Monday, 2 June 2008

How green are you? - environmentally friendly & energy efficient, or not?

Got tagged for this "environmental" meme by Melinda a couple weeks ago, but as usual I'm behind...

You're supposed to write about the ways in which you're consciously "green", and also the things you know you should do in a more ecologically friendly way but don't. Climate change is a serious issue and it's good to get a prod to think about how each person can make a difference as an individual - it does all add up. So here goes.

Ways I'm green


At home and work both, I print 2 or even 4 pages to one side of a sheet and I also delete superfluous pages (you know, the ones with only one line of copyright info etc on them) before printing, using Fineprint. Good for the environment, sometimes less good for my eyesight! It's fine if I have bright enough lighting, see below...

If the printer allows it, I print doublesided (I recently swapped my home printer for one which prints duplex). I also try to print in economy/draft quality where possible.

Those single sheets of paper at work that just say who printed that job? I print on the other side, or use them for notes.

And of course I recycle paper that can't be reused, both at work and at home.

(I know someone whose father, as a child, would open out used envelopes for paper to draw on, now that's what I call clever conservation!)


I buy locally produced organic food as much as I can, and I often cook, so I know where my food and cooking oil etc have come from (I have to assume shops and suppliers haven't been lying on their labels and greenwashing their products). I'd reuse my cooking oil for my car if I could! (see below).

I'd have an allotment if my council would only stop avoiding their obligation to provide them, like too many UK local authorities are doing.

Waste and recycling

I try to make sure I eat all the food I buy (unlike some friends who freeze it or leave it in the fridge and then forget it till after the "eat by" or, as I think of it, the "die by", date, then chuck it out.) I sometimes eat it even after the die by date, and I'm still here. And if I can't finish what's on my plate, most of the time I'll save it and eat it the next day rather than throw it away and waste it.

I recycle as much as I can, and my little garden patch is just big enough for a compost heap and water butt (even some herbs in pots).

I'm hoping I'll be able to recycle used batteries properly once the UK brings in the Battery Recycling Directive.

I reuse plastic carrier bags (then recycle them when I must), and have several large strong shopping bags.

Computer and peripherals

At work I power down my PC when leaving; I know many people just leave theirs switched on constantly!

I also try to use other energy saving measures for my home computer (see e.g. the short list of computer energy efficiency tips on the Googleblog and a more comprehensive list of power saving & energy reduction ideas) .

I'm keeping an eye on the Climate Savers Computing Initiative started by Google in 2007, and would like to buy a power efficient, Energy Star qualified computer for my next main PC.

My switch to a new home printer, see below, should mean that I'll now leave it switched off most of the time.

Home, and other appliances

I've insulated my loft and put aluminium foil behind my radiators, and have a curtain inside my front door to keep the heat in. I'm good at closing curtains and internal doors to keep the heat in, and turning off lights - sometimes when other people are still in the room or on the stairs, but I don't think anyone's fallen over yet.

I buy adapters (Maplin sometimes have them on sale) which have individual switches for each socket, so that I can turn individual appliances off at the mains when I don't need to use them.

I have a Freeplay windup radio.

I use a Psion, which is much more energy efficient than a laptop or notebook - battery life of 20 hours on a pair of AAs, how can you beat that?


I normally use public transport or walk. I once had a road-legal electric scooter (Citybug) for local travel, till the tyre went.

I'm a homebody and not much for air travel or indeed any travel unless absolutely necessary. So I make very few flights.

I'd run my car on vegetable oil or used chip fat if I could - and if I wouldn't get done for not paying fuel tax on cooking oil! (Don't believe me? Believe the BBC.)


I do blog about green issues e.g. Greenpeace's info on electronics manufacturers' green credentials, and my review of the supposedly eco-friendly Acorn House Restaurant.


I'm seriously considering being freeze dried to become a soil enriching power when I die, it seems a lot more environmentally friendly than cremation or burial.

Ways I'm not green

I admit I'm not as environmentally friendly as I could be.

Computer and peripherals

Too much of my computer gear is permanently plugged in to the mains. Sometimes I put my PC on standby for a few hours instead of powering off because it takes so long to boot, but that's definitely better than leaving it on, not on standby.

I tended to leave my HP inkjet printer on all the time because it insisted on printing a colour test sheet, wasting ink and paper, every single time I switched it on. Their support people were hopeless. I'd rather pay my utility company for extra electricity than pay HP for extra ink, given that HP are the culprit, so I just keep it switched on though I'd rather not. It's also maddening that I can't save my preferred printing defaults - economy, black ink etc - but have to select them afresh each time I print. Again, boo to HP who used to have excellent support, but not anymore, I'm never buying Hewlett-Packard printers again, sorry Nic! Notice the past tense? I've got so fed up I switched printers - NOT HP - so I'll be getting marks on the "turn the printer off" front again, now.


