging, there really are so many ways you can have individual impact on the planet. The journey to becoming sustainable in the home can be an experiment and alot of fun. I would love to hear from you which ones you try so please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.