Consolidated advice from biggreenswitch

There are plenty of ways that you can help the planet. Many of these ways are not just beneficial for the planet, but they are beneficial towards your pocket as well.

In the Home

Appliances on Standby

Although your TV screen may look dormant, it’s actually using energy at an alarming rate behind that innocent-looking façade. Recent studies have shown that gadgets left on standby squander electricity worth £740m per annum and are responsible for 4m tonnes of excess carbon dioxide each year.

The good news is that recent government legislation has meant that standby buttons are beginning to be phased out, making energy efficiency within your home much easier to achieve. However, rather than waiting for these changes to begin, why not get a head start by switching off your appliances now? You’ll be saving energy, money and cutting your carbon emissions.

The average UK household wastes £37 each year by leaving appliances on standby.

Keep your Fridge/Freezer full

Your fridge/freezer is one of the busiest energy users in your kitchen, running at full capacity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And the emptier your fridge or freezer is, the harder it has to work to keep everything inside nice and cold.

Keeping your fridge or freezer as full as possible reduces the amount of energy used by your appliance. While we’d love to have them packed with delicious foods and drinks all the time, it’s far more cost-effective (and better for the waistline!) to fill empty space in your appliances with carrier bags filled with newspaper.

As well as reducing the energy usage by one of your home’s most power-hungry appliances, you could save pounds off your electricity bills too.

  • A half-empty fridge can use 20% more energy than a full one.
  • Keeping your fridge full could cut £20-£30 per year off your electricity bill.

Only Boil as much as you need in your Kettle

A recent study showed that most people don’t look at the volume indicator on the side of their kettle, often resulting in them boiling far more water than they actually need. Referring to this measure can help you to accurately determine the amount of liquid necessary.

Another way to measure how much water you require is to fill the cup or saucepan you are planning to use and then pour this water into the kettle, remembering to add a little bit extra to compensate for evaporation.

Turn that Thermostat down

Winter is cold and wearing extra layers of lovely warm clothing is the best way to keep the chill out. Bikinis are not ideal winter wear, and neither are shorts or sleeveless t-shirts.

However, many people still dress in summer garments during the winter months and then turn up the heating to compensate. And, even if you’re not partial to wearing a bikini in your living room, it's still likely that you don’t put on enough clothing to keep warm without the aid of central heating.

If your house starts to feel chilly put on a jumper rather than turning up the heating. Or, if you think you may be overheating your house, turn down the thermostat and try warm clothing instead.

Alternatively, if you feel your house is the right temperature, you could consider decreasing the amount of time the heating is actually switched on for. Do you really need to keep the house warm until midnight when you’re in bed by ten? Or could you sleep under an extra blanket and turn off the heating a couple of hours earlier?

Also consider setting your thermostat to come on a bit later in the morning. By shaving just two hours off the time you spend heating your house each day, you could make a significant energy and financial saving.

  • Turning down your thermostat by just one degree can cut 10% off your heating bill. The average annual heating bill for a three-bed, semi-detached house is £450, so you could save around £45 per year by simply losing one degree.
  • If you decide to reduce the amount of time your heating is on for you could make an even larger saving. Central heating costs around 30p per hour (less if you have Economy Seven). Therefore, if you can switch off your heating 2 hours earlier each evening you could save 60p a day. Even though you will only need your heating on for around half the year, this would still add up to a saving of nearly £110 annually!

Wash at a Lower Temperature

Most modern detergents work just as well in cooler water and some are even designed to work at a lower temperature. Why not try washing your clothes at 30°C to save energy and help to reduce CO2 emissions.

Alternatively, to be an even greener cleaner, use laundry balls in your wash. Not only can these be used on a lower temperature, but they also negate the need for harmful detergents.

Lowering the temperature of your wash could save you up to 40% on the running costs of your washing machine.

Turn that light bulb off

This is probably the easiest switch you can make. Rather than leaving a light on when you exit a room, simply switch it off. It couldn’t be easier!

The less time you spend with the lights on, the more energy you save. A normal bulb will use 60 watts of energy an hour, meaning that you could conserve nearly 22,000 watts of energy per year by just switching off one bulb for one hour every day. That’s enough energy to power one months worth of evening TV viewing!

