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Every week we bring you a simple idea for reducing your carbon footprint and protecting the planet. This week: how a few simple draught-proofing measures can lower your energy bills while keeping your home warm and cosy.

Draughtiness is a formidable foe in the pursuit of a cosy home. All that lovely warm air escaping through cracks and crevices means you have to use more energy to achieve the same result, which is bad news for the environment and your wallet.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, draught-proofing is one the cheapest and most effective ways to save energy – and money – in any type of building. Draught-proofing around windows and doors could save you around £20 a year, while draught-proofing a chimney that’s not being used could save you around £15 a year. Plus, draught-free homes are comfortable at lower temperatures, which means you may be able to turn down your thermostat and save even more on your energy bills.

Where do draughts come from?

The answer isn’t always obvious! Be sure to check:

  • Windows
  • Doors (including keyholes and letterboxes)
  • Loft hatches
  • Plug fittings on walls?
  • Floorboards and skirting boards
  • Pipe work leading outside
  • Chimneys

As a general rule, you should try to get rid of draughts from these places, but be careful not to go overboard in areas that require ventilation, such as rooms with fires and kitchens and bathrooms, where lots of moisture is created.

Should I DIY or go pro?

Draught-proofing is generally a pretty straightforward task, and simply involves a bit of basic hand/eye coordination. According to the Energy Saving Trust, professional draught-proofing will cost around £200 for an entire, average-sized house – if you’re prepared to do it yourself, it’ll be a lot cheaper.

Draught-proofing windows

Old, single-glazed sash windows are particularly bad for draughts. The best thing you can do is replace them with double glazing, which could save you £120 per year on your heating bill. If you can’t make that investment, or if you live in a listed building, there are other options available:

  • Use foam strips around open casements. It’s cheap and easy to install, but isn’t long-lasting.
  • Metallic or plastic brush strips are a little more expensive, but last much longer.
  • Spray foam sealant or use putty around cracks between frames and walls.
  • For windows that don’t open, use a silicon sealant or add secondary film glazing

Draught-proofing doors

  • Fit a brush strip or ‘weather bar’ to the bottom of the door.
  • Foam strips can help prevent draughts creeping in around the sides of doors.
  • Use a letter box flap or letterbox brush.
  • Buy a purpose made keyhole cover to prevent draughts coming in this way (in a pinch some tape will work, providing you’re taping up the side of the keyhole that’s rarely used).

Draught-proofing loft hatches

  • People often forget about their loft hatch, but heat rises and can easily escape here! Use foam, metallic or plastic strips, as with doors and windows.

Draught-proofing plug fittings

  • Check around any electrical sockets for gaps or holes, and use sealant or putty to put a stop to draughts.

Draught-proofing floorboards and skirting boards

Floorboards and skirting boards expand and contract over time, so make sure you use a product that can tolerate movement, such as:

  • Flexible fillers
  • Decorator’s caulk
  • Mastic-type products

There are fillers available for indoor and outdoor use, and come in a range of colours. They’re designed to block gaps permanently, so apply with care!

Draught-proofing pipe work

  • Gaps around pipes can be filled with the same product as floorboards and skirting boards, but if the gap is sizeable you may need to use expanding polyurethane foam, which sprays a bit like whipped cream, but sets hard.

Draught-proofing chimneys

You should only consider draught-proofing your chimney if you never use it.

  • A chimney cap blocks draughts at the source, although working on a roof is probably best done by a professional!
  • A chimney balloon fits snugly inside the chimney breast and is fairly easy to install yourself.
  • Chimney draught-excluders sit around the fireplace and can make a decorative contribution to the room.

Ventilation is important!

Make sure you don’t seal up any intentional ventilation, which is important for keeping your home fresh and dry. This includes:

  • Extractor fans
  • Under-floor grilles and airbricks
  • Wall vents
  • Trickle vents (often placed above modern windows).

