How to make your home and lifestyle greener – 22 ideas for the modern household

How to make your home and lifestyle greener – 22 ideas for the modern household

Industry and agriculture are responsible for a large amount of the planets pollution problems. However 30% of carbon emissions are produced from our homes. Our high consumption lifestyles contribute even more.

One solution is lobbying for political change and legislation to curb industry and change the behaviour of the population. There is also a lot we can do as families and households to make our homes and lifestyles greener.

“There are some simple changes we can all make to reduce our carbon footprint and impact on our environment. Every bit helps.”

Some of the solutions and ideas listed in this article are cost free, and just require effort. Others are almost effort free and can even save you money.  There are also some grander steps that require investment in your home but offer big long-term savings.

Whilst it isn’t expected that everyone can or wants to do everything suggested (some of which may not even be applicable to your home), hopefully there are at least some changes we can all make to reduce our carbon footprint and impact on our environment. Every bit helps.

I hope the suggestions are practical and useful and can go towards helping you live a more sustainable and green lifestyle.

22 Steps to a Greener Home

Make your lifestyle greener

1. Composting

Rather than putting your vegetable food waste in your food waste bin, put it in a separate composting bin to be transferred to a larger outdoor composter.  You can make room for this even in the smallest of gardens.

The resulting compost can be used in beds or pots, and better still to fertilize your veg patch to grow more food.  Your composting waste doesn’t have to travel anywhere and doesn’t go into landfill – it goes to good use, and saves compost being transported to you.  A super easy cost free step.

2. Reduce single use packaging

The war on single use plastic now seems to be well under way; and there are many ways you can reduce your plastic waste.

Please see my other article on how to cut down your plastic waste, and apply the principle of trying to avoid products in any form of packaging, especially if it is single use.

3. Recycling more

If it is recyclable – no matter how small – recycle it.  There are loads of multi section recycling separator bins you can buy to make the job of sorting your rubbish easier, and increasingly councils are collecting more and more for recycling.

Non-recyclable waste should be the smallest of your bins, particularly if you avoid non-recyclable packaging where possible.  I find ours tends to be just full of polythene wrappings, which hopefully councils will get onto recycling at some point.  Recycle everything you can – you have to put it in a bin, so it may as well be the recycling bin.

4. Drive an Electric Car

Although I have worked with green technologies for many years, I have come to view the electric car as perhaps the easiest green technology for everyone to adopt.  If you own a car you could be driving a much greener electric car.

The electric car is so much superior in terms of both mechanics, performance, reliability, running costs, and fuel cost. It is practically a no brainer if you are thinking of changing your car. Driving electric will also cut the carbon impact of your driving by more than quarter; even more if you charge it using green electricity.

Driving an EV is a really approachable first step for everyone. It will cost you the same to buy as your current or planned new car, yet it will save you loads of money in running costs.  Definitely look at an electric car for your next car.

5. Buy green electricity

Whilst we can strive to produce our own green electricity for our homes, for many the investment costs of such systems can be unattainable.  It is now possible to buy green electricity produced from solar and wind from many green energy companies.

Whilst green energy currently costs a bit extra compared to traditional mixed oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy, it is green and guilt free, and a big step forward in reducing the carbon impact of your home.  Also the more green electricity we buy the more investment there will be in green power.  Getting your electricity from someone like Ecotricity is an investment free way of solar powering your home.

6. Buy local and buy seasonal

Be it food or furniture, anything produced locally will have a much lower carbon footprint due to lower transportation cost.  This is especially true with food, much of which has been transported many miles – either within the uk, or from overseas. If you are able to reduce the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables you buy from imported sources, favouring those produced in the uk, a lot of transportation carbon is saved.  You can identify the country of origin at point of sale / on packaging. Better still grow as much as you can yourself for lovely fresh zero carbon food.

Buying and eating seasonal foods is very important to enable buying locally and non-imported foods. Adapt your eating habits to suit what is available from UK producers as a part of the local buying process.

7. Replace less

If something breaks, rather than immediately throw it away and buy a new one, perhaps try and fix it.  White goods such as ovens, washing machines etc, for example are easily fixed, with spares readily available.  Thanks to the internet, spares for all kinds of things can be easily obtained, together with useful online videos of how to repair almost anything.

Every new product requires materials, labour, transportation and energy, which all have a carbon cost; not to mention that the old item will go to landfill to pollute our environment.  Fixing something can be fun and satisfying, and it will even save you money.

Upcycling is also a great alternative to buying something new, and it is particularly good with furniture, where a quick coat of paint, or a quick sand and some oil can transform something old, rather than throwing it away to buy something new.  If you don’t have the energy to repair or upcycle, them look at buying recycled or second-hand items – less new things and less old things going into landfill.

