Eco-Tips and Projects

Eco-Tips

**UNDER CONSTRUCTION**
Eco-Tips are things you can do in your own home to save CO2, waste, pollutants, pesticides or more positively benefit personally, locally or globally from these ideas. Almost all eco ideas also make financial sense too and this will only improve with rising fuel prices and reducing technology costs. They are graded in terms of benefit and difficulty. Please contact us if you have any more ideas and we will try them ourselves and post them for others to adopt…!

You can scroll through the entire alphabetical listing or click the letter that starts your enquiry (so, for example, for biomass, click ‘b’) to jump to that letter.

The hardest thing to change is human behaviour yet this has the most benefit, whether it is driving your car less and cycling more, or selecting products with less packaging or not cleaning your teeth with a running tap/faucet. We are conditioned by experience into how to behave. It sounds easy to change, but the reality is changing your outlook, your behaviour is the hardest of all. Even the longest journey starts with a single step. Don’t set your sights too high, but keep trying how far you can move yourself.

When the list is more mature (it will never be complete), we will be adding a free downloadable PDF of this page so you can look at it off-line to consider your options!

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z numbers


AAA – Items starting with A
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BBB – Items starting with B

Bicycles – See Cycling

Boiling Water – Reuse boiling water where possible. For instance, we use water from boiled eggs or vegetables to make tea or coffee, or you could for instance use it for washing up. The boiling process kills all bacteria such as salmonella anyway, so there is no risk to health! Heating water takes a huge amount of energy, so if we can get 2 uses from it, all the better. See also Filling your kettle
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 10/10

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CCC – Items starting with Items starting with C

Car Rental – although we advocate driving less in general, there are times when driving can be as efficient as taking the train (i.e.. when it is full). Also, taking a car may be a necessary evil (e.g. transporting heavy samples or files). There are new car rental schemes which allow you to rent a car from a neighbour. It is certainly better than owning your own car as the embodied energy / carbon is less for a shared car as it is shared between the users, it keeps money in your community, reduces the transport miles of collection and delivery. It isn’t 100% green but is far better than owning your own car. Here is a link to a French supplier. (No recommendation is given or implied). – If you know of another one near you let us know so we can update here.

Benefit 7/10 – it still is driving a car, but beats having your own…
Ease of implementation 8/10 – It looks easy… if you try it, let us know how you get on.

Car Sharing – many cars are driven with no passengers and the fuel use and emissions does not increase substantially by adding passengers. However, the emissions and fuel consumption per passenger kilometre substantially decreases. A full and economical car can have lower emissions than a train, you can gain access to special car share lanes in some cities, keep your costs of not just fuel but also maintenance down, share the stress of driving (or make use of the time by for instance reading or making calls or catching up on sleep) and could also have fun by meeting some new great friends. A quick internet search should find you something for your area, but you will need to be a little flexible too in compromising on times! Having tried it, this seems a little uncomfortable at first, but after a week or two, you will wonder why you didn’t do it before.
Benefit 9/10
Ease of implementation 8/10 – takes some organising, but once up and running, works really well.

Ceiling fans (hot climates) – Ceiling fans increase air speed which increases heat loss from perspiration giving the sensation of a cooler environment. They use much less energy than air conditioning units. You can also do things like sleep beneath a damp sheet or wearing a damp t-shirt, where the evaporation substantially helps increase the comfort levels
Benefit 9/10
Ease of implementation 9/10

Chickens – Chickens can be kept in small gardens and upwards and can be fed kitchen vegetable wastes, provide manure for your garden and keep down pests and weeds. They obviously supply eggs and meat with zero food miles and you know they are healthy and without chemicals. They remind us where our food comes from and are actually very funny animals to keep with low requirements (less than say a cat).
Benefit 9/10
Ease of implementation 7/10
(you need some space and some commitment to care).

Cleaning Teeth – A tap (faucet) can typically flow 10 litres (2-3 gallons) per minute, so if you brush your teeth with the tap running for the recommended 2 minutes, 20 litres of drinking quality water are wasted, or 2 buckets brimming with water. A better solution would be to have a cup for cleaning your teeth, fill it with water, brush your teeth with the tap / faucet off. Rinse you mouth with the water from the cup, then rinse the head of the toothbrush in the remaining water and discard. If you do the maths, and there are 4 people in your house cleaning their teeth twice a day, you would have used 160 litres a day, but you could save 158 of these!!!
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 10/10
(you need a cup and a change in behaviour!).