These are all pretty simple, straightforward measures but they’ll have a noticeable impact on the temperature of your house. Keep the heat in and the cold out, and you’ll be saving money without having to reach for an extra jumper!

We would love to hear your comments and stories about the issues raised in this article:

 

  

Disclaimer

This information is provided for guidance only. Please see the full disclaimer in our terms and conditions.

Five simple energy-saving tweaks that could free up a lot of spare Christmas cash.

Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the most expensive. According to the Bank of England, UK households spend more than an extra £500 in December compared to other months. For many, this means dipping into savings, going without elsewhere, or relying on credit cards and loans that can upset the financial balance for the rest of the year.

The good news, however, is that you could be sat on an untapped cash reserve without even knowing it. We’re talking about energy bill savings – and they can add up to a lot, year-on-year. Below are the easy tweaks you can make that could altogether save you the cost of Christmas – and then some.

  1. Switch your energy provide: save up to £300

Switching to a better value energy supplier could save you a whopping £300 a year, according to research from Which? What’s more, it’s really simple to switch – there’s no supply disruption, no paperwork and no engineer visits. You can also choose a green energy tariff. Here’s everything you need to know about switching your energy company.

  1. Change your lightbulbs: save £180

Energy-saving lightbulbs last longer than traditional bulbs, and they’re a lot cheaper to run. Your old-school lightbulb costs around £8.40 to run every year, and only lasts for two years. An LED bulb, meanwhile, costs just around £1.71 to run and will last for a whopping 25 years! According to Which? this adds up to a saving of £180 per bulb over the course of its lifetime.

  1. Turn down the thermostat: save £80 for every degree

We all love a toasty warm home, but if you can get by with a tiny temperature drop you could be quids in. According to the Energy Saving Trust, turning down your thermostat by just one degree will save you around £80 a year! The recommend temperature for fit and healthy people is 19C.

  1. Switch off standby: save up to £30

Mobile phones, TVs, games consoles, microwaves – we rely on a lot of stuff that’s constantly plugged in, and even if we’re not using an appliance, it’s still draining ‘vampire’ power from the electrical outlet. If you’re not using something, turn it off at the plug. If it’s too much of a faff to reach, or you’re too lazy to turn everything off at the end of the day (a common complaint!) then considering investing into a power strip or standby bar to hit everything at once.

  1. Be clever in the kitchen: save up to £36 a year

    We waste a lot of energy in the kitchen, just by being sloppy with the way we use things. Being a little more mindful, however, could save a nice chunk of cash. According to the Energy Saving Trust, using a bowl to wash up in, rather than leaving a hot tap running, could save £25 a year, while only filling the kettle with the amount of water you need will save £6. Getting on top of your laundry will help too – cut back by just one cycle a week and save £5.

In just five simple steps, you could save hundreds of pounds every year – extra cash that could certainly make for a merry Christmas, or a summer holiday, or some home improvements, or whatever you fancy. Better still, you can treat yourself knowing that by reducing your energy use and therefore your bills, you’re also reducing your impact on the planet, too – all the more reason for a festive celebration.

We would love to hear your comments and stories about the issues raised in this article:

 

  

Disclaimer

This information is provided for guidance only. Please see the full disclaimer in our terms and conditions.

Because not everyone has time to make gifts from scratch.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the most wasteful. In the UK we create 30% more waste than usual during the festive period. Last year 125,000 tonnes of that was plastic packaging alone, and that’s not taking into account other materials such as paper, card, glass and food.

But the season doesn’t have to be synonymous with waste. The good news is that you can make a major dent in the amount of rubbish you generate with very little extra effort – you just have to make smart choices. Here’s how.

  1. Rethink your wrapping paper

The UK sent 277,000 miles of wrapping paper to landfill after Christmas 2017 – that’s enough to reach 90% of the way to the moon. Fortunately, this figure was considerably down on 2016’s (which saw the UK use enough paper to wrap around the world 22 times!) but there’s still a lot to be done.

