With kids I'm finding myself more and more mindful of how we, as a family, are impacting the environment. It's hard to put these thoughts into practice, but Curbed put together a good set of things to help you live more sustainably.
As with anything, some ideas are more achievable than others. Some struck a chord, because we're already doing these things, and others seem like low hanging fruit that we should do sooner, rather than later.
Things we do to help the environment
#1: Hang dry your clothes
This is easy and something we've done for years. Even when we had access to a dryer we never used it and it's habit for us. Definitely an easier task in the summer than in the winter, but it's never been an impossible thing to do.
#2: Change to LED light bulbs
I've been on the LED bandwagon for years now. It's a no brainer when the energy draw is a fraction of the alternatives. Being able to choose the temperature is a nice feature (neutral is my favourite) and then of course you can now get plenty of smart bulbs too. We've gone with Philips Hue bulbs and they've helped us to save energy in a different way.
When we were out for the whole day, we'd often leave at least one light on all day so that we had enough light when we got back, but with smart lighting, we can control when it comes on and for how long.
#4: Use a programmable thermostat
We went with the Nest thermostat and I love it. It's made our energy usage smarter and we no longer have to leave the heating on all day to make sure we return to a warm house. Turn it off when we go and fire it up when we're on our way back. To be honest, we don't do that enough and there are some quirks where it can stop heating up when no-one is home (we had to turn that feature off), but the ability is there.
#7: Utility company renewable energy
For us, it turned out to be cheaper to go with an energy company that used renewables, but when I was switching suppliers it was something I took into consideration.
#18. Weatherproof that window
As part of our ongoing renovations, we ended up fitting new windows throughout the house and the change was noticeable instantly. Our house returns more heat than before and even though we currently have fewer heaters than before, the house heats up just fine. A pricey, but worthwhile investment.
#56: Go electric (car)
I've been driving a hybrid car for just over 6 years now and I doubt I'll go back to a fossil fuel only car. I'm a big fan of Tesla, but hybrids from Mercedes and BMW appeal to me more at the moment.
When it comes time to upgrade, I'll be looking at hybrids as a minimum, but if I can go electric, I will.
#62: Rechargeable batteries
We go through batteries thanks to all the toys, remotes and wireless accessories around the house. Being able to recharge and reuse is great but what you really want to look out for are high capacity batteries. You can find 2800mAh batteries on Amazon. These will last for ages, we get at least double the usage out of our start remotes with these and those annoyingly noisy toys go on and on.
#68: Buy new appliances with the energy star label
Again, in the process of renovating, we went for integrated appliances and rather than going for cheapest we went for the best in performance and efficiency. We actually paid an extra £10 and got a freezer that wasn't just more efficient but had more space too.
#83: Bring your own shopping bags
It costs 5p per bag, here in UK so bringing your own bags to the shops is almost second nature now. It's estimated that 15 billion bags have been removed from circulation and the fee could double very soon. I have not issue with the cost and think it should apply everywhere in the UK, not just to larger businesses.
Things we could do to help the environment
#5: Stop lining your trash can
Trash cans get dirty quickly, but what we really need to do is to take better care of our food waste. This is probably the hardest change we could make but its something we should look at moving further up the list.
#14: Keep tabs on the energy your devices are using
I've seen a few conflicting bits of information on energy monitors. Around 10 years ago, I took part in a pilot scheme to test an energy monitor and it was really interesting to see what you could turn off to save energy. But the novelty wears off. As part of our smart home though, I am looking to see what could be connected to a smart outlet to help tackle usage. Night lights and baby monitors are prime candidates but we may not have much use for them soon (I hope).
#17: Install solar panels
I'd love to do this, but initial investigations show we're badly positioned to benefit enough from installing them. Any contribution they make would of course be a good thing, but financially they wouldn't work for us just yet.
#19: In the winter, turn the heating down
I'm happy to wear a t-shirt all year round, but the rest of the family are not. This was a real problem for us, but with our smart thermostat and new windows, it will be interesting to see how much better our energy consumption is during this winter.
#53: Walk more
100% something we should do as a family. Over this past year, we've taken way more bus trips than we ever have as a family. In fact, I reckon we've taken more trips in the past year than we had in the previous 5.
I try to walk around 25km a week while at work so that I get exercise away from my desk, but commuting to work isn't a realistic option with school drop offs and pickups to take care of.
As our kids get older, I'm hoping we'll make use of public transport for trips to the town centre at least.
#72: Don't use one day shipping
Annoyingly, this past few months we've really relied on next day shipping to get items just i time to be installed. Up until about a year ago, Amazon incentivised slower shipping and it's an option I used loads, building up credit for digital items.
Once the house work is done, I'll definitely look at taking this option more often.
#82: Recycle better
While I'd love to be the perfect recycler, it's very hard to do. So many products come wrapped in plastic but it's hard to tell when they can or can't be recycled without studying the packaging. Not something we always have the time to do. I've taken more notice recently, but more pressure and responsibility needs to be put onto manufacturers. No packaging should be un-recyclable today.
#89: Elect candidates with good climate plans
West democracy is under the wrong leadership at the moment. Climate sceptics, Brexit and poor investment across the board mean we're not really in a position to make choices like this at the moment. Right now, my focus is on voting for the party that will genuinely give my children a better future by keeping the rights they already have rather than looking to strip them away.
Pre-2016 I'd have happily put this onto my list of things to consider and post-2019 I'll happily look at the candidates that have better green credentials and plans for a sustainable planet.
#94: Talk about climate change
NPR recently put out a podcast that discussed talking to kids about climate change and it was an interesting listen. It took me a few weeks to get around to listening to it but I'm glad I did and I've had one conversation with my daughter about climate change. It was easy too because she's been learning about the life cycle of a tree.
I'll be talking to her about it more, my son is a few years away from being able to get involved, but he's already able to determine right from wrong pretty accurately so maybe I'll get him involved too.
What are you doing?
Take a look at the list of items Curbed put together and have a think about what you are and aren't doing to live more sustainably.
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