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) – are a direct replacement for standard incandescent light bulbs. They use 70-80% less electricity and therefore emit 70-80% less CO2. They are becoming almost the same price, have a longer life and contribute less to A/C loads in hot climates than incandescent light bulbs (which are being outlawed in many countries anyhow).
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 10/10
(need careful recycling).

Composting – composting all organic waste means that it is not mixed with non-organic waste in land fill. The compost rots down providing a home for animals and provides biomass which can be used to improve the fertility of the soils. Also, the energy used for collecting wastes is reduced. Food scraps, non-plasticised cardboard, egg shells, newspapers, unserviceable cotton clothing (we have fished out polyester hemming threads from cotton jeans after a year of composting), vegetable and garden wastes etc can all be composted. Compost gives off heat and with a little thought, a looped hose can be put in the heap to heat, for instance, a nearby glasshouse.
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 8/10
(needs space for compost heap and land to re-use the compost).

Computers – Although power usage for computers varies by design and usage, laptops are designed to run from batteries and therefore favour efficiency over outright performance. This means they (like for like) use far less energy (some quotes say 50-75% less) than a desktop for the same performance. Laptop consumptions include the built in screen, whereas desktops tend to have one for the base unit and another for the screen. You can also change the settings on most computers to optimise power consumption without hindering performance too much, such as switching off the monitor when idle which also saves energy. Laptops can be impossible to upgrade the processor (although RAM and the hard drive are normally easier). Make sure you specify something that will meet your future needs to ensure you get long service from it. Since computers are often upgraded frequently and you don’t need something absolutely cutting edge, a second hand unit can be great for your wallet and the environment.
Benefit
Laptop over desk top: 10/10 (can be more expensive)
Power saving features: 10/10 (easy to set up, set and forget)
Buying second hand:10/10 (cheaper and less land fill, but make sure you know it’s working!)
Ease of implementation 9/10 (settings can be done now, others need to wait until you buy a PC).

Curtains and blinds – are designed to keep the heat and light in or out, learn to operate them! Daft as it sounds, windows, even good ones, are terrible at stopping heat movement and good at transferring light. If you have the lights on in the day, how about opening the curtains instead? Conversely, shut them at night (or day if you aren’t in) to stop the heat escaping. In hot climates, try shutting them to stop the heat entering which may save on air conditioning requirements. Both strategies improve occupant comfort.
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 9/10
(again, this is free, just need to change YOUR behaviour).

Cycling – is excellent for shorter journeys. Cars are terrible over short distances as they take several miles to warm up where they use more fuel and the catalytic converters are not hot enough to function. Short journey also damage your car more. Cycling is fun and cheap!
In the USA, 50% of all car trips are less than 3 miles. Every mile travelled by bicycle saves approximately half a kilo of CO2. An average car costs $8000 to run annually. 3 hours of cycling per week reduces risk of heart disease and strokes by 50%. Benefit your wallet, the environment, and your health by cycling more often! See People for Bikes for more information
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 9/10
(you need to buy and store a bike, and more importantly use it!).

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DDD – Items starting with Items starting with D

Driving Style – we can substantially reduce our vehicles’ fuel consumption by driving more carefully. Typically this involves driving smoothly with anticipation for signal changes, junctions, merging of traffic etc and moderating speed. Driving at around 60mph (100kph) is normally the best speed for efficient driving and this change will have the most effect on economy – try and hold it steady! Accelerating gently and smoothly rather than gunning engines, uses less fuel. Using uphill off ramps on motor / free-ways to decelerate vehicles rather than powering up the slope and then braking. Use cruise control if fitted as it is generally better than people at providing a smoother response to speed deviations. Also, dont use vehicles for short journeys as not only are they cold, but the catalysts aren’t yet working. Switch off air conditioning if not needed, try opening the sun roof and windows instead at lower speeds. Fast driving at temperature is usually better with these shut and the air conditioning on however. We can save XXX% or more than offset the embedded energy costs of our vehicles over their lifetimes. Remove unwanted clutter that adds to the weight of the car. It takes energy to accelerate mass over and over, so the heavier the car, the more fuel it will use. Make sure your car is well serviced and pay particular attention to the air pressure in the tyres. You can also buy low rolling resistance tyres when they are due to be changed which will also help.
Modern cars can get the benefit of using higher octane fuel (for gasoline) meaning they can extract more energy from each tankful, often outweighing the increased cost. Give it a try!
Finally, if you have an INSTANTANEOUS fuel consumption computer (a lot of modern cars do) switch it on and look at it to learn how to drive your car more efficiently, learn how it responds to your inputs. Over a tank full of fuel, try and beat your last AVERAGE fuel consumption figures! :o) It is probable that you can beat the published figures for your car if you try.
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 9/10
(again, needs a little forethought and practice).
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EEE – Items starting with Items starting with E
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FFF – Items starting with Items starting with F

