The climate emergency can sometimes feel overwhelming, and the scale of the problem can seem too vast for any of us to be able to make an individual difference. In fact, there are many ways that ordinary people can contribute to combating climate change and creating a more environmentally friendly world. Although the blame is often laid at the feet of large corporations and governments, in the end it is ordinary people like us who are causing the problem, and so it is up to us to help provide the solution.
Reducing our carbon footprint means changing the way that we live, and one of the most important ways that we can do this is by looking at our homes. After all, this is where we spend most of our time, and it is where we have the most influence. A lot of our time and energy goes into improving our homes, and while our personal influence over the sustainability policies of our workplace may be minimal, we have a lot more say over the way that our home impacts on the environment.
A decisive step
If all of the energy and resources that we put into home improvements was focused primarily on reducing our carbon footprint and making our homes more eco-friendly, then collectively we could achieve a major victory. Unfortunately, for many people, improving their home is about making it bigger and consuming more resources. While most of us would like lower energy bills, some of the other methods that we could use to lessen our impact on the planet, such as downsizing or converting our homes to run off biofuels, are less popular.
There are three basic options when it comes to establishing a more eco-friendly home. The first is to oversee the construction of an entirely new home from scratch. While this would enable you to create a property to your exact specifications and so maximise its sustainable and low-carbon properties, this option is not available to everyone. The process is expensive and time-consuming, and new builds, however eco-friendly, are still using up resources when plenty of existing properties are standing empty.
The other options are to make your existing property more eco-friendly, or to move to an existing low-carbon property. You might then work on your new property to further improve its eco credentials. Whether you’re having a new home built, moving to another property or having extensive renovation done, you may need to put your belongings into personal storage for some time, especially if you are going to be living somewhere smaller.
Make it airtight
One of the first principles of an eco-friendly home is insulation. As far as possible, heat generated within the home should not be able to escape, and draughts from outside should not be able to get in. This will, of course, result in less energy being needed for heating. Closely fitted windows – double or triple-glazed – are a must. Cavity insulation can also be added, ideally using a sustainable, natural material such as sheep’s wool.
Choice of materials
If a new property is being built, then the choice of materials can have a huge impact on reducing heat loss and energy demands. The carbon footprint of the materials should also be considered. Are they sustainable? How much energy has been used in manufacturing, transportation and construction on the way to them being a part of your property? You should look all the way back along the supply chain, considering such factors as resource depletion and water consumption.
Whether you’re building a new property or moving to an existing one, at some point your home has displaced a plot of natural ecology. Your aim should be to replace this, sticking as closely to the same plant species as possible. Using plants that are not native to the immediate area will attract different species of insects and could ultimately have a more dramatic impact than leaving well alone. Aim for a mixed garden, and avoid brick, concrete or tarmac on outside surfaces. You might also want to consider greening your roof or outside walls.
Reducing your home’s carbon footprint is an ongoing process. It is not simply a matter of building or moving to a new property and then continuing as before. You must always be looking for ways to use fewer resources and to replace those that you have consumed. Ultimately, this may mean using less space and minimising your household energy consumption. This way, your carbon footprint should stay low with every step you take.