Most wrapping paper can’t be recycled because of special coatings and inks, so opt for non-shiny or plain brown paper and add some festive cheer with colourful ribbons or your own designs. Another trick is to use old magazines or car maps that are lying around your home. Better yet, use bright fabrics to wrap your gifts – it’s completely reusable and doubles up as an extra pressie in the form of a scarf or napkin. Fabric.com has a great tutorial on gift wrapping with material.

  1. Play your cards right

The average Brit sends 18 greetings cards in the run up to Christmas, which adds up to a mountain of waste destined for the bin. It goes without saying that any cards you receive should be recycled (or reused as gift tags), but it would be a whole lot better if they weren’t used in the first place. In this age of social media and email, it’s just as simple – if not more so – to send a festive greeting over the internet. Take the money that you’d normally spend on cards and postage and donate it to charity instead.

  1. Don’t bark up the wrong tree

There’s huge debate around the environmental pros and cons of real Christmas trees versus artificial trees. Ultimately, it comes down to what you’re going to do with it after the festive season. More than 250,000 tonnes of trees are thrown away every January – the majority of these have taken around 10 years to grow. Before you opt for a real tree, be absolutely certain you can make sure it’s recycled. Many local authorities now offer tree recycling services, where trees are shredded into chippings used in parks and schools.

If you’re not certain that you’ll be able to recycle your tree, you could be better off choosing an artificial tree – but only if you intend on reusing it for many years. Studies suggest that you need to use an artificial tree for four years before it becomes a better choice in terms of its carbon footprint. 

  1. Food for thought

Food waste is a mounting problem year-round, and the Christmas period only exacerbates matters. Last year, Brits threw away two million turkeys, five million Christmas puddings, 17 million Brussel sprouts and a whopping 74 million mince pies. Top tip? Only buy what you’re going to eat. It sounds obvious but as a nation we love to ‘stock up for Christmas’ as if the shops will never open again!

Consider how many guests you have coming and make a list of the items you actually need – and then stick to it. Having a clear list will make doing the Christmas shop a lot less stressful, too. And if you do end up with leftovers, use them! Love Food Hate Waste has a great recipe creator that lets you search by ingredient, cooking skill level and even dietary requirement, so there are no excuses!

  1. Present power

Christmas gift giving can be a bit of nightmare. How many times have you opted for the packaging-laden toiletry set for a distant relative because you weren’t really sure what else to go for? How many drawers in your house are home to cheap novelty mugs bestowed upon you by well-meaning colleagues? Christmas is responsible for so much waste largely because we feel like we should be buying, wrapping and giving to anyone and everyone.

But before you rush out to join the throngs of shoppers on the high street, or settle down to an evening of mindlessly clicking things into an online shopping basket, take a moment to think about who you’re buying for and why, and consider the following instead.

  • Create a ‘present pact’ with colleagues or casual acquaintances, whereby no gifts are exchanged, but the money that would have been spent goes towards after work drinks, or to a food bank or other good cause.
  • Christmas advertising encourages us to pick out the perfect surprise gift for our loved ones, but the fact is, we’re not psychic. Ask friends and family what they really want instead of hazarding a guess.
  • Teens and younger people are always going to appreciate gift vouchers for their favourite store – just make sure you go for a digital voucher instead of a plastic card that’ll end up in landfill.
  • Choose experiences rather than stuff ­– what are you more likely to remember in 10 years’ time? A novelty pyjama set and decorative box of bland biscuits, or a fun day out with loved ones?

While it’s true that the festive period is no good for the environment, staying mindful of your waste doesn’t mean putting a stop to celebrations altogether. By making informed choices, planning ahead and reflecting on your beliefs about Christmas consumerism, you can make the very most of the holiday without putting any extra strain on the planet.

We would love to hear your comments and stories about the issues raised in this article:

 

  

Disclaimer

This information is provided for guidance only. Please see the full disclaimer in our terms and conditions.

