What can you do to make a difference?
Tackling the climate crisis may seem overwhelming, but we can all make small changes to our daily habits. Over time, our collective green habits add up to make a big difference. The simple changes we make often save us money and improve our health, as well as helping the environment.
Have a think about your habits and where you might be able to make changes. Try using an online tool like this one from the World Wildlife Fund to calculate your carbon footprint, and help you identify changes you can make.
There are free apps available, that you can use to track your green habits, and receive suggestions for simple green changes that fit in with your lifestyle.
Rising costs are making things difficult for many people. For information about support available to help with the cost of energy, food, and other essential items, visit the cost of living section of Council’s website.
Energy is essential for our modern lifestyles, we use it to heat and light our homes, cook our food, and power our work and entertainment devices. The cost of energy is a growing concern for us all, so simple changes we make to reduce our energy usage will help to save us money. Energy supply and consumption is a large contributor to the greenhouse gasses we emit, reducing our usage will reduce our emissions. The tips below can help you to reduce your energy usage.
- Turn off lights when you are not using them – remember to switch lights off when you leave a room, remind your family members or house mates to do the same
- Turn off devices when you are not using them – devices left on standby, and chargers left plugged in consume energy even when they are not in use, this is called vampire power. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that UK households could save around £40 per year by switching devices off at the plug. Games consoles and devices with LED displays consume the most energy in standby mode, kitchen appliances like microwaves, dishwashers and washing machines also contribute
- Draft-proof your home – this is a cost-effective way of keeping your home warm and comfortable, and saving money on your energy bills. You may be eligible for a Home Upgrade Grant to support with the cost of draft-proofing. Remember it’s important for our health to allow proper ventilation in our homes, by opening windows and ensuring that extractors and air bricks are not blocked up
- Insulate your home – measures like cavity wall insulation and loft insulation can help to make our homes warmer and more energy efficient. You may be eligible for a Home Upgrade Grant to support with the cost of insulation. Find out what improvements could help to save energy in a property you own on the government website. Find out what help may be available to help with energy costs and heating your home
- Wear layers – layer up clothing on cooler days and evenings to avoid over-using your heating, several thinner layers are more effective at keeping you warm than one thick one. You lose lots of heat from your feet, so add a pair of slippers to keep yourself snug
- Take 4-minute showers – The Energy Saving Trust estimates that reducing the average shower time in the UK to 4 minutes could save you up to £115 on your energy bill per year, and for metered properties £100 on your water bill. If you take cooler showers, the savings will be even bigger
- Make your kitchen greener – storing and cooking our food accounts for lots of the energy used in our homes. Simple things like using the most efficient cooking methods, batch cooking, covering pots and pans, and only boiling as much water as you need, will reduce energy usage. The Energy Saving Trust estimated that drying clothes outdoors, or on a clothes horse could reduce your energy bill by up to £35. Check out their tips for saving energy in the kitchen
- Use a smart meter to monitor your energy consumption – this can help you to see where you can reduce your usage. If you don’t have a smart meter, contact your energy provider, who may install one free of charge
- Use off-peak energy – if your energy tariff has peak and off-peak energy usage periods, try to use your devices and appliances during the off-peak times – this will save you money and is often better for the environment. Be mindful that you should not run appliances with a high wattage, or motor, such as a washing machine, or dishwasher overnight or whilst you are out, as they are a fire risk
- Wash clothes at a lower temperature – washing machines use lots of energy to heat water, by reducing the temperature, you can reduce your energy use. For everyday washing, a colder temperature will be suitable, although you may need higher temperatures for heavily soiled or stained items. Research from consumer group Which? found that changing from 40 degrees to 20 degrees reduced running costs by an average of 62%, and switching from 40 degrees to 30 degrees reduced energy consumption by 38%
- Use energy efficient appliances – the difference in energy consumption can be significant between the most and least efficient appliances, so using efficient appliances can add up to significant cost savings over the year
- Put foil behind radiators – this reflects heat back in to the room
