As a global population, we use more than three times the energy we used 50 years ago. And despite (in fact, in spite of) efficiency gains, we are increasing our energy usage by 2.4% per year. For perspective, 100 years ago the growth rate was 1%. Most of this energy goes into three sectors. Taking UK energy use as an example for developed countries, the biggest energy eaters are transport 38%, domestic 28%, and industry 16%. And it should come as no surprise that a whopping 83% of all this energy is powered by fossil fuels. (All stats are from There Is No Planet B by Mike Berners-Lee).
Now this blog is about taking control of the things you can and petitioning and voting with your feet for the things you can’t. And this is where the whole “change starts at home” is a bit of a struggle for me. I live in Italy. I’ve been here a year. I’m still not fluent in the language. I don’t plan on staying long (don’t get me started on why!) and when it comes to doing anything involving large governmental or semi-governmental bodies, utilities or the like it’s virtually impossible to get anything done, especially without Italian fluency. However, there are some green energy providers here in Italy and I’m currently looking at how I can make the switch. More news on that later.
What I want to focus on with this post is easy ways to save energy at home. You may have heard of some or all of these before, but it’s still worth repeating.
- Goldilocks Warm
Heating your home accounts for almost half of its total carbon footprint. Turn down the thermostat during the winter and wrap up in a blanket when watching TV or reading a book. And make sure you close your curtains to keep the heat in. Turn down – or off – the heating in rooms you rarely use, like spare bedrooms.
- Stay Cool
I’ve never had air con in my home before. Until I moved to Northern Italy. My indoor temperature peaked at 34ºC last summer. I have an air-con unit in my bedroom and I tried, for as long as possible, not to use it. But I did finally cave after a week of disturbed, sweaty sleep. However, I only used it for an hour at night to cool my bedroom down. I closed the door, shut the curtains and let the room cool down before creeping into bed – no covers necessary. Another good tip is to draw the curtains (and shutters if you have them) all day and hang wet towels in front of the windows. Get used to cold showers, too.
- Mood Lighting
Unless I’m reading or working, I have few lights on in my living room. I also turn all lights off once I’ve left a room. I use bee’s wax candles quite often, too, completely eliminating the need for electric lighting.
- Switch Up
They’re called energy-saving appliances for a reason. While I wouldn’t advise just ditching an appliance just to get a more energy efficient one, if you need a new microwave or kettle always make sure you get the most energy efficient version. And always, always, use LED lights.
- Keep It Covered
When cooking, especially when boiling water, always put a lid on the pain. The liquid will boil faster, using less energy.
- Don’t Over Fill It
Don’t put more water in the kettle than you need. My kettle is always popping a fuse, proof that there’s a lot of power in that thing. Don’t use more than you need.
- Unplug It
Yes, even if it’s on standby, you should unplug all appliances that aren’t in active use (you can’t very well unplug your fridge-freezer). But you can unplug your modem and TV.
- Before You Throw It In The Wash
Make two piles, or rather one pile, one rack: the pile for the truly dirty stuff and the rack where worn clothes that aren’t really dirty can air out. If you can hang them outside then all the better.
- Hang It
I don’t actually have a tumble dryer but even when I did, I never used it. Buy yourself a drying rack and use that instead.
- Waste Not Want Not
This applies to everything. Turn off taps and lights. Time yourself in the shower and see how fast you can be. Use draught excluders at doors and windows. Wash dishes and clothes in cool water when possible. Close the fridge door when you’ve taken out what you need. Let food cool naturally before you put it in the fridge. Use the oven window to look at your food, don’t open the door to do so. Use the right sized hob ring for the pan. Don’t have the heating on while the windows are open.
- Maintain Your Appliances
Your fridge, for example, needs to be regularly defrosted and given enough space to allow air to circulate. Failure to do these two things will lead to inefficiency. And get your boiler checked annually for the same reason. And if something breaks, fix it, don’t replace it.
- Time It
Put everything on a timer. Your heating doesn’t need to be on all night. It can go off an hour before bed and come on an hour before you get up. The same for charging of your phone and laptop. Newer models only need an hour or two to fully charge. They don’t need all night.