Winter is here. As the nights close in and temperatures sink, the desire to hibernate in the warmth of our homes sets in. It’s often assumed that this is the season to bunker down and spend less cash, to recuperate for the heady days of summer. This simply isn’t true: winter is one of the most expensive times of year. As champagne glasses clink and central heating systems go on overdrive, we use more energy and create more waste than at any other point during the year.
The average household produces 30% more waste during Christmas alone. Endless packaging and wrapping paper, radiators turned up high and houses lit up like Christmas trees all have a significant impact on wallets and the environment. This December, 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will end up in the bin, so it’s crucial to make sure it goes in the recycling and not in landfill.
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Being environmentally conscious and weathering winter doesn’t have to be difficult. With a little forward thinking and a firm commitment to reducing waste and saving energy, it is possible to make winter greener.
The easiest place to start is energy saving. Winter is the coldest time of year; it’s better to embrace this instead of cranking up the thermostat to irresponsible levels. Use jumpers, blankets, and slippers to keep you warm and turn down your heating a notch or two. It sounds simple but it’s surprising how many of us prefer to stay in a t-shirt with radiators set to scorching hot.
It’s very important to keep your house light in winter, as the darkness can have an effect on mood. Make the most of natural winter light by placing a few extra mirrors along the floor. Move large lamps and other furniture that may block light away from windows and keep curtains totally pulled back. During the evening, use candles in safe containers as a cheaper, more atmospheric way of lighting your home.
An overreliance on appliances because it’s dark and cold and we feel lazy also costs money. Half-filled dishwashers, for example, use far more energy and water than a fully filled dishwasher. Savings can be made elsewhere: after using the oven, leave the door ajar so that the warm air creeps out and heats your kitchen. Switch off lights, especially decorative ones, overnight to reduce your bills.
A simple check of your heating system can also save you cash. When was the last time you bled your radiators? This is an extremely easy way of increasing the efficiency of your heating system. Buy a radiator key and release air from the top of your radiator to improve thermal output.
Finally, drafts have a huge impact on the base temperature of your home. Start sealing any holes leading to the outside world, meaning cracks under doors, gaps between floorboards and leaky, old windows.
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December is a month of festive abandon, but just because we let our waistlines go doesn’t mean we have to carry the philosophy over to everything else. In the UK alone, we produce 300m tonnes of waste a year. This spikes at Christmas when presents and portions get out of control. Be sensible: if no one eats Christmas pudding, don’t buy one. Unless it’s biodegradable, avoid disposable party gear.
Plastic packaging is a huge problem around Christmas, with food, presents and decorations all coming wrapped in seemingly endless amounts. Prepare for this by creating more space for recycling: some extra bins outside will hold far more and deter you from throwing cans and bottles into the general waste when the recycling is full.
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Once Christmas is done, responsibly dispose of your tree. Most councils in the UK operate a Christmas tree collection service. It’s even possible to keep your tree earthed in a pot and then replant it at the end of the holidays.
New Year Resolutions
At midnight on New Year’s Eve, we make resolutions on how to improve ourselves for the coming months ahead. Channel the desire to change into being greener (which is a reasonable way of improving yourself).
Start by doing the simple things that have been sitting on your to do list for ages: change all light bulbs around the home to energy saving. Doing so will save you £3 a year per light bulb or £45 over the course of the light bulb’s life. Commitments to little things like only buying big water bottles and changing to an eco-kettle are also incredibly easy and positive changes.
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Then, think bigger: invest in double-glazing if you haven’t already. Insulate cavities in walls and your loft; so much energy gets wasted around older homes built before energy saving became a consideration. These changes to your home will mean that your next winter is not only better for you but better for your environment.