- Close blinds and curtains at night – this keeps the heat in the room and stops it from escaping through gaps in the windows
- Move any items or furniture blocking heat sources – when heat sources are covered or blocked, it prevents them from heating the air in the room, which means you need to use more energy to heat the space – this is why you should use a clothes airer to dry clothes indoors instead of putting clothes on the radiator
- Use green energy, where possible – some energy providers offer energy from 100% renewable sources, switch to one of these providers if you can, to reduce your carbon footprint
- Keep appliances clean and up to date with servicing to maintain their efficiency – appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and fridge-freezers work more efficiently when they are clean. Cleaning filters and door seals, and defrosting freezers will save energy. Boilers should be serviced regularly to maintain efficiency and ensure their safety
- Replace light bulbs with LED or lower emission equivalents – swapping a single 100w incandescent bulb to an LED equivalent could save you up to £7 in energy costs per year. Replacing all the bulbs in your home with LED equivalents could reduce your Carbon Dioxide emissions by up to 40kg per year – that’s about the same level of emissions as a 140-mile car journey. Take a look at The Carbon Trust’s helpful guide to energy efficient lighting to find out more
- Aim to heat your house to between 18 degrees and 20 degrees – heating the average UK household generated 2,745kg of carbon dioxide in 2017 – a fully grown white rhinoceros weighs less! Data from U-Switch.com suggests that households that usually heat their homes to over 20 degrees could reduce their energy bills by up to £80 per year by turning their heating down by 1 degree. As a country we need to change the way our homes are heated to use more sustainable sources of heat than gas or oil. Check out the Carbon Trust’s helpful guide to heating your home
- Look into installing renewable energy such as solar panels, or heat pumps – you may be able to get a loan through the Government’s Green Deal to help you pay for this, or you may be eligible for a Home Upgrade Grant.
Contact the Council’s Warm and Well service – for advice and support with keeping your home warmPut
UK households produced 27 million tonnes of waste in 2020 and only recycled 44% of it. It’s estimated we could recycle up to 80% of household waste. Recycling our waste protects natural resources, ecosystems, and wildlife, saves energy, and reduces our carbon footprint.
- Always follow the three R’s – REDUCE the amount of waste you produce by consuming less and using sustainable items, REUSE items as much as possible and pass unwanted items on to others that can reuse them, RECYCLE as much of your waste as possible. Remember to check it before you chuck it, when recycling waste items – food containers must be thoroughly cleaned before recycling to avoid contamination. Find out more about recycling in Redcar & Cleveland
- Carry a reusable drinks bottle – this will save you money and reduce single use plastic consumption. The Refill app shows you places nearby where you can have your water bottle refilled for free
- Sell or donate unwanted items – many items that are unwanted have plenty of use left in them, list them on selling, or free pages, give them to family, friends, or a local community group or charity
- Switch to reusable products – consider where you are using disposable items like drinking straws, cutlery, wipes, tissues, and food packaging. Try to make swaps for reusable items
- Bag it and bin it – keep a bag with you on days out, so you can take your rubbish home and recycle it
- Carry reusable shopping bags with you – you won’t need to buy a bag when buying items from a shop, and you’ll be protecting natural resources
- Make less waste – think about areas where you produce waste, and ask yourself whether it is necessary, or could be done differently, like using an electronic calendar instead of a paper diary
- Invest in rechargeable batteries – each rechargeable battery can be recharged up to 10,000 times, which saves 10,000 batteries from landfill, saves energy and natural resources (by producing fewer batteries), and saves you money
- Always dispose of batteries and electrical items safely and responsibly – collect used batteries in a container and dispose of them safely, by taking them to supermarkets, Council buildings, or Dunsdale Tip. The Council has set up WEEE Banks across the borough, so you can dispose of small electrical items free of charge, find your local WEEE Bank
Water usage accounts for 6% of all carbon dioxide emissions in the UK, 11% relates to pumping and treating the water in the sewage system, and a whopping 89% is produced by heating water. Using less water will save you money on your water bills and energy bills. There are lots of simple steps to reduce your water consumption and associated costs.
- Use showers instead of baths – showers use significantly less water and less energy
- Take the 4-minute shower challenge – this will save you money on your energy and water bills and reduce the amount of water you are consuming. Head over to Northumrian Water to claim your free shower timer.
