Now more than ever we need to take care of the world around us. Our planet doesn’t have infinite resources and we need to work together to ensure its survival for future generations.
Sounds like a big aim but, if everyone took a few small actions, they would soon add up. Whether it’s recycling more, switching to energy-saving light bulbs, swapping the car for walking or cycling, or growing your own fruit and vegetable, lots of little actions will make a huge difference.
Being 'green' doesn’t just help the planet but can have a positive impact on your bank balance too. Just thinking about how we spend our money can help us consider the environment too. For example, instead of buying water in plastic bottles, why not invest in a reusable bottle and refill it for a fraction of the cost - and reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans.
Find out about our approach to meeting net zero for existing homes by watching the animation below:
Calculate your carbon footprint
Find out which activities cause the biggest climate change emissions. These actions contribute to what is called our carbon footprint and the main contributors are:
- heating and powering our homes (as well as the energy that goes into the materials to build them)
- how we get around – particularly car use
- what we eat
- the things we buy.
There are a few tools you can use to help you calculate your carbon footprint:
- WWF footprint calculator - an easy to use tool, which gives you some great information.
- Carbon footprint – this one needs a bit more information but provides a more detailed output.
Now that you've calculated your carbon footprint, take a look at our hints and tips to help you reduce your impact on the planet. Every one of us really can make a difference.
There are some ways that you can reduce the cost of your heating and help the environment.
- Find out how to get the best from your storage heaters and how to use your off-peak immersion tank to save you money, on our electric heating webpage .
- Get the best out of your air source heat pump if you have this sort of heating. These systems work best at a steady rate, rather than being turned on and off quickly. The radiators won't warm up as fast and, because the system's more efficient, radiators don't need to be as hot to the touch as you may be used to with something like gas central heating.
Here are some other simple tips to keep your energy usage down.
- Move furniture away from radiators so they can heat more of the room.
- Close your curtains as the sun goes down to stop heat escaping through windows.
- Use draught excluders under doors, and keep doors closed whenever possible.
- Draught-proof your letter box, cat flap and keyholes - but make sure you don't drill or hammer into a fire door.
Using less hot water will save you money and reduce your carbon emissions. You could make some simple changes, for example:
- shorter showers
- low-flow shower heads
- using a washing up bowl instead of filling a sink.
- using a sponge to clean your car – a hosepipe sprays 16 litres of water a minute. Instead, use a bucket and sponge. If the water isn’t too soapy, you can water your garden afterwards too.
Contact your water company for more water saving tips. You might be able to get some free water saving devices from them.
Switching lights to LED light bulbs saves energy and your lighting costs. LED alternatives can now be found for all types of light fittings.
Take a look at our video on different types of light bulb in your home for more information.
Remember to dispose of old light bulbs responsibly. Check with your local council for where you can recycle light bulbs (usually not with kerbside recycling).
Turn off your electrical items and lights when they're not in use and you'll save money and energy. Here are a couple of ideas.
- Try remembering to turn off lights when you leave a room.
- Avoid leaving devices on standby.
If you're thinking about buying a new appliance, try and buy energy efficient models. You'll not only be helping the planet, but saving money on your energy bills too.
All appliances have an energy label, ranked A-G, with A being the most efficient. Find out more about energy labels .
Try to repair old appliances before you replace them, as manufacturing new products uses a lot of energy.
Don't forget, you can save more energy if you switch off, rather than leaving appliances on standby.
Transport and travel
The easiest way to cut emissions from transport is to try and travel less. This also saves you money on fuel or bus/train tickets.
- Consider whether journeys are essential and how you could combine trips.
- Working from home, if you're able to, can save emissions from your commute.
- Have you thought about lift-sharing, especially for the school run and your commute? Visit Liftshare for more information.
Using public transport that is running anyway is a great way to cut emissions. You'll also avoid parking charges.
Diet is a large part of our carbon footprint. Food production uses considerable resources including land, energy and water.
A total of 4.5 million tonnes of food that could have been eaten is being thrown away every year in the UK, according to waste charity, Wrap .
Take a look at the Love Food, Hate Waste website for simple ways to reduce food waste including:
- planning meals and making a list before you go shopping
- understanding dates on your food - 'use by date' ensures food is safe to eat and 'best before' is when it's freshest
- keeping fruit and bread in the fridge to keep it fresher for longer
- making the most of your freezer - you can freeze food up to the 'use by' date.
Meat (especially red meat such as beef and lamb) and dairy products have the largest carbon footprint so going vegetarian or vegan will have a significant impact. If this feels too big a change, why not try going meat-free for a day or two a week?
Fruit and vegetables that have arrived by air will also have a much higher carbon footprint than local and seasonal produce, or those shipped by boat.
