13 February 2010

How We Are Reducing Our Family Environmental Impact – Getting Started

How We Are Reducing Our Family Environmental Impact – Getting Started

I thought we could share how we have tried to reduce our carbon footprint and what we are still looking at doing.

To start with, I need to give some background about us. 

We live in an old three bedroom cottage in a rural location.  The house is built of brick and the core of the house was built between 300 and 400 years ago, so (to repeat what was unhelpfully said in the survey when we bought the house) the house does not meet modern building standards, which (of course) was one of its key attractions to us.  It is also grade 2 listed which creates additional problems.  We are a family of four – two adults and two children who are not yet teenagers.  Both Sophie and I work together in our own small business 9 miles away.  Also, I absolutely hate doing DIY so we were never going to cleverly improve our house all by ourselves.

As a household, we now have total estimated greenhouse gas emissions as 9.2 tonnes CO2e per year, compared to the UK average of a total of 12.4 tonnes CO2e per year,  based on a carbon calculator provided by The Open University and stats that they use - different methods give different answers. 

The first thing we did was tackle all the easy things that we were terrible at.  Here are some of our howlers and some of those things that we have improved on very quickly:

  1. Changed the timing on the central heating from all day to 2 hours in the morning and the evening;
  2. Reduced temperature on thermostat by 3oC from 18oC to 15oC;
  3. Putting curtains up in every room and started closing the curtains at night or (in this cold winter) upstairs during the daytime;
  4. Changed all our light bulbs from old fashioned incandescent bulbs to low energy lamps;
  5. Switched off electrical appliances at the plug when not in use, especially computers, TVs and radios, i.e. no standby and computers and TVs are not on when no-one is around;
  6. Reduced, reused and recycled more of the packaging we get and unwanted  stuff like clothes, toys and books – friends and our local Oxfam have been very happy about this;
  7. Halved the number of fridges and freezers we had – we used to have two of each and have reduced that down to one of each.  Both were given to friends of friends rather than being chucked;
  8. Put low energy plugs onto the fridges and freezers reducing the general levels of electricity being used by the remaining appliances – not sure that these really work but they sounded neat;
  9. Share car journeys whenever possible, which as we work together means five days out of seven can be done in the same car – this reduced our car movements by ten every week.

And that’s about all we did.  We do not have a tumble drier and only iron rarely (a karate gi and my shirts but only so very rarely); we do not use mobile phones (I don’t actually have one, but Sophie does have one for emergencies) or similar things like Blackberries.  We already cooked most of our food from scratch, buying organic & Fairtrade, as well as local where possible.

For more on saving the world, there's good information at:

What have other people done when getting started on being green?