Energy consumption by sector
In a country like the UK, as in most other developed countries, around 25-30% of energy is consumed by transportation, and another 30% by domestic use. These are two areas that every individual can influence directly (while having some degree of impact also on the industrial and the service sector).
Below is a list of suggestions that help improve our environmental impact. Many of these points seem obvious, some even trivial. However, it often comes as a surprise to see how many people don't even apply the most simple ones (running the water while brushing teeth is a good example).
This wouldn't be ecowhizz if we didn't underline that electric vehicles provide the most effective means to reduce energy consumption and emissions for those who don't want to live without the comfort of individual transport (i.e., most of us). However, there are many more ways of contributing beyond this:
- For short distances, walk or use your bike - it will help to keep you fit, too
- Use public transport where available
- Use the train instead of the plane wherever feasible
- Sign up to a car sharing scheme
- If you really really need a full-fledged car, make sure it has low emissions: look for small to medium-sized modern diesel cars with particulate filter, or a hybrid electric car
- Use alternative fuels to power your car, e.g. biodiesel, ethanol, compressed natural gas
- Send a letter to your major or government representative asking to make alternative fuels more widely available in your area
- And last but not least: drive an electric car - by far the best option in ecological terms
In the home
Energy used in our homes accounts for around 30% of all carbon emissions in most developed countries. Energy is consumed mostly for heating, cooling and lighting. This provides clues into the major levers for saving it at home:
Heating & Cooling
- Make sure your house is well insulated (double glazing, wall insulation) to minimize heating/cooling requirements -- this can provide savings of up to 70%
- If you own a house, use the most efficient central heating systems available and make sure you have it maintained regularly
- Consider installing a heat pump, which lowers the costs for heating by at least 50% (a heat pump preheats water used for heating by passing it through tubes dug deep into the earth) -- as well as for cooling in the summer
- If you live in an apartment without central heating, refrain from using fans for heating, since they consume a lot of energy and burn oxygen -- use oil radiators instead
- Try to limit the use of air condition to a minimum, as it is extremely electricity hungry (and contributes to the heating of the environment) - turn it off whenever you arr not in the room
- Plant a tree in front of your house. It will provide shadow in the summer and let the sunlight pass in the winter
- Switch to a green energy supplier, which provides you with energy produced by renewable sources such as hydro, wind or solar
- Purchase energy efficient appliances, in particular washing machines and fridges should have an energy efficiency rating of at least "A" (better "A+")
- Use the eco or short wash programme of your washing machine and dishwashers
- Always completely switch off electrical equipment when you don't need it. Make sure you properly unplug it (e.g. through a power plug with a switch); don't just put them into standby mode: many electrical appliances consume a significant amount of energy (up to 50% of standard consumption) when in standby
- Unplug your laptop from the power plug when you don't use it. Continuously charging the battery when it is full is a waste if energy and decreases its lifetime
- Use energy efficient light bulbs: they cost more but last much longer than traditional ones
- Use biologically friendly washing liquids
- Use use less washing liquid than indicated on the instructions - they are usually highly concentrated and using less does the job too.
- Don't brush your teeth with the water running. It absolutely beats me why anyone would let the water running while they brush their teeth for 2-3 minutes before actually using it. This is a complete waste of water and resources (i.e. not only the drinking water but the energy it takes to make and provide it etc.
- Cut back on frequent baths and have showers instead
- Recycle as much as possible of your household trash. Most cities and communities offer recycling bins today and it takes very little effort to make use of them.
- Bring batteries to a battery recycling point. They contain many toxic chemicals and the household trash bin is the wrong place for them. Ideally, use rechargeable batteries
In the supermarket
Here is a list of ideas you might want to keep in mind when buying food:
- Avoid packaging whenever possible; buy loose vegetables and produce
- If you need to package anything and have a choice, paper is better than plastic is better than styrofoam, aluminium and composite packaging
- Buy organic food since it is produced without chemicals and pesticides; Organic farming produces 20% less output but requires 50% less energy than conventional farming (source: Swiss Institute for organic farming, FiBL)
- Try to use a water filter at home and drink tap water, rather than buying bottled water (which accounts for the majority of packaging found in our trash cans; it also consumes a lot of energy during transport)
- Finally, reuse plastic bags for your next shopping trip