Welcome to the 2nd edition of the Everyday Eco series, tracking down ways to reduce our impact on the environment without breaking the bank.
This week: saving energy
While adding the words 'sustainable' or 'eco-friendly' to products frequently has a similar effect to adding the word 'wedding' to the words 'cake', 'dress' and even 'breakfast' (£££!), sometimes the very act of reducing our impact can have the delightful double win of reducing our living costs at the same time.
Take energy for example. It's hard to avoid the current media frenzy around the exponential rising of all of our bills, and while there's a whole - justifiable - political discussion around unfair profits and government responsibilities, the reality is that many of us will have to find ways to reduce consumption to make ends meet. It will be a time of struggle on an individual level, but it should have some benefits on a global scale.
While the current crisis is putting unforgivable pressure on the portions of society that are already in difficulty, we are seeing some behavioural shifts that could have positive results for all in the near future. We're becoming (by necessity) much less wasteful, more aware of the energy we're using and where it comes from. More people are turning to renewable energy than ever before - investments in solar and wind power options have soared, as their costs, previously considered far too high, are now moving closer to being comparable with their traditional alternatives. And the great news? The more people turn to these solutions, the more the prices for them will reduce, thus attracting yet more customers, in a very positive loop. Someday soon, we may free ourselves from the hostage situation fossil fuels have forced us into, replacing them with clean, affordable renewable energy.
About our stuff
Our suppliers are all doing their best to reduce their energy usage wherever possible, whether it's through incorporation of recycled materials in their products, re-use of packaging or their wind-powered warehouses.
Our chosen printing and embroidery processes are powered by 100% renewable energy and 100% carbon neutral gas, and our own energy (for design, order processing etc) is supplied by Octopus Energy who provide 100% renewable energy as standard.
We've all spent the past few years learning how to be more energy efficient, from turning off the TV at the plug to hanging washing out on the line to dry instead of popping it in the dryer. We might be at the point that we can't really think of any other ways to cut back, particularly without taking it too far and affecting our day-to-day quality of life. But maybe there are still some quick wins to be had.
Some quick wins
You'll be familiar with many of these options, but here's a list of a few easy, cost-free ways to save energy and therefore money:
We talked last time about reducing the temperature of your wash - along with protecting your clothing and reducing microfibre shed, keeping your wash temperature somewhere between 15°C and 30°C is ideal to get it clean while saving energy. This, plus reducing the number of washes done each week, can save around £28 per year (same for the dishwasher!).
By now we're probably all turning off lights when we leave a room, but it turns out 'vampire' tech like kettles and toasters should also be turned off, each saving around £30 annually. At FLC HQ we also now switch off our washing machine, dryer, coffee machine, hob, printer, lamps that have a separate 'on' switch, plus phone and laptop chargers. Other drains include exercise equipment, alarm clocks and games consoles, with TVs being the biggest culprit and costing around 98% of UK households an average £132.86 per year.
Speaking of kettles, not overfilling the kettle could save you around £30 a year, and things like batch cooking and making sure you make the most of the oven while it's on will help you cut back too. Other ideas include:
Microwaving meals instead of baking when it's an option,
Cooking in a slow cooker, or in a toaster where relevant (e.g. for potato waffles) instead of the oven,
Ensuring ovens are up to temperature before putting food in, as otherwise you'll just end up having to cook the food for longer,
Turning the oven off 5-10 minutes before the end of the cooking time - ovens hold the heat really well, so your food should keep cooking until done,
Checking your oven temperature - they're not particularly accurate, so if it's hotter than it should be you can adjust accordingly, and if it's cooler you'll know to increase the temperature to save you having the oven on for longer to finish cooking.
While we can't turn off fridges and freezers for obvious reasons, keeping them clean and set to the correct temperature ensures they work as efficiently as possible.
Reducing your heating by just 1° could save you up to 10% on your bill, and repositioning your thermostat (if it's a free-standing one) could help to balance your heating to focus on the areas you use the most. Closing doors to unused rooms will save the energy to heat them (unless you have an HVAC system, in which case constant airflow is recommended), particularly stopping heat from downstairs from rising to upstairs rooms if not needed there.
Moving from having a bath to having a shower saves energy, and reducing shower time down to 4 minutes could save you up to £70 a year. Reducing the number of showers would of course save you even more - dry shampoo is a lifesaver!
This suggestion may be controversial, but after reading that washing hands with hot water is no cleaner than with cold, as the water will never be hot enough to actually kill any bacteria - it's the soap you use that does that - we now wash our hands with cold water. To be fair, often the water would take so long to heat up that it would still be cold when washing anyway, but now we're saving the energy associated with trying to heat it up, and have noticed an improvement in our energy bills as a result. Furthermore, warm water can irritate the skin and affect its protective layer, actually causing it to be less resistant to bacteria! The skin on my hands tends to crack in the cold weather, and I've noticed that washing in cold water has significantly improved this.
Some bigger wins
It looks as though moving to a 100% renewable energy supplier may not only be beneficial to the environment, but also more predictable in terms of long-term pricing, as energy prices from fossil fuels continue to rise. Other potentially bigger wins may include a bit of investment, such as:
Insulating your walls, loft and/or hot water cylinder,
Hanging curtains on windows,
Replacing single-glazed windows with double or triple glazed,
Unsurprisingly, most households use the majority of their energy between 6pm and 8pm each evening, presumably in meal preparation, lighting, but most significantly through watching TV. Most of us now not only have a TV, but the sound system to go with it, and the box to let us stream whatever we want, and the gaming consoles for when we're done watching TV.
This winter, in the FLC household we're going to have a couple of evenings a week where we go old school: play some board games, read, maybe even actually speak to each other! We'll see how long it lasts, but it could be a game changer. We'll keep you posted.
FLC in the long term
We'll regularly be checking up on our suppliers to track their progress in reducing their energy usage, and as we grow (🤞) we'll be looking to keep our own energy use to an absolute minimum, and always from renewable sources.
Business growth shouldn't be to the detriment of the environment around us, and our aim is to have a greater positive impact the bigger we get. Careful selection of products and processes will be key, and we're always open to new ideas and suggestions!
So, which of the above energy saving tips do you already use? Do you have any others that you'd like to share? Comment below, or send us a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and you could feature in our next issue!
Thanks for reading :)
Founder, Falling Leaf Clothing