Have you been watching the news lately? Second to the pandemic, there are a lot of stories about violent storms, flash floods and heat waves that are playing havoc around the world.
This is only the latest impact climate change is having on our planet. In the last number of decades scientists have watched glaciers getting smaller, ice melting sooner and sea temperatures rising. They expect the bad weather the world is experiencing to get worse in the coming decades as global warming takes hold.
It can feel overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be. There are ways to reduce your carbon footprint at home that are easy and could also save you money:
1. Get the whole family involved:
First step, if you have children, get them involved. If they are at school, they are likely to be learning about environmental issues and may be eager to help.
2. Do an energy audit of your home:
An energy audit will help you to identify areas where your home may not be as energy efficient as it could be. It is possible to hire a professional to conduct an energy audit but a good starting point is to do a walkthrough of each room looking for opportunities to improve energy efficiency. An online search will provide a template, but you can get started by checking:
Air leaks around door and windows
Insulation levels around the house and water tank
Heating equipment - has your boiler been recently serviced? Is it outdated?
Lighting - are you using energy efficient light bulbs in all instances? Are lights left on?
Appliances and electronics - are devices on standby or left plugged in when not in use?
- Waste - is your household correctly categorising waste into general, recycling and compostable
3. Use a green energy supplier:
Did you know in 2018 only 22% of Ireland’s electricity was generated from renewable sources? The rest was generated by fossil fuels including gas, peat and coal. Research and see if your current electricity provider is getting their energy from sustainable sources. Or switch to Energia. Switching is easy and you know that you are supporting the largest supplier of green energy on the island of Ireland.
4. Change your light bulbs:
Check the lightbulbs throughout your house, are they all energy efficient? Don’t forget to check kitchen spotlights and lamps. As the run out, switch them for compact fluorescent lights or LEDs that use less energy than standard bulbs. Although they are more expensive to buy initially, they can last up to 25 times longer, so they are well worth the investment.
5. Switch off and unplug:
Leaving electricals on standby instead of switching them off completely can use up to 20% of their power. This costs you money and increases your carbon footprint. When you are finished using a charger or electrical item, turn it off at the source or unplug it to save money on your electricity bill and reduce your impact on the environment.
6. Reduce the temperature of clothes wash:
Washing your clothes at higher temperatures uses more power as your washing machine has to heat the water. Save money on your electricity bill and reduce your carbon footprint by washing your clothes at 40 degrees or less. In recent years many detergent manufacturers have developed products that work well at lower temperatures so they will come out of the wash just as clean.
7. Pay attention to energy ratings:
If you are replacing an appliance in your home, look out for the energy rating. Energy rating shows that a product meets certain standard for energy efficiency. You will find EU energy ratings from A-G on most ‘white goods’ and audio-visual equipment like televisions. Choose the electrical product that most meets your needs and is as close to A rated as you can afford.
8. Reduce, reuse and recycle:
Humans are creating and disposing of too much rubbish. It is causing serious damage to our world. One study found that of 6.3 tonnes of plastic waste, only 9% was being recycled. Play your part in keeping our planet healthier by not automatically throwing things out when you are finished with them. Could they be reused for another purpose? Donated to charity? Or if they are definitely at the end of their life make sure they are recycled correctly.
9. Improve the BER of your house:
Your Building Energy Rating or BER rates your home’s energy efficiency on a scale between A and G. If you live in a new build then your home should be A rated, well insulated and not reliant on fossil fuel to heat it. However the majority of Irish housing stock is C-G rated where there is a lot you can do to improve your BER.
Adding exterior insulation, switching to triple glazed windows or upgrading your heating system are just some of the ways you can reduce your home’s carbon footprint. In even better news, many of the changes will qualify for a grant and save you money on your heating bills over the winter months.
10. Upgrade to a smart meter as soon as you are offered one:
Smart meters will provide Irish households with access to more accurate information on how we use electricity in our home. In time, they will allow us to move to a carbon free electricity network with smart grids, e-cars and local renewable electricity generation at its core. Although roll out was delayed by the pandemic, the ESB says it is on track to have 2.4 million smart meters installed in Irish homes by 2024.
11. Walk, cycle or take public transport:
How does your family travel to work or school? Is it possible to walk, cycle or take public transport instead of the car? Try to plan a route that will allow you to take a more environmentally friendly mode of transport at least a few times a week. Walking or cycling are great ways to increase the amount of movement in your day which is great for your family’s health.
12. Consider investing in plug-in hybrid or electric car:
The next time you are buying a new or used car, think about getting a plug in hybrid or electric vehicle. At the moment, the EU is proposing banning all non-electric cars by 2035 so you will be getting ahead of the curve by investing before then. Ireland is the perfect country to drive an EV because it is relatively small. Many newer electric cars could travel most road trips without needing to be recharged. When your car is charging at home, choose an Electric Vehicle Energy Plan so you know you are getting the best value for money.
13. Keep your car in good running order:
Until you are in a position to change your car to a more environmentally friendly option, have it serviced regularly so it is running as efficiently as possible.
14. Buy ‘in season’ food:
Strawberries in December might be tempting but chances are they have been flown from the other side of the world. Become more conscious about the carbon footprint of food and try to buy local produce in season. Farming meat also damages the environment, if you are not ready for an entirely plant-based diet, try one or two meat free days per week.
15. Carbon offset:
There are opportunities to offset some of your family’s carbon footprint by supporting projects that improve our environment like tree planting and renewable energy. The best-case scenario is to avoid damaging the environment, but carbon offsets are useful where adding to our carbon footprint is unavoidable.
16. Use your vote:
Last but by no means least, raise environmental issues with local and national representatives as and where you can. Research your preferred candidates’ views on the environment and vote accordingly.
Unfortunately, when it comes to balancing our environmental impact with our modern lifestyles, there are few easy answers, but these are some steps we can take to limit the impact we have on the world around us.