I leave my TV on standby too often because I forget to turn it off or sometimes am too lazy to, if I'm going to be watching TV again later the same day.

I mean to go through my Toppy's timers to ensure that repeats don't get recorded only to be deleted, but I haven't yet.

Low energy bulbs

I've not used low energy bulbs much in the past because they take too long to turn on and aren't bright enough for my eyes. They switch on faster now, but I still don't use them in my main rooms.

Anyone know where to get a globe bulb that's equivalent to a 200W old style bulb? There's a market for them I promise you!

I should use solar chargers but they take too long...

Power sources - micro-generation

I haven't installed micro-generation equipment in my home yet, though I'd really like to.

I'd like a solar panel on the back roof, maybe a wind turbine, and certainly secondary double glazing (clear glass panels that that are invisible from the street), but the government have made it too much hassle, time and cost for those living in Conservation Areas and/or in listed buildings, even though my building is only a Grade II (not even a Grade II starred).

Fer goodness' sake, on the back wall or back roof of the house it's only going to be a couple of neighbours who'd see them, why should I have to ask for permission and pay for the privilege of applying? Since 6 April 2008 it's been easier for people in England to green their buildings under the thrillingly named Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 2008 (more digestible press releases). This lets people install certain domestic microgeneration equipment, including solar PV and solar thermal equipment, heat pumps and biomass generators, in their dwellings without having to get planning permission provided certain criteria are met. But it's not so easy if you're in a listed building or conservation area.

It's completely mad by the way that repair or maintenance work to listed buildings gets charged VAT when work which alters listed buildings (albeit with consent, who knows how well informed, from the local authority) will escape VAT. Way to encourage preservation of historic buildings, not! I know it's good to preserve the appearance of historic buildings but never mind history and my neighbours having an outlook onto a (totally removable) solar panel, we won't have a future if governments don't properly encourage people to be greener.

The Low Carbon Buildings Programme (LCBP) offers grants to encourage the installation both energy-efficiency and microgeneration technologies in buildings, available until June 2010 or till the money runs out. I haven't applied yet as I don't think I've got in place all the prerequisites to be eligible - notably I don't have a room thermostat and haven't swapped all my bulbs to low energy yet, see above. But those who can certainly should (there's some good info on what the grant covers and the application process).

I've not called the UK's free Act on CO2 Advice Line yet to get advice from the Energy Saving Trust, but I will, I will...


I have a car and scooter. I don't use them much, they're for security and peace of mind "just in case", but I still have them. And they're not electric or hybrid.

I did consider a G-Whiz but without my own garage or lots of public electricity recharging points it's just not realistic. (I saw one the other day, cute, awwww, even if a bit ugly.)

I took Google UK's Carbon Footprint test which works out your carbon footprint but I've not got around to implementing all their suggested carbon-reducing actions... (either way though, while I think their Carbon Footprint project is laudable, I absolutely refuse to mark the location of my home on their Carbon Footprint map - I value my privacy plus I don't want to be targeted for my just confessed eco-sins by any eco-terrorists who choose to use "green" as an excuse for violence!). The UK government also have a carbon footprint calculator.

You're it!

And now I tag Steve Lamb (Steve I know you're interested in all this, so details c'mon!), Broadstuff, Open Objects and Frivolous Fragments. (It will be particularly interesting to hear Broadstuff set the scene with "How do you measure greenness anyway?", we had a good chat about that recently.)


Betty said...

I've switched to bioheat and I love it. It's made of heating oil blended with organic materials like soybean oil and avocado. It's kind to the heating system, and the best part about it all is that it's non-toxic and biodegradable. How cool is that? It's definitely my best friend during the winter.

I found out about bioheat through my job here at NORA. I did a bit more research and found out a lot of info from:

Check it out and see what other info it has to offer that may be helpful to you!

Nathan said...

There is a product called the "little gray box" it is a timer for the water heater that you program, to start heating the water about two hours before you would need it. Like 2 hours before you wake up, or two hours before you would take a shower at night. The long and short is that it prevents the water from being heated and cool down and reheated while you are not using it.

There is a fan that is designed to pull all the air out of the house.. like during the summer when the evenings are cool, you crack the windows and turn on the fan. The fan will suck out all of the hot air from the day, and blows it out the attic vents. This lowers the amount of energy used to cool the house.

Zone heating. Set the thermostat on the house at about 63 degrees, put either area heaters in all the areas of the house that are used most (i.e living room, bedrooms and possible dining room) and like ventless fire boxes (for gas ,and oil filled radiant heaters for electric, to heat the room that are in use to 72 degrees or whatever.

Go with radiant heating throughout the house, pipes run along the baseboards of the room and heat the floor and then the furniture and then rises.. Central heating heats the air and then the hot air rises leaving the cool air at your level.