Belfast - If we had the money, most of us would love to knock down our draughty, poor insulated homes and commission a new, more eco-friendly, one. But then again, that wouldn't be very sustainable. Instead, the best approach is to take small steps to make our current homes more efficient, and improve our knowledge on energy efficiency along the way. This all may sound rather boring, and you may have heard it all before, but it can save us those much-needed pennies in the long run.
Remember, don't set yourself huge tasks; start with lifestyle changes and work up to the bigger, costlier projects.
Here's just a few top tips to inspire you to go green.
Sort out your appliances
Light bulbs and domestic appliances are a simple and easy place to start - most of us now replace bulbs with energy efficient ones as they stop working. There's a great range of attractive models now, even dimmable ones, so you won't have to compromise on style and functionality.
It's also a good idea to take a look at appliances or gadgets you leave on standby and start turning them off at night. The average Brit wastes between six and 10 percent of their electricity bill a year to keep gadgets unnecessarily blinking on standby.
Also think about investing in wind-up or solar chargers for mobile phones and MP3 players - they're ideal as these gadgets only need a couple of hours to fully charge.
Lock in the heat
Think about how well your home is protected from extreme heat and cold. If you fix rattling windows, insulate or double-glaze them, block gaps around ill-fitting doors and block up unused chimneys, you'll stop precious heat from escaping in winter and keep your home cool in summer, too.
Lagging hot water tanks and pipes and insulating loft spaces also helps.
Waste less water
In Australia, good toilet practice is to follow the mantra of 'if it's yellow, let it mellow...if it's brown, flush it down'. While you may not want to take matters that far, we each waste a staggering 150 litres of water daily, and the toilets's one of the key water wasters. Either get a dual-flush loo or simply stick a full plastic water bottle in your cistern so it uses less water per flush.
Be appliance savvy
If you are still using an old boiler, washing machine or fridge freezer, chances are they won't be energy efficient. However, you also have to weigh up the implications of emissions created in manufacturing a new model. While appliances are working well, it's best to get them regularly maintained and use them as efficiently as possible, but if they're really past it, invest in an A-rated, energy efficient model.
If you're ready for bigger projects, energy generation is the next step. Solar panels and wind turbines can generate enough energy for all your own needs. Photovoltaic (PV) cells convert sunlight directly into electricity, and even on a cloudy day you should get enough for baths and washing up.
Get squeaky clean
There are lots of small changes you can make to the way you clean to reduce your family's impact on the planet. Look for eco-friendly cleaning agents that use of natural ingredients, such as citrus oils and non-ionic surfactants. Make an even bigger impact by buying in bulk. Avoid using harsh bleaches and de-scalers by pre-empting limescale build-up with magnetic devices you pop into the cistern or clamp on the cold water in-pipe. - Belfast Telegraph