How to make your home more environmentally friendly

An introduction to climate change

Climate change has impacted almost every industry in the world, causing both businesses and individuals to make changes for a sustainable future. With environmental concerns coming to the forefront in recent years, people are starting to make an effort to be more eco-friendly.

Considering the impact you have can benefit not only yourself, but the planet too. Starting at home is as good a place as any. This resource will look at how to improve your home and make it environmentally friendly, both in the short and long term.

Environmental concerns in 2018

Climate change has sped up dramatically in the last 50 years, with global warming accelerating during the last 35. The warmest years on record have taken place since 2010.

Global warming causes melting ice caps and hotter oceans. In fact, the Arctic’s thickest and oldest sea ice is starting to break up as a result of Earth’s rising temperatures.

Sea levels are rising due to melting ice caps. Currently, seas are rising by 3 millimetres a year, but predictions say the rate could more than triple every year by 2100. That puts hundreds of coastal towns, cities and islands around the world at risk of being underwater within the next century.

Alongside these concerns, other changes happening around the world include:

Droughts and heat waves

As the UK has experienced in recent years, heat waves are becoming increasingly common around the world. Temperatures in the summer months are reaching record highs in many countries, with droughts causing water shortages and even deaths.

Air pollution

Smog is causing health issues in many of the world’s major cities, including Los Angeles, Beijing and New Delhi. There’s too much carbon in the air, causing warmer air, pollution and even respiratory issues in the worst affected locations.

A growing population

The number of people on Earth is increasing. With estimations of around 9.8 billion people living on the planet by 2050, natural resources will become strained.

How humans impact climate change

Worldwide eco-friendly practices

It’s likely you’re aware of recent efforts to combat the deteriorating health of the environment. Companies are becoming more conscious of their emissions and how to ensure a sustainable future. Being green is a goal for many major corporations around the world, including:

IKEA is an example of a forward-thinking company, with the Swedish corporation boasting a staggering 700,000 solar panels powering their stores worldwide. IKEA also sources 100% of its cotton from farms meeting the Better Cotton standards, as well as announcing a goal to be powered entirely by renewable energy by 2020.

Another example of a progressively green company is Unilever, the Dutch enterprise which has made sustainability a part of its corporate identity. Its extensive efforts led to Paul Polman, the company’s CEO, being awarded the Champions of the Earth award by the United Nations in 2015.

Although, some countries are considerably better than others at being environmentally friendly. Finland, a country dedicated to creating a carbon-neutral society, is currently the most eco-friendly in the world with an Environmental Performance Index rating of 90.68. The UK isn’t too far behind, at number 12 in the rankings.

Environmental Performance Index:

A system which ranks 180 countries in terms of how environmentally friendly and sustainable they are. It works by quantifying the environmental performance of the countries’ policies.


Environmentally friendly statistics in the UK

The UK is one of the world’s most progressive countries in terms of helping the environment. Massive shifts are happening in every industry to try and tackle the growing issue of climate change, with 2016 (the most recent statistics on record) showing an overall decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in the country.

Quick climate change statistics

3.4mm: the amount that sea levels are currently rising by yearly.


54 million: the number of people at risk of flooding by 2030. That’s up from 21 million currently, according to a study from the World Resources Institute.


2'c: the predicted rise in average global temperature by 2100 if we continue producing greenhouse gases at the current rate.


13.2%: the average amount which the Arctic sea ice coverage is decreasing per decade.

There are areas where improvement is needed – especially in homes. In 2016, households were the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, accounting for one quarter of the country’s emissions. But it’s not just our homes. The ONS also states that greenhouse gas emissions have increased in the transport sector by 7% over the past few years, despite a steady decline between 2005 and 2013.

With electric cars, congestion charges and a transition to more renewable energy happening within the UK’s transport industry, a conscious effort to reduce these emissions is evident.

The benefits of going environmentally friendly

How it benefits your health

Introducing practices in your home that are good for the planet can also help your health.

Getting rid of things at home that could be causing harmful emissions will eliminate any toxic fumes. Volatile organic compounds (or VOCs) are a common issue with many household items, from paint to furniture, with these toxins causing:

Irritation in the eyes & throat

Alternatives are now becoming more readily available, including mould and mildew resistant materials – two more common issues in the home that can have serious effects on your health.