Every week we bring you a simple idea for reducing your carbon footprint and protecting the planet. This week: how turning appliances off at the wall socket saves energy and money.

Technology and appliances have come a long way in recent times – even the biggest TVs and most feature-laden white goods come with energy efficiency measures built in, which means minimal effort on your part when it comes to managing their energy consumption.

But there’s always room for improvement, and one thing many of us are guilty of is leaving chargers and appliances plugged in when we’re not using them. Even if the device isn’t switched on? – and even if it’s already touted as being energy efficient – it’s still drawing power from the socket. That’s power that’s being wasted – and that you’re paying for!

According to the Energy Saving Trust, households could save £30 per person per year if residents took the time to switch things off at the wall when they weren’t being used. This includes things such as phone chargers, fans, hair styling appliances, TVs and sound systems – there are, of course, some goods and devices which can’t be turned off, such as set-top boxes, routers and fridges.

But it’s no mean feat breaking the habits of a lifetime, and besides, most of our technology and appliances are positioned in such a way as to make turning things off at the wall a complicated exercise in stretching and exasperation! So what can be done?

Embrace the extension lead

Plug related appliances together on a multi-socket adaptor or extension lead, such as the computer and printer, or the TV and DVD player. This way you only have to remember to flick one switch when you’re done using them.

Use a standby saver

Standby savers – also called energy-saving plugs – work with a remote control. The device is plugged in between the appliance and the socket, and with the flick of the remote control button, it blocks power from moving through the socket to the appliance. These are really handy if your plug sockets are tucked away behind furniture, as you only need to access them once to install the saver.

Put your computer into sleep mode

Screen savers do precisely nothing when it comes to saving power – they are simply just another program that needs energy to run. Instead, take the time to figure out how to set an automatic sleep mode for your computer – every 10 or 15 minutes works for most people. And learn how to put your computer into sleep mode manually, too. That way if you know you’ll be away from it for a while you can save power using an easy keyboard shortcut.

Don’t charge your phone overnight

Battery power in mobile phones has come a long way since the early days of those brick-like handsets. Most phones will charge in a matter of hours, while newer models support fast charging that’ll juice them up in even less time, so leaving them plugged in overnight is just a waste of energy.

Be mode mindful

A lot of newer appliances these days come with additional energy-saving features that usually have to be initiated by the user, so it’s worth taking the time to find out if any of your gadgets boast these functions. The Xbox One, for example, guzzles a hefty 11.1 watts when left in its ‘Instant On’ standby mode. Switch it to its energy-saving standby mode and this drops to just 0.3 watts. When you purchase new appliances in the future, look for these kind of features as well as overall energy efficiency performance.

Shutting down standby power makes a small change, but if we all do it then it can add up to a big change – and that’s what’ll make a real difference to climate change and so to all of us.

We would love to hear your comments and stories about the issues raised in this article:

 

  

Disclaimer

This information is provided for guidance only. Please see the full disclaimer in our terms and conditions.

 

Every week we bring you a simple idea for reducing your carbon footprint and protecting the planet. This week: why joining a car share club is good news for your wallet and the planet.

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Toilet paper on roll

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Bee on flower image

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Plastic Free July is a challenge that started in Australia but is now spreading all over the world as we struggle to contain our containers and banish our overwhelming plastic waste. So it’s a great time to pledge against plastic - and what better place to start than with the humble drinking bottle?

'Cool' - family with sparklers

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The High Street and sustainability are not always the most obvious pairing. But while searching out the niche sustainable companies is great, it can be time consuming. Fortunately there are companies on the high street working to bring down their carbon footprint, sort out their supply chains, and work towards making every garment ‘green’. 

Father’s Day is on 16 June - time to let Dad know he’s loved and appreciated. But this year, why not spoil Dad without spoiling the planet? Here’s our rundown of the best eco gifts for Dads in 2019.

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Baby splashing in plastic tub

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Sunflower head

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