8. Waste less

It sounds so simple, yet I find this hard to explain how to actually waste less in practice.

The principle is simple – don’t throw away something that can be re-used or has an alternative use. The easiest examples I see are in food – if it is on the turn use it – if you make too much freeze the extra – if leftovers can be used in another dish use them.

Get online and look for upcycling projects or ways to reuse your most common waste such as plastic bottles or old packaging.

9. Consume less

Before you buy something, ask yourself do you really need it.  Everything we buy, use or consume comes at a cost to the environment. Every product requires materials, labour and transportation and energy, which all have a carbon cost.

Generally approaching everything we do or buy from a standpoint of how sustainable it is, and if it comes at a carbon cost how necessary is it, is a good approach to a greener lifestyle.

Make your food greener

10. Eat less meat

Whilst a vegan diet is perhaps what we should all be striving for, I do realise that it is not something that is going to be easily adopted by everyone. I believe we should simply all push to eat ‘less’ meat and dairy.  Whilst veganism is easy for some, it is harder for others and particularly whole families, such as ours, and as a result we just east lots of veggie and vegan meals. We don’t eat beef or lamb, and we try to eat as little meat as possible.

Eating a lot less meat is much easier than eating no meat, and if everyone ate half as much meat and dairy we would have half the problem relating to livestock farming and the environmental problems it causes.

To begin with try 2 veggie days a week, and not eating beef or lamb (except for special occasion.) This alone will make a big difference and will hopefully lead onto becoming veggie half of the week, and hopefully eventually veganism.

I don’t want to upset the vegans out there by saying eating meat is ok – I just want to be practical and realistic based on the experience I have had with my own family.  It is better to have half the population eat half as much meat, than 10% of the population go vegan, and I believe the former is much more possible to achieve.

11. Switch to a dairy-free milk alternative

Farming for dairy has a surprising large environmental impact, with dairy cattle producing lots of emissions and requiring lots of space.  Switching to one of the many dairy alternatives, such as Soya or Almond milk for example, can help.

We have mixed results in our household, with half the family now having Soya milk instead, however cutting down is still better than nothing, and we have halved our dairy milk consumption.  If everyone’s household managed to do the same that is still half the number of dairy cattle and half the problems they cause.

12. Grow your own food

Growing my own fruit and veg has become my hobby.  Out of a modest sized 30m2 veg patch and 5m greenhouse we manage to grow a surprisingly large amount of our annual food, particularly during the summer when almost everything is home grown.  Not only is it good for the soul, good exercise, gets you outdoors, and is great for the kids to appreciate the origins of their food, it is also cheaper and much greener.

Picking a pepper fresh from the greenhouse as opposed to it being transported a thousand miles and placed in plastic wrappings.  So much greener, and I think we underestimate the carbon footprint of imported food items.  I cannot stress enough the pleasure of growing your own food, picking it fresh and turning it into a lovely meal for the family, and please give it a try, even if it is on a minor scale.  Lots of effort, but very little cost, and lots of satisfaction.

Make your home greener

At Completely Green, we specialise in reducing the environmental impact of your home. For more information regarding any of the improvements below please click the link in the title of each point or view a summary of all our home improvements here.

13. Produce your own electricity with Solar PV Panels

Solar PV is now the most well established of all the green technologies. The cost of equipment is now highly affordable due to the economies of scale of mass production.  Every home can benefit from a solar pv system, as every home uses electricity.

Your own solar pv system can produce clean energy at zero cost, and will do so for many decades.  When linked with a battery storage system the power you generate in the day can then be stored and used to power you home at night.

In my home, we have a 3kW system and 6.5kWh of battery storage and we are able to power our home, independent of grid input from march to October (most days), including cooking, and we are a busy family household.  Although there is an investment cost to a PV and storage system (approx. £11k to suit a high consumption family home) it will have repaid itself within a decade, and it will last for many decades afterwards.  With spiraling energy costs predicted, a solar PV system can save you a fortune in the long term. The sooner you invest in a system the sooner you will start saving from it.

14. Insulate your home

Around 2/3rd  of our home energy consumption goes towards heating the house in winter, with heating being the single largest source of domestic carbon emissions.  The amount of heat required to keep your home warm can be massively reduced by greater home insulation.

In some homes, such as stone built cottages, this can be harder to do. It is however a crucially important first step in the green process to insulate your home as much as possible.  Loft insulation is very cheap and easy to install, so install as much as possible. 1ft or more if you can.

Double glazing and draft resistant doors and window frames.  If your house is of cavity wall construction, please get the cavities filled – this can reduce your heat losses by 300%.  Insulation is not just about cutting cots and energy usage, but also about comfort, so it should be the very first step in trying to make your house a greener home.