By doing your best to replace these substances, also often found in many cleaning products, you’ll stop VOCs from affecting both your health and the planet.

Added benefits of eco-friendly living come as a result of natural lighting, improved air quality and a healthy indoor environment. You’ll feel more relaxed and comfortable.

How it'll save you money

It may not come as a surprise, but going eco-friendly in your home will save you money.

Here are some of the most significant areas to save:

Being eco-friendly has more perks than simply benefitting the Earth. Your wallet will thank you for it, too.

A lower carbon footprint

Carbon footprint:

The total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).


Reducing your carbon footprint is something many people are becoming conscious of. There are plenty of ways to do so by changing things in your life that you may not even realise are harmful to the environment:

Reduce how much meat you eat

Not only is a balanced vegetarian/vegan diet better for your health than a meat-based one, as studies have shown, but agribusiness emissions are actually five times higher than that of fossil fuels. To get a single pound of beef, it takes 5,000 gallons of water – a massive contributor to water scarcity around the world. Reduce the demand for beef and other meat, and you’ll help these numbers dwindle.

Do business with companies that care about the environment

Many companies around the world are making a conscious effort to be more green, introducing eco-friendly practices within their businesses in order to ensure sustainability for the future. Choosing these companies over less environmentally-friendly competitors will reduce your carbon footprint.

Make the switch to an electric car

Electric cars are becoming much more common on our roads, as manufacturers look to produce more eco-friendly vehicles. The government offers plug-in grants for certain cars, in order to reduce the price you pay for your chosen model.

Why should I care about reducing my cabon footprint?

Reducing your carbon footprint will positively affect the lives of people across the Earth. With climate change damaging agriculture and growth of crops in many parts of the world due to droughts and global warming, hunger is a tangible threat. Many undeveloped parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean are currently suffering. Droughts also reduce access to safe water, and the heat allows illnesses such as malaria to spread due to mosquitoes being able to survive in places that were previously too cool for them.

You’re part of a bigger picture – being eco-friendly contributes to creating a sustainable future for those after you.

Think about the long term effects if nothing is done:

The Arctic Ocean is predicted to become ice-free by 2050. Ice caps and sheets are melting as a result of global warming, and water levels are set to rise dramatically once the Arctic’s ice melts completely.

Hurricanes will become more powerful. As seen just last year, Hurricane Maria completely devastated Dominica and Puerto Rico during the worst natural disaster on record for the region. Global warming means future hurricanes are likely to be even more powerful, with the potential to devastate countries worldwide.

Precipitation patterns will change. Some locations will see more rain and others will see less – but, combined with the rising sea levels, flooding will become more severe and certain locations could be permanently underwater in the near future.

Of course, predictions about our future vary. Stephen Hawking famously declared we realistically only have 100 years left on the planet, urging us to relocate and become a multi-planetary species – but by thinking about the above events, it should be concerning enough to spur change at home.

How to introduce environmentally friendly practices

A lower carbon footprint

Water usage is one of the areas where many homes could improve. Whether you leave taps running while brushing your teeth, wash up with the hot water constantly flowing or run full baths frequently, wasting water is a common issue for many homeowners.

Thankfully, there are many ways to introduce an eco-friendly approach to water usage in your home:

Swap baths for showers

A bath may be tempting when you want to relax, but it’ll cost you a lot more than a shower – and it’s also a lot worse for the environment. According to the Energy Saving Trust, you could save £40 a year on your gas and water bills if a family of four switches from having regular baths to taking 5-minute showers.

Replace your shower head

Replacing your shower head with an efficient one will use a lot less water. The Energy Saving Trust claim you could save nearly £200 a year by doing this.

Swap baths for showers

Putting on half a load at a time will still use the same amount of water as if you simply waited to fill them up. Many people are guilty of doing a quick wash of a couple of items, but it’s wasteful.

There are plenty of devices you can purchase that will help you conserve water in your home, but the biggest change can come from simply being mindful of how much you’re using. Cut down on your water usage to make a massive change to your bills.

