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Blog Post 15 April 2021

Top tips to reduce your carbon emissions

In the UK, around 22% of the country’s carbon emissions come from our homes – including heating, lighting and appliances. The way we travel – from driving to work or the shops to jet setting around the globe on holiday – comes close behind heating for the volume of carbon emissions produced.

We can reduce our carbon emissions by improving our homes, choosing low carbon travel options and making small behaviour changes – all while having a positive impact on addressing the climate emergency.

Here, we take a look at options to suit all budgets and lifestyles, from updating your heating controls, replacing your bulbs with LEDs or making the switch to an electric vehicle.

Use heating controls

For most of us, the first step in cutting carbon emissions it to take control of our heating. We can reduce our carbon emissions and energy usage by making sure we’re not using more heating than we need.

Heating controls are evolving rapidly and investing in modern, easy to use controls is a good way to make sure you’re only using heating when necessary. To do this effectively, for a central heating system you’ll need a timer or programmer, a room thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves.

Smart heating controls are available for all types of heating system, including electric storage heaters. Some systems include automation features, which can help by working out exactly when to turn the heating on and off.

Upgrade your heating system

If you need to replace your heating system, you have a real opportunity to cut your carbon emissions and save on your energy bills. Most of us heat our homes using a gas or oil boiler, with the obvious solution to just replace this when it fails.

However, first think about switching away from gas or oil heating altogether. The lowest carbon option is to install a renewable heating system such as an air source or ground source heat pump. Heat pumps are powered by electricity and are much more efficient than gas boilers. And because the carbon content of the UK’s electricity has reduced dramatically in recent years, heat pumps will always help to cut your carbon emissions.

If you’re not ready to make the switch to a low carbon heat pump when your boiler breaks down, make sure you talk to your installer about the best heating controls for you. If you’re getting a new boiler then now is the best time to make any control upgrades you might need.

Insulate your home

All the energy we use in our homes leads to additional carbon emissions. Over half of home energy is used for heating, so it’s important to make sure that the walls, roof, and floors in your home are insulated, cutting back on heat waste and reducing your carbon footprint.

For a quick fix, insulate any exposed hot water pipes, along with your hot water cylinder if you have one. Insulating the building itself will make a bigger difference, making your home warmer in winter, as well as lowering your energy bills and cutting your carbon emissions.

Insulating your walls is a good place to start, as around a third of the heat lost from an uninsulated home escape through the walls. The cost of insulating walls depends on what type of home you have: homes with a cavity wall (typically built after about 1920) are the easiest to insulate, while older homes will require solid wall insulation.

Most people now have some, but not enough, insulation in their loft: it’s important to check this is in good condition, and to top it up to the recommended level of 270mm of insulation. Unless you live in a mid-floor flat, it’s also worth adding insulation to your ground floor. We have more advice on floor insulation, including DIY options.

Draught-proofing

Your home may be losing heat through gaps around the windows and doors, between floorboards or up your chimney. Draught-proofing these areas is a cost-effective way to save energy and reduce your household’s carbon emissions. It’s easy to do and, in many cases, doesn’t require a professional.

Low energy lighting

Lighting is one of the big success stories of home energy efficiency. A modern LED bulb uses 80-90% less energy than a traditional lightbulb, which helps to lower your carbon emissions and electricity bills.

If you replace all the bulbs in your home with LED lights, you could reduce your carbon dioxide emissions by up to 65kg a year. This is equivalent to the carbon dioxide emitted by driving your car around 220 miles.

Energy efficient appliances

While insulating and changing the way we heat our homes is the big carbon saving opportunity, choosing energy efficient appliances is a straightforward way to reduce your carbon footprint.

How you use your appliances can also affect how much energy they use – cooking, cooling or freezing, and wet appliances typically account for 13% of an average household’s energy consumption.

You can reduce your energy use – and carbon emissions – by making small changes to your habits. Frequency of use is one factor, but choosing Eco modes, lower temperatures, and airing clothes on a line instead of using a tumble dryer, for example, will reduce energy consumption.

If you are looking to replace an appliance, choosing a model with a high energy efficiency rating that meets your needs and budget will minimise your home’s carbon emissions.

Low carbon travel

Since the first Covid-19 lockdown began in March 2020, many people across the UK have reduced their transport emissions by switching to walking or cycling over short distances. However, as restrictions are eased and people start to travel more freely, it’s likely these carbon emissions will begin to creep up.

If you do need to drive, consider switching to an electric car. Electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions, which helps to improve air quality, and much lower carbon dioxide emissions than a petrol or diesel equivalent. The initial purchase price of an electric vehicle is often higher but lower running costs over its lifetime help balance the initial outlay, and there is no doubt about the environmental benefit.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

As well as the energy we use directly in our homes, every product we buy has a carbon footprint: the energy used in making that product and getting it to you will almost certainly have caused some carbon emissions.

One way of reducing emissions from products at home is to reduce the amount you consume. You should also try to re-use wherever possible and recycle when you no longer need something. Local authority and council recycling is supplemented by private initiatives – recyclenow, managed by WRAP, has a tool that helps you recycle goods in your area.

Food for thought

Research carried out in 2018 revealed that meat and dairy uses 83% of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Vegetarian Society, by eating vegetarian food for a year, you could save the same volume of carbon emissions as taking a small family car off the road for six months.

Food that’s grown locally and in season will travel fewer ‘food miles’ before it makes it to your plate. This seasonal fruit and vegetable calendar shows you what food is in season throughout the year.

Around one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption – around 1.3 billion tonnes – is wasted. This food ends up in landfill, which releases methane gas, speeding up the impact of climate change. Throwing less away food makes economic, as well as environmental, sense. Recipe planning can help you manage your food more effectively, or find more tips in our blog about food waste.

It all adds up

There are around 67 million people in the UK. If we all continue as we are, climate change will get worse. But if we each reduce our own energy consumption, even just a little, that would add up to a huge reduction in our national carbon emissions.

Taking control of our energy consumption and reducing our own emissions is a positive step towards keeping our planet safe for future generations.

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Last updated: April 14th, 2021