Filling the kettle with only what you need – Boiling water needs a huge amount of energy and is a secondary energy source, which means higher carbon emissions. If you fill your cup or saucepan with the water you need, then put this in the kettle rather than guessing, you will only use energy to heat the water you need.
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 9/10
(you just need to change your behaviour!)

Flow reducers – Taps and shower heads can use large amounts of water unnecessarily. Flow reducers increase the pressure or aerate the water giving the sensation of more water, when there is in fact less. They can reduce flow rates by XX%. Large amounts of energy are used to clean, process and distribute water, and in many areas it is a scarce resource. Hot water additionally needs heating, so any system which reduces hot water use has a double saving. The parts are easy to fit and cheap. Toilets can also be retrofitted to reduce the flow capacity with bags or by modifying the mechanism to have dual flush.
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 9/10
(cheap and easy to do, some water companies will send a plumber to do this for free, so ask them!)

Freecycle – is a bit like eBay or Craig’s list, but for things that are given away, or recycled, for free, hence Freecycle. Not only is this a great way of getting free stuff or de-cluttering your garage, it avoids perfectly usable things going to landfill and may be a use to someone else. Since there is no payment mechanism, shipping is not really considered so it is divided into local groups for your area so you can go and collect or people can come to you. It is not very well formed in some areas, but the more people sign up and use it, the better it will become. Freecycle
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 7/10
(as it is free, expect some clunky software and to have to do some digging, but well worth it if you turn up results)

Fridges (and freezers) – Fridges typically use more electricity than any other household appliance. The consumption isnt itself that much, but it consumes 24 hours a day, 7 days a week amounting to quite a lot (cycling on and off via a thermostat).  Modern fridges are much more efficient than older ones and in almost all countries have labels giving detailed information. So, when the time comes, shop around an look for the best one!
In terms of operation, every time you open the door, the cold air inside is denser than the warm air outside so it spills out all over the floor. When you shut the door, it has to pump all this heat outside again. Keeping fridges full will over time use less energy and therefore emit less CO2 and cost lest to run as the air exchange is minimised. Some people recommend keeping water in containers in spare spaces in the fridge to stabilise the temperatures. Doing so will use more energy whilst it cools down, but once chilled, the running costs will be less. Try and think about what you need to make your meal and take the ingredients out in one go.
Freezers exhibit the same principles, only more so as the temperature difference is greater. Chest freezers have a door on the top so the chilled air cant get out (since cold air sinks, it would otherwise spill all over the floor) and are (like for like) more efficient.
Another idea to save energy when defrosting would be to put the item in the fridge. The defrosting will be slower, but it will reduce the cooling requirement of the fridge slightly.
Additionally, since fridges are consumers of energy, they actually heat the house (which may go against initial thoughts). Inefficient fridges and or poor usage in hot climates mean that more cooling is required in the house to maintain a comfortable environment – a double climate and wallet cost. Even if heating is required, heating with a primary energy source such as gas will be an overall more efficient process than using your fridge for heating!!!
More Efficient Fridge Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 8/10 If you have to get a new fridge, look for the most efficient one you can find. It may not be worth upgrading your fridge if it already works due to embodied energy.
Improving Fridge Usage Benefit 8/10 – may be a small amount of energy, but is totally free to accomplish
Improving Fridge Usage Ease of Implementation – 10/10 again, needs a change in behaviour.
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GGG – Items starting with Items starting with G

