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7 ways to help change climate change - it all starts at home

By Celia Topping Monday 09 November 2020

Father and son in kitchen

The climate crisis. It’s a pretty daunting challenge, and it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. But it’s not only politicians, world leaders, and businesses who can do something. The good news is, by working as one, we can all make a difference – and it all starts at home! Join us and millions of other people in the fight against climate change and let’s cut our collective carbon footprint together. 

First off, let’s clarify what we mean by the term ‘carbon footprint’. Yours is made up of all the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) you produce while going about your daily life. Boiling a kettle, taking a shower, shopping online, or cooking your dinner. It all adds up. But by making modest changes, you can reduce emissions, save money, and help stop global warming. Sound good? Read on.

1. It starts at home - cut that energy use!

A staggering 28% of every person’s carbon emissions come from the energy they use at home1. So when you’re looking to make a big impact, there’s no better place to get started than home sweet home. 

  • Turn your thermostat down by just one degree and you could save yourself £60 a year

  • The biggest kitchen carbon culprit is right there, guiltily churning away in the corner: your tumble dryer. Air drying cuts around 90kg of carbon. That’s the equivalent of driving 519km in a diesel car2!

  • Idling appliances like TVs and laptops are costing you around £35 a year. Simply switch them off at the wall. 

  • A great green alternative to your boiler is a heat pump. Take part in OVO’s zero carbon heating trial to get one installed for free, and reduce that carbon by up to 36%3

  • Low-energy lightbulbs use 90% less energy than regular ones, and they last 10 times longer. Win-win! 

  • Watch your water: fill a kettle with only as much as you need. Make sure your dishwasher and washing machine are full before you click that ‘eco mode’ button.

  • Also, did you know that the government is offering up to £5,000 in vouchers to make energy-saving improvements? Make insulating your loft or double-glazing your windows a reality with their Green Homes Grant scheme. You could save £600 a year in bills, as well as helping to save the planet4. Not bad, eh?!

  • Be loud and proud about your energy-saving triumphs! Use your smart meter In-Home Display (IHD) and online account to track your savings and post your results on our Forum

2. Remember the 4 Rs: refuse, reduce, re-use, recycle

Ok, so you’ve been recycling for years and that’s great – but there’s so much more you can do, just by being mindful of the 4 R’s around the home.

  • REFUSE single-use plastic. It’s the enemy of our oceans, and its manufacture significantly harms our planet. Buy and refill (there’s another R!) a reusable cup/bottle/flask/lunchbox, and help stop plastic pollution.
  • REDUCE water waste in your home by taking shorter showers (using an eco-friendly shower head), and turn the tap off while you’re brushing your teeth. Choose unpackaged items while shopping online and let brands know their packaging is unwanted.
  • RE-USE those plastic pots and bags. Your local Repair Cafe can save you money on getting everything from your bike to your blender fixed cheaply, instead of buying new.
  • RECYCLE pretty much anything you can’t re-use. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so look up the freecycling options in your area. If it’s really unlovable, off to the recycling plant it goes.

3. You are what you eat

Middle-aged woman eating at home

The food you choose  to cook plays a crucial role when trying to reduce your carbon footprint. Here’s why:

  • Merely eating less red meat makes a mind-boggling difference. Planning a takeaway? You can eat 6 portions of fish n’chips or 9 falafel pittas for the equivalent emissions generated by a single cheeseburger (though maybe not all in one go!).  

  • And as if all those emissions aren’t bad enough, it’s shocking to learn that UK homes waste 4.5m tonnes of food a year. How can we combat that? Make a food plan, and only buy and cook what you need. Try pickling, preserving, freezing, or composting what you don’t eat.

  • Plant-based milks cause less environmental damage than cow’s milk. So why not choose rice, oat, or almond milk next time?

  • Buying locally-sourced food seasonally will help you reduce emissions from transportation, preservation, and refrigeration. Plus it just tastes better! Why not order a locally-sourced veg box from someone like Abel & Cole?

  • Get inspired for Meat-free Monday by BBC Earth host Max La Manna, and his delicious #moreplantslesswaste recipe ideas. Like the no-waste broccoli stem pesto pasta he cooked up for us. 

4. Be a wardrobe warrior against fast fashion

The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions per year, not to mention being the second-largest polluter of water. But there are ways to look good and still be eco-conscious:

  • Swap, don’t shop. An appalling 350,000 tonnes of clothing goes into landfill every year5. By swapping with friends, using a clothing subscription service, and recycling and repairing, together we can significantly reduce this methane-causing damage.