Assessing your energy efficiency throughout your home

Appliances can drain energy and cause your bills to skyrocket. That’s also the case if you’ve gotten into bad habits, such as leaving lights on when you’re not in a room, keeping electrical devices plugged in and turned on, and leaving the television on all day even if you’re not watching it.

Homes in the UK have consistently been the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases over recent years. Although manufacturers are generally taking big steps to ensure their products are energy-efficient, you can help cut bills and reduce your energy usage:

  • Avoid leaving your electrical appliances on standby. It may seem as if they’re fully switched off, but leaving appliances on standby uses up more energy than you’d imagine. Turning things off and unplugging them could save you around £30 per year.
  • Opt for energy efficient lighting. Lighting accounts for 15% of the average home’s energy bill every year – quite a big portion, especially if you’re yet to switch to a cheaper and more efficient solution. Choose LED bulbs instead of traditional light bulbs to cut down on your energy bills, while also reducing emissions from your home. Of course, it also helps to remember to turn your lights off when leaving a room, and dimming them when you can.
  • Get smart meters to keep track of your energy efficiency. Smart meters will be offered to everyone in the country by 2020, but it pays to get ahead. By replacing your traditional meters with smart meters, you’ll be able to better keep track of your emissions and see where you’re using too much energy in real-time. It’s a precise way to cut back and strive towards a more eco-friendly living environment.
  • Efficient water management. Measuring your water usage is, as discussed, a key factor of being eco-friendly. Features such as low-flush plumbing are becoming the norm in new builds, cutting costs of future bills. Recycling water within the home is also becoming increasingly common, reducing the emissions of bigger filtration facilities. Composting toilets are another popular choice, evolving from a concept into a viable alternative within any household.

Heating and insulating your home

Fuel costs are continuing to rise, and with heating and hot water making up over half of the average household’s fuel bills every year, finding efficient ways to heat your home is crucial.

Central heating is the most common system within homes in the UK, but it’s also one of the least efficient – especially if your system is old. It’s one of the biggest emitters of energy, and can be costly. Those costs can further increase if your home isn’t insulated very well.

A lack of insulation leads to people turning their heating up, especially during the colder months. That leads to more carbo dioxide emissions, as well as higher energy bills every year. Although most boilers installed in homes since the mid-2000s have been designed with efficiency in mind, there are a number of ways to heat your home whilst remaining eco-friendly:

Consider replacing your boiler for a more efficient model

Depending on the age of your system, there may be newer alternatives to opt for. And although the price of replacing your boiler may put you off, you could save over £500 every year by doing so – as well as cutting down dramatically on your carbon dioxide emissions.

Take steps to insulate your home

Insulating your roof and loft is one of the most effective ways to cut costs and reduce emissions. As heat rises, insulation will keep it in and allow it to circulate around the home, reducing the need for heating. Insulation could save you almost £300 on your energy bills a year.

  • Cavity wall insulation is also on the rise, as a home loses 35% of its heat on average through its walls. Newer homes often have cavity wall insulation installed during construction, but should you live in an older house, this is a cost-effective way to keep your home warm and your emissions low.
  • Triple glazing is also becoming the standard for new homes due to how efficient the technology is at keeping heat in. If you think it’s time to replace your windows, triple glazing is the best choice for sustainability.

Install heating controls

Instead of simply turning your heating on and leaving it to warm your home, smart heating controls can be controlled from your phone.These adjust temperatures easily, so you’re only using the energy you actually need. It’s one of the most effective ways to reduce your carbon dioxide emissions, as well as save money – and you don’t need a new boiler in order to get smart heating controls.

Making the most of government schemes

In an effort to promote being eco-friendly, the government offer incentives to urge people to make improvements at home.
There are 3 main schemes that provide funds for the installation of certain products, or simply pay those who opt-in as a thank you for their efforts.

  • The Green Deal. This scheme pays those who are actively trying to conserve energy in their homes through features such as insulation, double glazing windows and efficient heating systems. A finance plan is provided to help make these changes affordable.
  • Feed-in tariffs. The government offers feed-in tariffs if you’re generating your own electricity at home. This could be by installing solar panels, wind turbines or using hydropower to generate electricity. The government will assess how efficient your home has effectively become, and they’ll pay you for any excess power you’re generating.
  • Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). You’re already aware of how important making changes to your heating arrangements is, but the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive will pay you for using renewable methods of heating, such as solar thermal panels and biomass boilers.