- Turn the tap off when brushing your teeth – running the water wastes water
- Fill a bottle with tap water and put it in the fridge to cool – this reduces water usage by not running the tap for a long time for the water to cool down
- Use unused water from your water bottle to water your plants – this keeps your plants happy and reduces your water usage
- Install a water butt to collect rainwater to water your garden – this uses significantly less water than a sprinkler or hose
- Take cooler showers – this reduces the energy used to heat the water
- Use cold water for washing hands – soap and cold water are just as effective for washing hands as warm water
- Wash your clothes on a cooler cycle, and only use the washing machine when you have a full load – this will reduce water and energy consumption
- Only use the dishwasher when there is a full load – this reduces energy and water usage
- Use a basin in the sink when washing pots by hand – this reduces the amount of water used
- Use a basin in the sink to wash fruit and veg – the left-over water can be used to water plants
- If you use a condenser tumble dryer, the water collected can be used to water plants – reducing water consumption
- Fix any leaky taps and check for leaking in pipes in your home – leaks can waste lots of water, cost you money, and cause damage to your property
- Use water saving devices – these can help you to reduce your water consumption. Claim your free water saving kit from Northumbrian Water
As a major user of energy and fuel, the transport sector is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the UK, accounting for 24% of all emissions in 2020. Transport also causes noise and air pollution, which can significantly impact our health and quality of life and disrupt ecosystems. As individuals, we can make small changes towards more sustainable transport.
- Walk, cycle, scoot, or skate – active methods of transport will save you money and improve your physical and mental health, they also help to reduce your carbon footprint, reduce noise, and air pollution, and reduce traffic congestion
- Use public transport, instead of driving or getting a lift – if active transport is not practical for your journey, hop on the bus or train. Try hailing the Tees Flex on-demand bus service directly from your smartphone.
- Share journeys – carshare with friends, family, or colleagues when a car is needed.
- Find ways to reduce your need to travel – try home working if possible, use email, phone calls, and video calls to stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues
- Consider an electric or hybrid vehicle if you need to have a car – the Government has some guidance to address common misconceptions about electric vehicles
- Avoid flying – flying is the most carbon intensive mode of transport, always choose an alternative where possible
Wasting food is bad for our finances and bad for the environment. One third of the food produced for human consumption globally ends up as food waste, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN. In the UK, we produce more food waste than any other country in Europe. UK households throw away 6.6 million tonnes of food each year, most of this could have been eaten.
As well as the financial costs, the production, transportation, storage, preparation, and disposal of food, uses precious water, fuel, energy, and land resources. Did you know it takes 100 buckets of water to produce one loaf of bread? When we waste food, we are wasting resources. The area of land needed to produce the food UK households throw away each year is estimated to be 19,000 square kilometres, that’s more than 77 times the size of Redcar & Cleveland. We could save 36 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, by saving food waste from being thrown away in our household bins and going to landfill.
There are simple steps we can take to reduce the amount of food we waste and save money.
- Make a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly meal plan, including snacks – remember to use up ingredients you have in your fridge and cupboards. Include meals where ingredients can be used for more than one meal, so you don’t buy too much. Get the whole family involved, so everyone has meals they will enjoy, and you can teach your family budgeting and meal planning skills
- Look up recipes for low cost, healthy meals, that include ingredients that you have in the house – there are lots of free recipes online, Cooking on a Bootstrap is a good example, that shows you the cost per portion
- Only buy what you need – this sounds obvious, but we are often tempted by bigger pack sizes and multi-buy offers in the supermarket. Unless you will use the bigger, or extra pack before it’s use by date; or have space to freeze it, it’s best to avoid buying it
- Store your food properly – storing food in the right way will make it last longer and taste better. Check out this helpful guide from WRAP (Waste and Recycling Action Programme) for tips on the best way to store foods, including some surprising items that can be frozen to avoid wasting them
- Know the difference between best before and use by dates – use by dates show when a product is not safe to eat, you should not eat, cook, or freeze a product past it’s use by date. The best before date relates to the quality of the product, rather than the safety
- Batch cook or freeze food that’s about to go past it’s use by date – be aware of the use by dates of the items in your fridge and cupboards. If an item is about to go past it’s use by date, you can either freeze it, or use it to make future meals that can be frozen and ready for a quick meal one evening
