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By Emma Smith

Concerns about the environment and sustainable living have become hot topics. New houses are being built with the environment in mind, with insulation and double glazing becoming more common. For older properties, though, it’s not always easy to implement such changes, financially or practically. Those in rental properties especially can be constrained by what the landlord will agree to have done.

If you’ve been wondering what small steps can reduce your carbon footprint and make a home more eco-friendly, here are some simple changes to start making today.

Only use what you need

Having a sustainable home doesn’t need to cost any money at all. In fact, you can save yourself some dollars by being eco-friendly and only using energy where it’s really needed.

Start remembering to turn the lights off when you leave a room. In spaces where you have multiple lighting options, such as lamps, consider whether or not they all need to be on at the same time. When you boil the kettle, only fill it with what you are actually going to use to conserve both energy and water.

Be efficient

If you have a garden, collect rainwater for the plants rather than turning on the tap.

An easy way to be efficient is simply to turn things off when you are not using them, such as lights when leaving the room or the television when the programme ends. When you do need to use lights, use energy saving bulbs to save up to 50 per cent, according to Homes To Love. There are plenty of options available now. LED bulbs, for example, are good for your energy bills and last longer than some traditional variations.

Lots of electronic products now have eco-friendly, low power options, so don’t replace your old items with the first thing you find. Water-saving faucets and shower heads are now widely available without compromising on pressure.

Re-use and recycle

Whether or not a new item uses energy in the home, plenty will have been used in its production and shipping. Re-homing an unwanted second hand item, cuts your carbon footprint. You can pick up products for little or no cost, on one of the many websites now dedicated to helping sellers pass on their unneeded items. If you can’t find what you are looking for online, try garage sales and second hand shops as well. Of course, this can extend to many items in your home including second hand clothes, reusable water bottles and coffee cups, as well as sourcing locally grown produce.

Minimise drafts

Take a walk around your home and check out where cold air is getting in.

Take a walk around your home and check out where cold air is getting in. Obvious culprits include windows and gaps underneath doors. An open fireplace can be another problem area. Keeping the cold air out can be as simple as draft excluders by the door and well-fitted doors over the fireplace when it is not in use.

For windows, consider DIY plastic film that act like double-glazing. While plastic isn’t good for the environment, depending on the local climate, you might be able to leave them up all year round. If you can’t, some buyers have reported that they have used the same sheets year-on-year by storing them carefully during the warmer months. An alternative is to invest in some thicker curtains for the winter, to keep the warm air on the inside.

Green living

If you need to purify the air or rid certain areas of damp, you don’t always have to increase power usage or invest in chemical products to fix the problem.

Bring plants into your home to purify the air naturally. Certain plants are excellent at cleansing toxins from the air to improve overall quality. Cheap to buy and pretty to look at, plants are a much friendlier option than yet another electronic appliance. Some plants are better purifiers than others, so do a little research before heading to the garden centre.

For damp issues look at options such as using salt to draw moisture out of the air naturally. Some variations can be dried and re-used, while others must be replaced. Just be careful how you dispose of the saltwater, your plants won’t thank you for watering them with it.

Solar power is big news now, but investing in rooftop panels isn’t practical for everyone. There are smaller solar-related steps you can take instead. If you spend time outdoors, follow eco-friendly garden trends by trying solar-powered patio and path lights instead of using the mains power supply. Many mobile phones can be charged via solar-powered charging packs now, so see what else you can switch.

Even if you can’t implement all the suggestions above, start with one or two, and know you are taking steps towards having your own eco-friendly home.

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