Greenhouses and cloches – effectively cover plants but let the light in still. The energy from the sun heats them and elevates the temperature inside by a few degrees, reduces cold air drafts and reduces pests. These few degrees can be significant in extending the growing season at both the start and end of the year and may even allow you to grow things that would not normally grow in your area. They can be heated to extend the season even further, but making use of renewable energy to produce more delicious home grown food seems like a great idea to us.
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 8-10/10
Cloches can be made from waste material, offcuts of wood or polythene. A greenhouse has more cost and more of a footprint, but will last longer

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HHH – Items starting with Items starting with H
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III – Items starting with Items starting with I
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KKK – Items starting with Items starting with K
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LLL – Items starting with Items starting with L

Lids – putting lids on saucepans means less evaporation, which needs less energy. You can then turn down the gas or electricity to save energy, but still cook in the same time.
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 10/10 Zero or near zero cost, needs a little planning ahead)
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MMM – Items starting with Items starting with M

Mulching – is a protective cover put on the soil to retain moisture and nutrients, slow weed growth, reduce erosion and place ‘waste materials’.
Materials used for mulching could be chipped wood, bark, weeds or even biodegradable materials such as some clothing, or non-plasticised cardboard.
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 10/10 (although it takes a little work, over a fairly short period, the benefits can be seen!)
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NNN – Items starting with Items starting with N
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OOO – Items starting with Items starting with O
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PPP – Items starting with Items starting with P

Packaging – Select items with less packaging when you buy the products you need. Do things need to be in a wrap inside a bag? Select brown paper bags over white ones (they use less bleach which gets into our water). Choose paper bags over plastic ones (they are biodegradable). Reuse your carrier bags, or take your own stronger ‘bags for life’. Buy drinks in returnable bottles. Feedback to the suppliers so they can support change too.
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 9/10 (Zero or near zero cost, needs a little planning ahead)

Plant Pots – Growing plants, particularly food producing plants is a great idea with many benefits: It produces local food with zero transport miles, great tasting and picked at peak times and in season, can be grown without chemicals, can be grown from compost you have produced from your waste, can improve your health by working in the soil, can improve the health of your soil too AND save you money to boot! There is no need however to buy plant pots which add (sooner or later) to land fill. Try using containers such as milk cartons or bottles, cut the tops off and put holes in the bottom for drainage and place the whole thing in a plastic bag and shut with an elastic band. This behaves like a mini-greenhouse and even keeps in the moisture, reducing the need for additional watering and care too. A great use for plastic bottles – remove the labels to allow sunlight through, partially cut the top off, add soil, seeds and moisture, reseal the bottle with sticky tape. Additional water can be added through the top if needed. See photo – happy gardening.
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 10/10 (Great use of old potential land fill and free too!)
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 9/10 (Zero cost but can look a bit trashy if used in prominent places!!!)

Printers and paper – Do you really need to print in the first place? Can you download it to your smart-phone? Can you write the reference number in a diary, or scrap paper?

If you really have to print, try re-using the paper on the back. You can refill print cartridges too which saves on transportation, packaging and money. Eco inks are also becoming available, so keep an eye out for these in the near future. Save the scrap paper for use for notes.

Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 10/10
(Zero or near zero cost, needs a little planning ahead)
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QQQ – Items starting with Items starting with Q
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RRR – Items starting with Items starting with R

Rainwater harvesting – The roofs of many buildings already contain guttering and downpipes which collect the rainwater and guide it away to drainage. You can tap into these pipes and collect the rainwater in tanks and connect the overflow back to the drain. The water collected in these tanks can be used for many applications such as flushing toilets or even simply watering plants. The use of the rainwater in such a way reduces rainwater run off which reduces flooding. It also reduces the drinking water supplied which is often wasted on these applications. Additionally, rainwater is much better for plants and contains far fewer chemicals such as chlorine.
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 8/10.
(storing rainwater for gardens is easy enough, plumbing this into your house to reduce consumption takes a bit more work!)

Reduce consumption – Do you really need it? Write down what you want and wait a set period until you actually buy it. Reduce the clutter in your life, keep things you use regularly or rely on, but don’t upgrade or replace things that you could live without.
Benefit 9/10
Ease of implementation 10/10.

