Sustainability Tips For Winter
One of the biggest challenges we face during winter is keeping our energy consumption down and our carbon footprint low because the nature of the season means that it is colder and darker which results in the heating being turned on more, lights staying on for longer and people wanting to use their car more rather than walk.
The time of year and change in season doesn't have to mean that the environment suffers as there are many ways for you to continue to live sustainably even with all the obstacles that winter brings with it.
Limit how long your heating is on
January is often the coldest time of year with temperatures dropping to subzero most nights and ice a common occurrence in the mornings. Consequently, many of us find ourselves switching on the thermostat as soon as we wake up and keeping it on for many hours throughout the day, especially if we are working from home.
This has a huge negative impact on the environment because of the harmful emissions that are released every time the heating is switched on. To put this into perspective, an ordinary small, terraced house with a well-insulated loft and a modern gas-fired boiler will produce around 2.75 tonnes of planet-warming greenhouse gases a year – the same amount as driving 11,770 miles in an average car or flying 11 round trips to and from Rome.
In order to reduce the harm being caused to the planet – and cut your energy costs – you should make a conscious effort to limit the amount of time your heating is on each day.
The best way to do this is to set it on a timer so when you turn it on it switches itself off after an hour, for example, or to set it to turn on and off at specific times limiting to your usage to, let's say, 3-4 hours each day.
When it does get cold, you can also look for alternative methods of keeping warm whilst you're in the house such as having a hot drink or wearing more layers and thick socks.
Also consider assessing the insulation in your home to find areas where heat might be escaping and cold air may be getting in such as gaps around doors and poorly fitted windows.
Turn on the lights only when needed, and remember to turn them off too
Winter also means that the days are a lot shorter because it gets dark earlier in the day and stays dark until later in the morning. As a result, you find yourself needing to turn on the lights in your home whilst you're getting ready for work in the morning and long before it is even time for tea. This could mean that there are lights on in your home for anywhere between 4 – 8 hours longer a day when compared to spring or summer.
When we no longer have any natural light available to us (which is already limited during the day in winter), it can be harmful to our eye health not to get access to substantial light so turning on the lights is almost unavoidable.
However, there are some changes you can make in your home to make it more eco-friendly such as installing LED lights or investing in oil lamps that do not require any electricity.
You should also make a conscious effort to turn off all lights whenever you leave a room to keep your energy consumption a little lower. Even when you are cooking dinner, for example, and leave the kitchen for twenty minutes whilst the food simmers, if there is no one in the room who needs light then it can be turned off until you return to it.
Keep car journeys to a minimum
With the low temperatures and unpredictable weather, people are far less likely to opt to walk their children to school or cycle to work if they have the ability to jump in their warm, dry car instead.
Although this is understandable on an extremely cold and wet day, car journeys should still be kept to a minimum whenever possible, especially when being used for short trips.
If you do find yourself using your car more during the winter, then look at ways in which you can still keep your carbon footprint down. For example, offer to carpool on your commute to school or work so that there are fewer cars on the road, or be more conscious of how you are driving as reducing your speed and smoother acceleration can result in less carbon emissions.
Though this is not a viable option for everyone, if your budget allows and you find yourself driving a substantial amount every day, then it could be worth investing in a greener car. It could also end up saving you a lot of money on petrol and the many Clean Air Zones that have been introduced around London, Birmingham and many other parts of the UK.
Stay off the electronics, even if it is cold outside
Furthermore, the winter weather and seasonal affective disorder means that people stay indoors a lot more rather than going out to socialise or entertain themselves. This results in more time being spent watching TV, playing video games or using laptops – all activities that require electricity and consume a lot of energy.
Be mindful of how long are using these electronics on a day to day basis by monitoring your time and sticking to a strict limit such as only two hours of TV a day or only allowing yourself to play video games one evening a week.
You can also look for other things to do that don't require electricity at all; read a book, invite friends over to play board games or do a puzzle, do some baking or arts and crafts. There are so many other options and you may even pick up a new skill or two.
A new season doesn't mean you need new clothes
Finally, as the seasons change we feel pressure, or the urge, to invest in new items of clothing to prepare for the change in weather and the plans we have for the upcoming months. But before you go on a spree and make the most of the January sales, consider whether you actually need a new wardrobe, just a few key items or nothing at all.
Maybe your favourite jumper from last winter is no longer in fashion but you can do some DIY work to create something new, or your go-to pair of jeans might be a little loose around the waist but that is something that can be fixed with a needle and thread.
There is usually a way to revamp or rework your clothes from the previous year so that you don't find yourself buying a plethora of new items and falling into the trap of overconsumption.
This doesn't mean you can't treat yourself to a new coat or pair of boots but the key is to only get what you need and keep your purchases to a limit.