- Use your leftovers – cool any leftovers quickly and store them in the fridge or freezer, for a delicious lunch the next day, or transform them into another meal – there’s some great recipes on the WRAP site for using up leftovers
- Donate surplus food to a local food bank, or community grocery – if you have extra food that you can’t eat, or freeze before it passes it’s use by date, you can take it to a local food bank, or community grocery and it can be used by someone else, and saved from landfill
- Use community groceries to grab a bargain and help reduce food waste – community groceries work to reduce food waste, by taking food products that are short coded and selling them at significantly reduced prices, to divert food from waste. The product range is wide and includes fresh fruit and veg, baked goods, cupboard staples, freezer items and more. Visit your local community grocery to see what they have available
- Check out apps like Too Good to Go and Olio to help to reduce food waste and save money – the apps show reduced price groceries and meals available from food businesses in your local area, that can be collected the same day
- Shop for reduced price items in your local supermarket – find out what time your local supermarket reduces the price of short-coded items, and pop along to see what is available
- Adopt a more plant-based diet – animal agriculture has a huge impact on the environment, from land usage, deforestation, and habitat loss to water usage and water pollution. The Committee on Climate Change estimated that a 20% reduction in beef, lamb, and dairy production alone, would help the UK to cut its greenhouse emissions to almost zero by 2050. Find out more and see how your diet choices stack up in this helpful article from the United Nations
- Compost your vegetable peelings at home – if you have space you can help to stop some food waste going to landfill by composting at home, then use the compost in your garden
- Buy locally grown, seasonal produce – this reduces the energy and fuel used to grow and transport the food to your plate, reducing carbon emissions. Check the labels in the supermarket to see how far your food has travelled
- Grow you own – you’ll be surprised how little space you need to grow some vegetables. Growing from seed is a great way to save money, especially if you choose vegetables that are expensive to buy in the shops. There’s lots of information and videos online about thrifty growing in small spaces. It’s a great way to connect with nature and teach kids about where food comes from. When you grow your own, you know there are no harmful pesticides on your food, and you can even repurpose old items into planters
- Check out the Love Food Hate Waste campaign – this is a national campaign to reduce the amount of food waste sent to landfill, you will find lots of helpful information on their website
The fashion industry accounts for 8-10% of global greenhouse emissions, and 20% of the worlds clean water is used in the textile manufacturing process. Did you know, it takes 3,781 litres of water to make one pair of jeans? There are lots of creative ways you can save money and reduce your impact on the environment, where your wardrobe is concerned. See if you could introduce any of the suggestions below.
- Buy second-hand/vintage, rather than new – look for local charity shops, local selling pages, selling apps, and clothing banks in your area
- Use clothing swap-shops or weigh-ins – trade in your unwanted items of clothing for a new-to-you wardrobe at a local event, and meet other like-minded people
- Sell or donate unwanted items – use apps, or local selling pages to sell your unwanted items. Alternatively, donate items to local clothing banks or charities
- Make do and mend – learn to repair damaged items of clothing, rather than replacing them. Perhaps a friend or relative could teach you, or you could watch some online tutorials, or join a local community group to learn these skills
- Upcycle clothes – get creative and update your existing wardrobe at home, creating unique garments. You could join a local or online community for inspiration, and skills sharing
- When buying new items, consider the materials and processes used in clothing production, and shop sustainably – research the sustainability credentials of the company, including how their materials and products are manufactured. Beware of greenwashing – when a company or brand makes false or misleading claims about the sustainability of its products or practices
- When something is too worn to sell or donate, repurpose it into another item – could your old jeans become an energy saving draft excluder, or your old shirt become a re-useable tote bag? Could you use the materials for fun craft activities with the kids? Old towels, muslin cloths and T-shirts make excellent cleaning cloths
- Buy natural materials, where possible – synthetic fabrics release microplastics when they are washed, which cause pollution to our oceans and endanger marine wildlife
- Take a packed lunch from home – this will save you lots of money, reduce waste, and can be a much healthier option than buying take away food
- Choose non-physical media – using e-books, audio books, music and movie streaming services, and online news outlets reduces the use of natural resources
- Share books – use libraries, pass books on, or exchange them with family and friends when you’ve read them
- Choose sustainable gift options – avoid plastic gifts, and plastic wrapped gifts; choose sustainable and recyclable gift wrap, tape, and greetings cards; reuse gift bags; avoid shiny and glittery gift wrap and greetings cards that can’t be recycled; send an e-card; consider gifting a sustainable item, or an experience