52 Tips to make life Greener
Put one in your Parish newsletter each week, or as a poster on the noticeboard. Don’t try them all at once!
(Health Warning: the following tips were written a little while ago and prices may be out. But currently there are over one million websites for ‘eco-tips’ on Google, so add some tips of your own!)
1 Lights Out – turn the lights off when you leave the room. It is a myth that they use more energy to start back up. A fluorescent light bulb left on for 15 minutes uses 500 times more energy than it would if switched off when not needed. And don’t forget to use the low energy lightbulbs!
2 Put carrier bags to good use use them instead of bubble wrap when packing. See if your local charity shops would like any surplus bags, and get into the habit of taking a re-useable bag next time you go shopping, to avoid picking up more carriers.
3 Are you a bookworm? If you’re a bookworm, instead of buying new books, start a book-sharing club with friends and colleagues. Sharing books saves resources and money, and can improve your social life!
4 It’s bananas. To clean leather shoes, rub with banana peel (the inside of the peel), then wipe and buff with a cloth.
5 Do you need to buy it? It is almost always better to use something that you already have than to buy something new, even if the new item is a ‘green’ product. Doing more with less is not the same as doing without! Ask yourself: Do I really need it now? Do I have it already? Is there something else I could use instead? Could I borrow it? How much can I save by not getting it? What would it really add to my life?
6 Avoid disposable batteries Use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones – they’ll save you money in the long term. You can buy solar powered rechargers if you want to reduce your environmental impact even further.
7 Get “unplugged” One night a month. Don’t use any electricity, instead, play board games, eat raw food, play music with real instruments or simply talk to your housemates.
8 Happy hens. Far too many of the laying hens in the UK are still kept in battery conditions. You can make a difference by avoiding battery eggs when you go shopping, and opting for eggs labelled free range or organic. If you want to go a step further, you can even re-home a hen that’s typically spent its life in an area smaller than a sheet of A4 paper – see The British Hen Welfare Trust. Find out more about what you can do at Ban the Battery Cage.
9 Time for a cuppa? Use proper cups/mugs at work or church or club. The UK uses 6 billion polystyrene cups, which all finish up in landfill sites.
10 Toast. Use a toaster rather than the grill – it uses less energy.
11 Clothes Swap Party. Ring the changes in your wardrobe with a Clothes Swap Party – they’re great fun and a good excuse to get your mates round for an evening.
12 Get on your bike! Get a bike and practise at weekends or on quiet roads before using it for work. Don’t forget the helmet and the lock!
13 Join a car club. This means sharing a car, so you only pay when you need it. Or form a car pool at work.
14 Lift Share. Go on line and ask for/offer a lift; the passenger pays something towards fuel costs, while the driver saves. The major car-sharing organisations perform identity checks and provide security guidelines.
15 Avoid the School Run! Send your kids to school on a “Walking bus”, if the school has one. It has one adult at the front, the “driver”, and one at the back. It follows a set route to school each morning, and your kids can hop on it as it passes. If there isn’t one, get a Starter Pack from Good Gifts for £15.
16 Green your Home. Insulate your home. Double glazing, cavity wall insulation, lagging pipes use less energy. Some of this may be expensive, but you may be eligible for council grants. Try Energy Saving Trust’s grant search at the Energy Saving Trust or The Carbon Trust.
17 In the kitchen. Do without paper towels and use cloths.
18 Unblock a drain: Bicarbonate of soda and vinegar do less damage than caustic soda.
19 In the bathroom. To clean the bath without commercial cleaners, use 4 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), 8 of white vinegar and half a lemon and scrub away. To clean the toilet, use half the quantity of toilet cleaner for the week and just scrub every morning without cleaner. Put a save-a-flush in your loo. By using a water saving sack you save a litre of water every time you flush. Order for free here.
20 Switch your finances. Choose an ethical provider. For investments, you need to find an independent ethical adviser. Eco-friendly companies are beginning to reap higher returns.