Also try to consider how many lights you need on, or if you need one on at all. Is a lamp really necessary in a sunlit room? Do you need three separate sources of light in your kitchen?

By making small changes like this you’ll soon be saving energy and money.

  • A cut of just 6 hours of individual bulb lighting every day will save you enough energy for six-months worth of evening TV viewing!
  • Turning off one bulb for one hour a day will save you in the region of £2.20 a year. Therefore, if you can cut the 6 hours mentioned above, not only will you be offsetting your evening TV viewing for half the year, but you’ll also be saving over £13 per annum.

Hang your washing out

If the weather’s looking pleasant, dry your clothes on a line outside. Even if the weather is being typically British, you can still avoid the tumble dryer by finishing off your wet washing indoors.

Be careful not to put your clothes over a radiator though as this stops the heat from reaching the rest of the room, creates damp and provides good growing conditions for mould. Try putting up a clothes rail in an unheated room, opening the window slightly to allow damp to escape and shutting the door to stop heat being drawn into the room.

If you still need to use your dryer, don’t put soaking wet clothes into it. This will only mean it takes even longer to dry them, using up extra energy and costing you more. Wring out clothes or spin-dry them first to reduce moisture as much as possible.

Also, keeping heavy fabrics (such as damp towels and bedding) away from lighter fabrics will help to reduce the cycle time needed for some loads.

Turn those chargers off

95% of the energy used by the UK’s mobile phone chargers is wasted energy. Only 5% is actually utilized to charge phones, the rest is squandered when the charger is plugged into the wall but not switched off at the socket. That’s over 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions that could be avoided if we all just unplugged our chargers!

This is probably one of the easiest changes to make. At the end of charging your mobile, laptop, digital camera or anything else that may need to be plugged in, simply disconnect it or switch it off at the wall. Easy peasy!

Fully Loaded Washing Machines

The half load setting on your washing machine uses more than half the energy and water of a full load, so it makes better economical and environmental sense to wait until you have a full load of clothes.

Try to store up all your clothes until you have enough to fill one large load, rather than having to run several smaller ones. By conserving energy and water you’ll be saving on your monthly bills, as well as needing to buy less washing powder.

Defrost your Freezer regularly

Have a look in your freezer. Can you see over 1cm thickness of ice around the inside, or crystals forming on packages? If the answer is yes, then it's time to defrost your freezer.

The first step is to get rid of all your food. This doesn’t mean that you have to throw it away or eat everything up in one go though. The easiest way to store your food is to just wrap each item in newspaper, place them all in a box, and put the box in the coldest place you can think of. You can also use a freezer bag or ice box if you have these available.

Then leave the freezer to defrost itself overnight, or speed things up a little by using boiling water or a hairdryer. Unplug the freezer before starting any defrosting process and don't forget that you'll need tons of towels to mop up excess water.

Making this switch will cost you very little and, by saving energy, you're also saving money on your electricity bill.

At School, Work and University

Paper Concious

Schools are a haven of paper products - from books, writing paper and art materials to paper towels and toilet rolls, schools in the UK gets through a large volume of paper every year.

With such a volume being consumed, it makes sense to use products made from recycled materials. Recycled products have come a long way over recent years and no longer carry the higher-cost, lower-quality stigma of old.

It’s also important to make sure you are getting the best out of all the paper materials in your school. Ensure writing paper is being used on both sides. Consider whether assignments and projects need to be printed out from computers or if they can just be viewed/marked on-screen instead?

Put used paper to good use in other areas of the school, and if you can't think of anything else to do with the paper, make sure it goes into a recycling bin instead of being thrown in with the main rubbish and sent straight to landfill.

Collect and recycle litter

Many schools traditionally have litter problems around their buildings and grounds with research suggesting that this is mainly due to the attitude of some children, particularly teenagers, towards care-free littering.

Addressing the issue of litter around your school can lead to a more appealing environment for all concerned and help to return suitable waste for recycling.

An important step in reducing waste is to ensure pupils are suitably educated as to the need to dispose of litter correctly. Encourage this by ensuring there are sufficient bins around the school and its outdoor areas for pupils to dispose of all their rubbish. Why not set a school-wide challenge to see how many recyclable materials can be collected over a term?