15. Low energy lighting

Once I started monitoring our household electricity consumption I was surprised to find out how high our night time base consumption was – this was due to lighting.  We consequently changed every last bulb to low energy and cut our evening base load by over ¾ .

One 60w light bulb is the equivalent of 6 lights now. This is a really easy change to make and one everyone can afford, and the cost of the new bulbs will have paid for themselves in less than a year.  Like insulation this should be one of everyone’s first steps.

16. Air Source Heat Pump heating system

An air source heat pump is now the go-to heating system for the modern home.  They offer much lower running costs than the traditional gas and oil heating systems. And as they are run on electricity, they have the potential to be completely renewable, if powered using green electricity.

They are super reliable as no combustion is involved and they also have a fit and forget functionality.  If you home is well insulated they are the go-to heating solution, and have relatively low installation costs, which are currently heavily government subsidised by the RHI (Renewable Heat  Incentive.)

17. Ground Source Heat Pump heating system

A ground source heat pump is very much like an air source heat pump system. However they are even more efficient due to using the stable ground temperature as their heat source.  Although the installation costs are relatively high the running cost are exceptionally low, and the generous government incentives mean that you will most likely profit from your system withing its first 7 years of operation.

They require a well insulated home, and a reasonable amount of ground space, although with the latest Helicoils system, not as much as you think.  If you can afford the up-front costs (or are prepared to finance it) a ground source heat pump is not only the most efficient and green heating system available it is also the most potentially lucrative, thanks to the RHI.

18. Biomass pellet boilers

Biomass wood pellets are classed as a carbon neutral fuel, as the trees from which the pellets are made remove as much CO2 from the environment as they release when burnt. It is still critical to source sustainably farmed wood pellets, from a locally produced source, but a Biomass Wood Pellet boiler is classed as a green renewable heating system.

If you live in a home that is harder to efficiently insulate and is currently running on an oil boiler then a wood pellet boiler is a very cost effective greener heating system.  Supported by the Renewable heat incentive scheme, although there is some up front costs (that can be financed) to installation, a biomass boiler system will repay its investment very quickly.

19. Upgrade your log fire

Log fires can offer great supporting heat to your home, as well as being a thing of beauty and romance.  As they burn biomass in the form of logs they are also using a carbon neutral green fuel (of course assuming sustainably sourced logs.)

Older log fires and log burners burn at such a low efficiency level (25-50%) that they do create a lot of particulate pollution.  Replacing your old log burner with a modern high efficiency (80-90%) log fire means that you will have a much cleaner burn with greatly reduced particulate and gaseous emissions, plus you will be using half as many logs.

20. Harvest your rainwater

Water is a very cheap utility here in the UK, however it still has a carbon and energy cost to produce, and at times, a scarcity of supply.  It is possible to use harvested rainwater to flush your toilets and do your washing, water your garden and clean your cars. It is even potentially possible for it to be filtered for potable use (if you are off the mains water grid.)

Whilst a fully home integrated rainwater harvesting system is relatively expensive and often only practical when done during the build of a house, a simple rainwater harvesting system using water butts for garden use and car cleaning is really cheap and simple to do (also leaves no drip marks when washing your cars.)

21. Heating system controls

Heating your home in winter accounts for 2/3rds of your home energy consumption, and it is possible to reduce this by 10-30% just by adding some simple controls to your heating system.

Just the additional of a programmable room stat can make a huge difference. This enables you to maintain a more stable and time suitable temperature.  Also fitting thermostatic TRV’s on all your radiators makes a system a lot more controllable.

Simply turning off or down the radiators in infrequently used rooms can make a big difference too.

22. Recover lost heat

A mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system (MVHR) can reduce your heating requirement by 30-40%.

MVHR is best suited to a modern highly insulated and airtight home. MVHR systems pre-heat incoming fresh air using heat within the house before it escapes through the fabric of the building.  Less heat is wasted, less heat is required, and heating costs are reduced. Whilst all the time keeping the house comfortably warm, condensation free and filled with fresh, clean air.

I hope the above suggestions help and provide inspiration.  To some level at least we have managed to incorporate most of these things into our home and lifestyle. Most of which are now second nature and require little or no effort.  Our household running costs have been greatly reduced as a positive by-product.

I don’t expect that every household will do everything recommended. It is my hope that everyone can do that little bit more to be greener.

Lets all do all we can to make our home and lifestyle’s as green as possible. Thank you for reading.

Author Details: Richard Norris, founder and Director of ‘Completely Green’ and ‘Drive Green’, family man, and sustainable living enthusiast.