To find out the impact of your food choices, take a look at the BBC's climate change food calculator .
And food waste costs you money too. Estimates suggest that the average home wastes £60 a month on food waste!
Thinking about and making changes to how you buy, use and dispose of your clothing could help to reduce your carbon, water and waste footprints - and also save you some money.
The Love Your Clothes website provides some great hints and tips on:
- making your clothes last longer
- reducing the environmental impact of washing your clothes
- what to do with your unwanted clothes
- making the most of your wardrobe.
You may have felt like a change and bought new furniture, but your old furniture could go to a new home. Selling it online could make you some money. Or you could donate it to a local charity.
However, if your items are broken or not suitable to be reused, your local authority may offer a bulky waste collection service.
If you have a local community furniture project, these are a great source of pre-loved furniture (and more). They usually offer items for even less if you're receiving certain benefits.
Waste and recycling
Reducing your waste is a great way to save money and help the environment. There are lots of ways to make a difference and here are some great tips.
- Buy only what you need.
- Buy loose fruit and vegetables to avoid taking home lots of packaging.
- Sign up to paperless billing or banking if you're online.
- Buy products with refillable packaging.
- Compost food waste, if you can.
- Use refillable water bottles and cups.
- Try repairing and upcycling your clothing.
- Buy items that will last longer instead of using disposable items.
Reusing items is a another great way to save money, help the environment and help others.
There are lots of ways to make a difference and here are some great tips.
- Donate items that are still in a good, usable condition to charities or charity shops.
- Find another use for those empty glass bottles/jars, plastic and cardboard containers.
- Take a re-usable shopping bag out with you.
- Re-use wrapping paper or gift bags.
- Turn old clothing, towels or sheets into cleaning rags/cloths to give them a second life.
- Sell your items on www.freecycle.org or a local online selling group.
What you can recycle in your area will depend on what your local council collects. There are a number of ways you can recycle, including these.
- Using your local council's kerbside collection service.
- Taking items to your local recycling site.
- Finding out what you can recycle in your local shops and supermarkets, for example, batteries, water filters. Many supermarkets now collect soft plastic packaging (check what's allowed but it may include cereal packet inners and crisp packets).
Visit your local council's website for more information. Please remember that recycling something that's not collected can contaminate a whole batch of recyclable materials: it's better to recycle less than guess!
If you want to do more, look for local Facebook groups about people who are collecting specific items for charity or run public drop-off points for recycling schemes like TerraCycle .
You can also find out more information on making recycling easy on the Recycle Now website .
Find out what waste and recycling collections are available in your area by clicking on the button below and entering your postcode.Find your council
Enjoy your outside space
Growing fruit and vegetables in your garden or an allotment is a good way to save money and cut down your carbon footprint. Even if you don't have any outside space, there's lots you can grow on a balcony or sunny windowsill.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has some great advice on growing your own fruit, vegetables and herbs.
If you're interested in having an allotment, get in touch with your local council for more information.
Climate change is bringing greater risk of floods and drought, which puts pressure on our water supply. But limiting water usage in our gardens doesn't mean we can't care for them. Here are some useful tips to save you money and keep your outside space looking great:
- Fit a water butt and collect free water.
- Leave your lawn, it will soon recover after rainfall. Leave your grass slightly longer during dry spells and leave the cuttings on the ground - this will also benefit wildlife.
- Spread some mulch – apply a thick layer between plants to help keep the moisture in and the weeds away.
- Reuse water – use cooled bath water, shower or washing-up water to water your plants. Just make sure it's not too greasy and doesn't contain strong cleaning products.
- Use a watering can – rather than a sprinkler or a hose. If you need to use a hose, fit a trigger gun to save water and money on your bills.
- Water your plants in the early morning or evening – it's cooler and less water is lost to evaporation. Give plants a good soaking once or twice a week in dry weather rather than light, daily watering.
- Water the roots – aim directly at the roots rather than scattering water on the leaves. Established trees, shrubs and lawns don't need watering.
- Weed regularly – this lets your plants to soak up the water, instead of the weeds.
Check your local water company's website for more water saving tips.
Composting not only helps to reduce the rubbish in your bin but also creates a free supply of compost to keep your garden blooming. Composting at home also cuts CO2 emissions.
You can buy compost bins at most DIY shops, but you might be able to get a cheaper one through the Get Composting website . You could try making your own compost heap using chicken wire, scrap wood/pallets or by simply finding a corner of your garden.
Recycle Now provides great tips and useful advice to get your compost bin started.
If you're part of a local environmental group or have an idea to help your area go green, you may be able to apply for a grant or funding. Our community grants and funding page tells you more.