7 things you can do to save money and go green today

7 things you can do to save money and go green today

This week we are going green. With very little effort, not much money, and a little imagination we can make some real savings. If you think you've heard it all before think again - some of these surprised us and we do this for a living!

(The gadgets mentioned in this piece are all available in the UK, but we're sure you will be able to find alternatives wherever you are).

1. Lighting

Have you heard the one about the light bulb that waits for you to leave the room before it turns on? We all know about energy saving bulbs and yes it's true, sometimes they take a few seconds to warm up. But let's get over that and look at the real cost of switching.

The Energy Saving Trust says that we can save around£3 per year for each bulb we swap for an energy saving one. If the average house uses 20 light bulbs, it means that we can save£60 a year just on our electricity bill - plus there's savings to be made on the bulb itself because they last up to 10 times longer.

Cost of non-energy saving light bulb:£1.98 x 10 =£19.80 (over 5 years, based on average use) Cost of same energy saving light bulb:£3.98 (should last 5 years)

Spent:£3.98 Saved over 5 years:£15.82 (per bulb) Average annual saving (on energy and light bulb costs):£6.16 x 20 =£123.20

So when you're next in the store and you don't want to spend an extra£2 on an energy saving bulb it's worth considering the future implications of your choice. For me it's a no-brainer really, I don't know why they even make non-energy saving bulbs any more! If you can't afford to switch your bulbs all at once, why not just do one at a time as your regular ones run out?

Quick Tips: last one out turn the lights off when you leave the room - duh!

2. Heating

In the UK the price of our energy gets a lot of media coverage. The costs just keep rising whilst the winters seem to be getting colder. So what can we do?

Well this nifty Eco Freak Radiator Booster moves heat around the room more quickly so that your boiler needs to work less. They estimate that an average household can save between£70-140 per year with running costs of just 30p! The unit costs£24.95 +£2.46 postage, but they estimate it will pay for itself in just 8-10 weeks of use!

Spent:£27.90 Saved year one: Between£42.10 -£112.10 Ongoing average annual saving: Between£70 -£140 per annum (depending on usage).

Quick tips: Buy some radiator insulation (approx.£7 for 5 metres) to reduce the amount of heat lost through walls; turn your thermostat down by 1 degree; keep the doors closed to retain heat.

And if you're lucky enough to live in hotter climates the same applies to your air conditioner. Keep it switched to 'on' rather than 'auto' to maintain an evenly distributed temperature. Raising the thermostat by just a few degrees saves a bundle and if you're in a humid place running a dehumidifier means you can comfortably raise your thermostat even higher. Make sure you change the filter regularly and consider buying a carbon filter you can wash - it lasts a lifetime and will pay for itself in just a few months.

3. Water

Whilst the modern day flush toilet is one of the most important (but often underrated) inventions of the 18th Century (before the S bend was invented the smell of the sewers came up through your loo, and before that people threw their waste out the window!), it hasn't had much done to it in recent years to make it more economical. Every time you flush you waste around 3 litres of water and if you consider that around 30% of your household water goes towards flushing that's a lot of perfectly good water going down the drain (pun intended!).

There are new low flush toilets but if your toilet doesn't already need replacing you can still cut down on the water it uses. In the old days people used to put a brick in the cistern, these days things are a bit more sophisticated, enter HIPPO The Water Saver.

HIPPO promises to save those three litres which in turn should save you around£30 a year (if you are on a water meter), but the real saving is for the sanitation industry which is ironically one of the most polluting sectors in the UK, emitting the same amount of CO2 as the aviation industry. HIPPO estimate that if every house in the UK was fitted with one of their devices we could save 600 million litres of water a day and over 65,000 tonnes of CO2 a year - wow.

The cost is£8.94 for three so if like me you only have one bathroom you can split the cost with friends, take one each and reduce that to just£2.98 each!

Spent£2.98 Saved year one:£27.02 Average annual saving:£30 pa and an enormous environmental impact

Some water companies in the UK offer water saving devices to their customers for free so make sure to check with yours first! Otherwise, if you don't want to buy a HIPPO, fill a 2 litre plastic bottle with water and place it carefully in the cistern to do the same job.