A safely organised litter pick can be a good way of gathering litter together and, for younger pupils at least, is often seen as a fun event, particularly if rewarded by drinks, biscuits or perhaps merit points for their efforts. Again, use the litter pick as an opportunity to reinforce the important issues regarding litter and recycling.

Discuss and make people aware of their environment

Getting children interested in environmental issues from an early age is a good way to introduce them to the subject and encourage them to think about the future of the planet. Projects of this nature can also be quite practical and interesting for students, meaning that they are more likely to want to be involved in the assignments.

Try to keep pushing an environmental message throughout all lessons, reminding students not to waste paper or other natural resources. Getting children used to thinking in this way will help them to be more environmentally aware at home and in later life.

If students in your school are becoming very interested in the environment, then consider getting involved in the Eco-Schools scheme. By registering with the scheme your school will become part of an international group working towards education for sustainable development and a better quality of life for local and global communities

Becoming an Eco-School can enhance learning styles, raise the school profile and has potential money-saving benefits. It’s a great way to get your students interested in, and focused on, the environment and what it means to them.

Save water in toilets

A standard toilet cistern pushes 9-11 litres of water down the toilet pan with every flush. Yet the majority of toilet trips probably only require 50-60% of that amount for a clean flush.

The quickest and cheapest way to reduce the amount of water used in a toilet is to fill out some of the space in the cistern with a suitable object (such as a house brick wrapped in plastic) to prevent the cistern filling with as much water after each flush.

Alternatively, you could fit a flush-flow device to each toilet, giving full control over the amount of water used. The devices only flush while the toilet handle is held down and stop the water flow as soon as it is released. This allows you to flush exactly the amount of water you need each time to clear the bowl. Devices are available for around £20.

Run a recycling scheme

There are many ways to run recycling schemes. You could get students and staff to bring in their unwanted goods for a giant jumble sale, or maybe donate items to a local charity or recycling agency. You could even offer a swapping service where students can swap books, CDs, DVDs and computer games they no longer want, although you would need to get parental permission to run schemes of this type.

The less we consume, the less pressure is put on natural resources to make new goods. By educating children that second hand really is just as good as new and shiny; you’ll be helping to decrease the amount of demand for new items, also cutting packaging needs and the transport of goods.

A scheme like this can teach students the value of items, putting less pressure on parents at Christmas and birthdays. Getting young people used to buying second hand is also likely to help them save money in later life.

Switch Electrical Equipment off when it is not in use

This is one of the easiest switches you can make; when you’re not using a TV or computer, simply switch it off. That’s really all there is to it, and it can make a huge difference to the amount of carbon dioxide your school is chugging out into the atmosphere.

Some appliances will use a quarter of the energy in standby mode as they do when they’re on as normal. Yet, for this energy expenditure, they do absolutely nothing.

TV’s will use around 7 watts when in standby, and computers can use up to 15 watts. This means that a classroom of 20 computers and 2 TVs will use 314 watts per hour in standby mode. If you leave these systems on overnight, you’ll be burning up nearly 4,400 watts every evening. Over a year this would cost £160 extra on your electricity bill, with absolutely no benefit coming out of the energy usage.

Cut waste in the canteens

Encourage students to only take the amount of food that they need, rather than piling their plates high and leaving most of it. Also try to cut down on the quantity of food being prepared, especially if the canteen staff are throwing a lot away at the end of lunch.

Invest in a compost bin

Think about investing in a compost heap or compost bins as part of a council recycling scheme. This is a great way to reduce the amount of organic waste produced by a school, as well as giving students a fun way to learn about nature.

Use Energy Saving Lightbulbs

Around 10-15% of UK energy usage is for lighting. This usage can be dramatically reduced by swapping traditional bulbs for energy-efficient bulbs.

Low-energy bulbs now come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit different types of light fittings so, whenever a bulb needs replacing in your workplace, ask that it is swapped for an energy-efficient bulb. Better still, get all the bulbs in your workplace changed straight away.

The low-energy lightbulbs use up to 75% less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb while still emitting the same level of lighting. This is because the old incandescent bulbs waste up to 90% of their energy through heat being emitted by the bulb rather than light.

The newer bulbs also last up to 10 times longer than traditional bulbs so they more than pay for themselves over their lifetime. In addition, the energy saved by the low-energy lightbulbs in your office could add up to as much as £100 each over their lifetime.