  • With devotees from Kate Moss to Amal Clooney, wearing vintage and second-hand fashion is cool. Get hunting online for designer treasures at a fraction of the price.

  • Sustainable fashion brands are getting better and more desirable than ever. Some of the trendiest trainers on the street are made from recycled plastic bottles. If you’re going to buy new, buy sustainably.

grandma and grandon hugging

5. Kick-start a climate conversation

As one person alone, you can only do so much. But raising your voice as a consumer, a voter, and an active citizen puts pressure on politicians to take note and take action:

  • Contact your MP about the issues you’re passionate about – be it green spaces or cycle lanes. Have a conversation that could lead to real change. 

  • Search for a climate action group to join. Uniting with like-minded, motivated people can have a big impact. 

  • Share your ideas with family and friends – it doesn’t have to be preachy! Avoid blaming and shaming and you may find a kindred spirit who’s also keen to get involved.

6. Green-ify your money

Your bank invests money on your behalf. Do you want them to put your money into carbon-polluting industries? Thought not! Here’s what you can do:

  • Find out where your money goes by contacting your bank directly. If you don’t like what you hear, ask if you can opt out of funds investing in fossil fuel.

  • Pension power! Moving your money to a more sustainable fund can have more impact on reducing your carbon footprint than giving up flying and becoming a vegan put together!

  • Choose an ethical bank that focuses on socially responsible investment and has a positive impact on our world.

7. Join OVO and cut your carbon footprint

We offer 100% renewable electricity as standard6 and plant a tree every year in your name. So, just by joining, you’ll be restoring nature and cutting carbon – about 1 tonne of it a year! And with OVO Beyond, our green upgrade, you can go even further with:

  • 100% carbon-neutral energy7 to power your home

  • Energy Spotlights: tips to cut energy waste and bills

  • 5 trees planted each year in UK schools and communities

  • Carbon-offsetting projects that protect natural habitats around the world

  • 8 Tiny Forests planted through the OVO Foundation's partner, Earthwatch Europe. That’s like covering 8 tennis courts with over 600 trees, each. Bringing biodiversity, better air quality, and wellbeing to the UK’s urban spaces.

You can also use our Carbon Tracker to understand and monitor your carbon emissions. Get a new carbon target and discover clever ways to hit it. Zero carbon, here we come!

Fighting the climate crisis is a colossal task – but together, following these small steps, we can make a big difference. Join OVO today.

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Sources and references

1 -  Based on analysis carried out by the Carbon Trust for OVO Group (2020), 28% of an average individual’s carbon footprint in the UK comes from energy. In this analysis, the carbon footprint includes the following lifestyle categories: energy, transport, shopping, food and drink and holidays. This carbon footprint data has been calculated using BEIS 2020 emission factors. This excludes emissions from things that the average person cannot directly control such as supporting the NHS, defence, government bodies, etc. Please note these figures are not reflective of potential changes to your habits during the coronavirus pandemic.

2 -  The average diesel car emits 0.17336 kg carbon per km driven (based on BEIS emission factor). 4500kg (or 4.5t) divided by 0.17336 = 25,957.545km.

3 - Replacing a gas boiler with a heat pump can reduce home energy carbon emissions by approximately 36%. This is based on the average UK household’s energy use in a year. Emissions factors were sourced from BEIS (the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy). The coefficient of performance for the heat pump used in this trial was 2.8.

4 - https://www.gov.uk/government/news/quality-assurance-at-heart-of-new-2-billion-green-homes-grants

5 -  https://www.wrap.org.uk/content/clothing-waste-prevention

6 - The renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on REGO certificates and how these work.  

7 - By providing 100% carbon-neutral gas (15% green gas and 85% offset) and offsetting all associated lifecycle carbon emissions involved in the production and consumption of your electricity & gas, OVO Beyond reduces your yearly carbon emissions from the energy used in your home that's supplied by OVO to net zero. The green gas we sell is backed via renewable certificates (Renewable Gas Guarantees of Origin (RGGOs)). See here for details on Renewable Gas Guarantees of Origin and how these work. We offset the remaining emissions by supporting UN REDD+  carbon reduction projects that are certified to the Verified Carbon Standard.

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