21 Use organic cotton buds. Disposing of the ordinary ones is a concern; the plastic shafts don’t biodegrade. The organic ones have cotton shafts, which can be safely flushed away. Five percent of the sale price goes to help smallholding farmers in Tanzania, where the cotton is produced organically. See Ectopia.
22 Switch to a green energy provider. Electricity is the single biggest contributor to carbon emissions. Renewable energy suppliers use primarily wind, solar or hydro power, rather than coal to produce electricity. See uSwitch for more details.
23 Save the Forests. Buy an acre of rainforest, to ensure it doesn’t get cut down. The charity Rainforest Concern will purchase and protect areas of tropical forests, including those dedicated to the survival of rare and endangered wildlife.
24 Don’t like tap water? Buy a water filter and save on bottled water. The aqua Select filters have a refillable cartridge, so you are not throwing away a lump of plastic every few weeks. The refillable cartridge (£3.25 on its own) also fits into most popular filters. See the Natural Collection.
25 Recycle your Christmas cards. Several supermarkets, and WHSmith accept cards which are passed on to the Woodland Trust, who have them pulped, and made into toilet tissue, kitchen rolls and corrugated card.
26 Make your own lunch. Making your own lunch instead of buying from a sandwich shop saves on packaging and could also save you approximately £4 a day or £1,000 per year!
27 Recycle old mobiles. Avoid waste by saying no to mobile phone upgrades. If you need to recycle an old phone, many supermarkets, charity shops and mobile phone retailers offer recycling services. Alternatively try charity schemes such as Recycling Appeal, Oxfam or Greensource.
28 Recycle old fridges. Old fridges and freezers contain CFCs and HCFCs. When it’s time to buy a new one, get a ‘Greenfreeze2model. Retailer Comet will collect your old one for reconditioning when you buy a new one from them (there’s a small charge).
29 Don’t let rainwater go down the drain. Rainwater can easily be collected in water butts and you can save it for watering plants when the weather warms up – plants prefer it to tap water. In the meantime, you can use it to water indoor plants, wash the car and for other outdoor jobs. Water butts (and diverters to redirect the water from downpipes) are available from DIY stores. For more sophisticated rain harvesting ideas, see Rainharvesting.
30 Brushing your teeth. You can waste up to 4.5 litres of water if you leave the tap running while brushing your teeth. Instead use a glass of water for rinsing, or short bursts from the tap, and you’ll only need a fraction of this amount.
31 You asking for it? Use your purse power to quiz store owners or managers about the products they stock – when a retailer changes its purchasing policy, it can have a huge impact. So next time you can’t find what you’re after in the shops – whether its fair trade, organic, locally-sourced, recycled, energy efficient, or whatever – just ask!
32 Go vegetarian. Meat requires more resources to produce, including vast amounts of grain and water, than other farmed foods. If you can’t face cutting out meat, eating organic will have a significant environmental impact.
33 Go native. With spring on the way, now is the time to start thinking about whether to buy new plants for your garden or balcony. Investigate the Postcode Plants Database to find out which plants are local to your area before you make any purchases. These will encourage local wildlife, and will be better suited to local conditions, so will need less maintenance than exotic species. Visit tree2mydoor or your local garden centre.
34 Go nuts! Make the most of nuts in the Autumn by giving a new twist to some of your usual dishes. Crumble or toast them, add to pasta dishes, salads, stuffings, yoghurt and deserts. Don’t forget to compost the shells!
36 Clocking up the watts. After use, switch off your microwave at the wall. It takes more energy to power the display clock than the oven.
37 Go vegetarian. Meat requires more resources to produce, including vast amounts of grain and water, than other farmed foods. If you can’t face cutting out meat, eating organic will have a significant environmental impact.