Quick tips: Fix a leaking tap, a tap that drips once per second wastes thousands of litres of water in a single year; take a shower instead of a bath; fill the bowl when doing the washing up; don't leave the tap running when brushing your teeth; if you have a garden consider getting a water butt so you can use that to water the flowers instead of ecologically expensive and chlorinated tap water (the flowers will thank you too!)

4. Laundry

Washing powder is expensive. I don't know why, but it is. I am always a little aggrieved when I do my shopping at just how much it is. Not to mention all the horrid chemicals they contain which get flushed into our water system (unless you use a nice phosphate free one like Method or Ecover of course!). Well the Eco Egg promises to clean your clothes, save you money and help the environment. Big claims! I hope to do a review on one soon so I can tell you whether it actually works or not but in the meantime lets look at the numbers.

Spent:£19.99 (claims to last for 740 washes) Saved over three years:£159 -£681 (depending on your normal powder) Average annual saving:£133 per year

Quick tips: Only do full loads, not only will your machine last longer (something to do with the balance of the drum) but you will use less water; try doing a cold wash, your clothes last longer this way too; hang your clothes outside to dry whenever possible (plus the sun's UV rays are a natural disinfectant!).

5. Fridge

Ah the fridge, the most reliable appliance we own. Even when we go on holiday and all the other appliances are switched off and unplugged, the fridge is trusted not to self-combust whilst we're away. It's no surprise then, given our 24/7 365 requirements of our fridge this is the appliance that uses the most energy in our home. Full stop. In that case, we should make sure it's running as efficiently as possible.

If your fridge was built before 2001 you need a new one. Newer models can be up to 75% more efficient so it's a good investment.

Make sure you leave a few inches of space behind your fridge so that air can circulate.

Keep the coils clear of dust. I know this might be difficult because they're difficult to get to, but if the filters and condenser are dusty the fridge has to work harder, so let's try.

Keep your fridge full. In a full fridge the temperature is evenly distributed so it doesn't have to work as hard as it does if it's empty. If you have a lot of free space fill some containers with water and fill it. It's simple but so effective, an empty fridge is a wasteful one. This applies to the freezer too.

And finally, make sure your fridge is set at the correct temperature. -4C for the freezer and 1-2C for the fridge are more than adequate to keep dairy and meat safe and those are the things you need to worry about the most. Anything below that is an unnecessary waste of energy.

Spent: Nothing, maybe a little time Saved: I couldn't find the exact numbers for this one but I reckon the energy savings are huge!

Quick tips: don't stand with the door open for ages deciding what to eat, decide before you get there; turn the icemaker off if you have one; wait for food to cool down before putting it in the fridge; defrost frozen food in the fridge.

6. Shopping

It's your birthday. There are gifts, all wrapped up in pretty paper and waiting for you. How exciting! Ooh what's inside? Tomatoes? Oh wait, it's not your birthday, you've just got back from the supermarket and you're putting your shopping away. So why all the packaging? Why oh why are these six tomatoes sitting in a plastic tray, surrounded by plastic wrap? It's so unnecessary! And what do you do? Take them out and chuck the wrapping, which will probably end up in landfill (adding toxic chemicals to the water table and the air we breathe) because for some reason we're still allowing non-recyclable packaging to be produced.

Next time you're in the supermarket think about whether the packaging on a product is really necessary and if it's not then don't buy it. Take a stand. You can usually find the same product with less wrapping if you have a look. Tomatoes for example can always be purchased loose and won't be any different to the ones in the tray, just better for the environment and they're often cheaper too.

Spent: Nothing, maybe a little imagination Saved: Millions of tons of unnecessary landfill (if we all do our part)

Quick tips: Take your own reusable bags to the shops; use an eating plan, always make a shopping list.

7. Energy

Consider switching to a green energy supplier. Ecotricity promise to price match the big providers and only use green energy.

Spent: Your regular bills Saved: Nothing in cash but loads for the environment

Quick tips: Switch off appliances at the plug when you're not using them and unplug chargers when finished, all those appliances on standby are still using energy and costing you money!

Summary

Every household is different, but if I made these changes this is how much I would save in the first year - cowabunga!

Total amount spent: 109.70 Total amount saved:£845

=£736 and a lot of trees, polar bears, fresh air and a nice fuzzy feeling.

If like me you are excited by these potential savings, don't stop here. calculate your carbon footprint and then try to reduce it even more!

Good luck!

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