These schemes will reward you for making a conscious effort to be more eco-friendly at home.

Waste and recycling

Recycling has become the norm for many people in the UK. With kerbside recycling introduced in the country fifteen years ago, people often don’t think twice about disposing of their rubbish in one of these bins. But there’s still some improvements to be made, as there’s a lot of confusion about how to recycle correctly.

Under 50% of UK residents are frequently recycling. That’s below the rate set by the EU as a default to try and achieve. Although the rate has risen by over 15% in the last ten years, there’s still plenty of room to make recycling the norm throughout the country.

But why should we be recycling? It may seem like a menial thing in your day-to-day life, but the effects of waste disposal are widespread and considerably harmful to the environment. Not only does recycling help to conserve our dwindling natural resources, including the world’s trees and forests, but it also saves energy by reducing the need for mining, extracting raw materials and producing new products from scratch. It also means less of our waste ends up in landfills, which pollute the air and cause an impact on biodiversity.

Here are just a few ways to make recycling more straightforward.

  • Know the symbols. Recyclenow have published a handy guide detailing what each recycling symbol and diagram means. It’ll help to eliminate confusion when it comes to determining how to dispose of certain products – you can’t just throw everything into one bin and be done with it.
  • Avoid buying products with black plastic packaging.
    Manufacturers are making changes currently in order to avoid this issue, but black plastic is frequently undetectable by sorting machines, which means it isn’t recycled and is instead sent to landfills. Try and stick to purchasing products with clear or white plastic packaging when possible.
  • Be considerate with how you recycle
    Rinse things off before you dispose of them. A lot of recycled materials end up in landfills because people haven’t cleaned or prepared them for recycling.

Other eco-friendly practices to consider

There are some quick fixes to make around the home that’ll get you on your way to living a more eco-friendly lifestyle. A small change here and there could make a difference.

  • Have your food shop delivered to you. The more people opting to do a food shop online, the less cars heading to the supermarket and producing harmful gases. Try and reduce how often you use your car.
  • Grow your own food. As an alternative to food shopping, why not grow your own food at home? Not only will growing fruit and vegetables save you a considerable amount of money, but you’ll be cutting down your carbon footprint both by reducing emissions and absorbing carbon dioxide.
  • Support local businesses. By shopping locally, you’ll be reducing the demand for products flown in from overseas or long distances.
  • Use eco-friendly cleaning products around the home. Many cleaning products contain harmful VOCs, which are bad for the environment as well as your health. Using eco-friendly alternatives will reduce the toxins and fumes spreading throughout your house.
  • Watch what you’re putting on your body. A lot of personal hygiene products are incredibly harmful for the environment, in particular microbeads which are found in a large majority of exfoliating products. Try and choose organic, eco-friendly products – chances are they’re much better for you, anyway.

Is your home environmentally friendly? A checklist

How to check if your home is environmentally friendly

  • Do you use your own shopping bags? Reuse them instead of buying new ones every time in order to reduce the demand for them.
  • Turn down the temperature on your washing machine. Most detergents work just as well on much lower temperatures.
  • Wait until you have a full load of washing before doing a wash.
  • Dry your clothes outside or on a clothes horse instead of using a tumble dryer.
  • Fix any leaking pipes around the house to save water.
  • Buy locally grown or sourced foods – or grow your own. It reduces the emissions from long-distance produce.
  • Remember to unplug appliances when you’re not using them. Leaving them on standby is still a massive waste of energy.
  • Keep your showers short and sweet. Try and time yourself and keep it under five minutes.
  • Use some reusable cloth rags instead of paper towels.
  • Turn off the light every time you leave a room.
  • Make sure you turn off the tap whilst you brush your teeth.
  • Try to eat less meat in your diet – have one meatless meal a week, for example.

These tips will help you examine just how environmentally-friendly your home is. Making big changes by being eco-friendly will create positive results in many areas, from your emissions to your expenditure – pay close attention to how they’re changing.

Making the transition to becoming environmentally friendly is something many people should start exploring. With the statistics for climate change suggesting the planet is changing quicker than anyone had previously anticipated, now’s the time to make some changes in your own home.