38 Get some Eco balls. Instead of using washing powder, which pollutes the water supply, use Eco balls, which produce ionised oxygen which activates the water naturally, allowing them to penetrate into clothing fibres and lift dirt away. They can be used 1000 times and cost on average 3p per wash. As there is no detergent the machine’s rinse cycle can be reduced, thus saving on electricity. Eco balls for around £34.99 at Ecotopia.
39 Recycling Database. Many boroughs are only halfway there with recycling. They may take glass but not plastic, paper, but not cardboard. Wasteconnect is a UK recycling database : a comprehensive reference list. You simply enter the material you wish to recycle, then key in your postcode and a list of possibilities comes up. See Waste Connect or call 01743 343 403.
40 Green your children! Make healthy packed lunches for the children. Make sure they have a funky lunchbox! For a year’s supply of ideas Vegan Lunch Box. Add meat if you are not a vegan. The key is to avoid the excessive packaging that comes with most pre-prepared meals and snacks.
41 Healthy toothpaste. Most is full of chemicals. Green People toothpaste is certified organic by the Soil Association.
42 Buy milk from the milk man. Electric vehicles deliver milk in reusable bottles, which makes them “eco-heroes”. To see if there is one in your area, try Milk Deliveries.
43 Unplug the phone charger. According to O2 only 5% of the energy used by the UK’s mobile phone chargers is actually used to charge phones. The other 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions just go into the atmosphere.
44 Eat fish responsibly. Almost 70% of the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited, over exploited or depleted . Check Fish Online for an up-to-date list of which fish you should be buying, as well as a list of supermarkets that demonstrate responsible buying.
45 Face/eye pads. Ditch the chemical make-up remover and use a Face/Eye pad instead. It’s a soft cloth that fits onto your hand like a mitten. It uses the latest technology (of course!) and just by adding water, it removes make-up easily and gently. When it gets dirty you can wash it and reuse it as often as you like.
46 LOAF check your food The guide is: buy as LOCAL as possible, ORGANIC, ANIMAL-friendly, and FAIRLY Traded. Obviously we can’t get it right all the time. But we can move towards better buying and better eating.
47 Explore the British countryside. There are wonderful places in Britain as well as abroad. Look for “eco-hotels” and restaurants serving local, seasonal food. The Soil Association produce The Organic Directory to help (£8.95 from Green Books).
48 Buy energy efficient appliances. Go for A or A+ energy-rated products when buying white goods (fridges and freezers should be AA). All white goods should be labelled by law according to how energy-efficient they are. Look for the Energy Savings Trust’s Recommended logo.
49 Travel in Europe by train. For example, taking the late afternoon Eurostar from London to Paris, then a sleeper to the heart of Barcelona produces 40kg of CO2 emissions per person, instead of 277kg by plane. See how to travel by plane or by ship at The Man in Seat Sixty-One.
50 Take an advance driving course. You can cut down on your CO2 emissions and save fuel by driving more efficiently. For example, pulling away too quickly uses up 60% more fuel. As well as being more safe on the roads, taking a course will reduce the cost of your car insurance premium. See BSM.
51 Support an environmental charity. Groups and charities such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Global Action Plan and the Soil Association can make a huge impact on people’s attitudes to preserving the planet. But they rely on donations. Also, become a member of the National Trust or English Heritage.
52 Recipes for Natural Beauty. Cut out the middle man, the fancy packaging and the expensive prices by learning how to make your own natural beauty products, with this recipe book from well-known natural health and beauty chain Neal’s Yard Remedies.
Photo 1: Pupils rehearsing for an assembly play about climate change at Jubilee Primary School, Hackney, East London. The three Rs: Recycle, left (Di-André Silvera), Re-use, centre (Zuhrah Balesaria) and Reduce, right (Dhaval Gajre). [Photo credit: Oxfam]
Photo 2: Simon Fuentes, 7, writing a letter to Diane Abbott MP to lobby her about climate change. Jubilee Primary School, Hackney,East London. [Photo credit: Oxfam]