By Martin Wiggins
Sustainability and eco-friendliness are becoming more and more important for homeowners. Not only do sustainable projects help you contribute to the environment, they also help cut building and running costs in the long term. With more companies offering sustainable solutions and government regulations becoming more environmentally focused, the time to take on sustainable DIY projects is today.
Everything from simple lifestyle changes to energy efficient upgrades can have profound changes in the sustainability of our way of life. Here are five sustainable DIY projects you can work on today.
The green light
Around 15 per cent of the average UK domestic energy bill is comprised of artificial lighting, with a substantial portion of British homes still using inefficient lighting systems. In fact, The Independent revealed that artificial lighting makes up nearly one-fifth of global electricity consumption, with lighting costs set to rise by 80 per cent over the next two decades.
One way to cut energy costs in the home and lessen carbon consumption is to switch to more efficient lighting systems. Light bulbs, which have been ubiquitous in homes and offices since the 1880s, give off 20 times as much heat as they do light, making your air conditioning units (if you have them) work even harder in warmer climates. In contrast, more modern LEDs are ten times more efficient at converting electricity into light. Simply switching your incandescent lights to LEDs can save you up to £240 a year without any reduction in the amount of light provided.
Another way to cut back on energy and carbon use is to maximise natural light. Windows, carefully positioned mirrors, and reflective surfaces can make a huge difference in lighting up any room. For windowless rooms, you can also opt to install a sun tunnel.
If you have a green thumb, you'll find that there are many ways to live sustainably with home gardening, explains The Huffington Post. For starters, growing your own vegetables, fruit and herbs is a satisfyingly easy way to save money on groceries and transportation to and from the store. The most successful vegetable gardeners plant intensively and keep seasonal conditions in mind.
In addition, gardening is a great way to make the most of biodegradable waste through composting. Dried leaves, coffee grounds, eggshells, and shredded newspaper are all common household waste that can be turned into nutrient-rich fertiliser. What's more, kitchen scraps like celery, potatoes, and garlic can be planted in your garden to create your own produce.
If you don't have a garden yet, a good option is to make a rain garden. These gardens are characterised by plants arranged in a shallow depression. In this way, rain gardens soak up rainwater, reduce erosion, and decrease chances of flooding.
One DIY project that has been growing in popularity is installing underfloor heating systems. These systems, which radiate heat from underneath the floors, are more cost efficient than standard central heating that works by puffing out hot air into the room. The Green Home explains that the running costs for underfloor heating systems can be as low as two-thirds of those in conventional systems, and can lessen energy bills by 15 per cent to 50 per cent, depending on your home.
In addition to these benefits, underfloor heating systems usually come with programmable thermostats that allow you to control room temperature and schedules independently. Screwfix lists a variety of thermostats and heating mats that allow you to customise your heating and when you have the underfloor heating on or off in order to avoid heating empty rooms and wasting energy.
A quarter of heat loss in an average UK home occurs through the roof, making insulated roofs a priority for anyone who wants to cut their electricity and environmental costs. High-quality roof insulation will help your family stay warmer in wintertime and cooler in the summer, without overworking your heating and air-conditioning systems.
Another great way to insulate your roof is to create your very own small-scale green roof. According to an article on Forbes, green roofs create their own micro-climate and absorb rainwater instead of letting them rush down storm drains. All the while, these roofs protect your roofing membrane from the elements and insulate it effectively.
In terms of water use, toilets typically consume more than any other household appliance. This is true across nearly all brands and types of toilets, with some using over 13 litres of water every time you flush.
The good news is you don't have to replace your toilet to reduce toilet water waste, especially if it's not time to change it yet. One way you can do this is to install a dual-flush system that makes the toilet use less water for liquid waste and more water when it's needed for solid waste. These upgrades typically cost around £15, but can save your wallet and the environment a lot more in the long run.
While you're at it, you can also look at installing water-efficient shower heads and faucets.
Article written by Martin Wiggins.