Reduce junk mail – junk mail is unsolicited mail which is targeted at you by marketeers. You can opt out of receiving any such mail which saves both the nuisance and the land fill.
Benefit 9/10
Ease of implementation 10/10
.
Refrigerators see fridges
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SSS – Items starting with Items starting with S
Separating waste – if you put more than one bin in your kitchen, you are able to separate your waste into organic waste (see composting) and maybe newspapers, cardboard, plastics and glass. What you separate depends on your local recycling facilities and what you are able to do on site yourself, such as feeding vegetable waste to chickens or composting.
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 10/10
you can start simply, then get more involved as you get the hang of it!

Solar Food Dryer– Dried food is a great way of preserving without using chemicals or degrading their nutritional value or flavour. Stored dried food (unlike say refrigeration or freezing) does not consume energy continuously. Drying with solar power means that there is no increase in embodied energy (or rather carbon emissions) and furthermore allows the use of seasonal food throughout more (or all) of the year. Solar driers can be made largely from waste building materials if you can source them such as wall studding material and glazing. They usually consist of a glass panel or absorber and mesh shelves to lay out the food to be dried. They are protected from pest attack and easy to load.

All life needs water in order to survive, so removing the water reduces the deterioration which is usually caused by organisms such as mould that feed where there is food and water. Fruits such as tomatoes, apricots, bananas, berries and plums along with vegetables such as carrots, cauliflower, green beans, zuchini and corn are all excellent volunteers! Free article on building and using your own drier here.

Benefit 9/10 Having home grown food all year around is spectacular!
Ease of implementation 8/10 Sourcing material to build this may take time and you will need somewhere to store it when not in use. Building a drier is a challenge / a lot of fun depending on your viewpoint! The PDF in the article should give you all the info you need to get started.

Solar Hot Water – Solar hot water is much cheaper and simpler than photovoltaics and generally provides a much better return on investment. It may need professional installation (although you could do-it-yourself) and you need some south facing roofing in northern hemisphere (and north facing in southern hemisphere). It can also be done using many second-hand parts, such as glazing and plumbing.
Benefit 9/10
Ease of implementation 9/10
if done professionally, but will cost you $$$
Ease of implementation 7/10 DIY – you can make your own panels, but this needs professional / competent installation, but well worth it. You can also make this largely from waste.

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TTT – Items starting with Items starting with T
Thermos cooking – you can use a Thermos flask with boiling water to cook items such as rice, chickpeas, lentils and even vegetables and meat stews. Again, it takes a little planning, but saves a huge amount of energy. Additionally, because the temperature is less and the food is slow cooked, far more of the nutrients survive the cooking process. For more information see here.
Benefit 9/10
Ease of implementation 9/10 (Robust stainless steel flasks last a lifetime and over this time period are very cheap. Clearly they can be used for other things too, such as making yoghurt! It will take some time and practice to get some good results).

Thermostats – are used to control heating of air-conditioning to a target value. If you turn the heating down by 1 degree Centigrade (or up for A/C) you can save 10% of your heating (cooling) costs. However, turning the thermostat up when it is cold will raise the set point, it will not heat your home quicker or help in any way at all. If you were comfortable at 20oC when it was warmer, you should still be comfortable at the same temperature in colder weather. When it is colder, the boiler (heating) will be on more as there is more heat loss to the outside without the need to adjust the set point. Try putting a sweater on instead.
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 10/10
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UUU – Items starting with Items starting with U
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VVV – Items starting with Items starting with V
Vermiculture
Vermiculture is the use of worms to break down vegetable food scraps and organic matter (such as cardboard or newspaper) to make worm casts (kind of worm manure) or compost which is very high in nutrients which are great for the plants. Special worms are used rather than regular earth worms. This can be done in your house or apartment and leaves no smell, needs less space than composting. It is a great project to do with kids too. See a great video here.
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 10/10
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WWW – Items starting with Items starting with W

Washing Clothes – Make sure that washing machines are full to capacity for each wash. Also, modern detergents and clothing are very good at washing at colder temperatures and turning down the temperature saves a large amount of energy. Tumble dryers are huge consumers of energy also. Try and use fresh air to dry clothes for free if possible. If you have to use a tumble dryer (for example, you have no hanging space outdoors) gas fired tumble dryers use a primary energy source so have a smaller carbon footprint.
Benefit 10/10
Ease of implementation 9/10 (Can take a little more work)
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XXX – Items starting with Items starting with X
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YYY – Items starting with Items starting with Y
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ZZZ – Items starting with Items starting with Z
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1,2,3 – Items starting with Items starting with numbers
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