The Giveaway Part 4: Tips for a healthier, greener home.

I embarked on this eco-conscious series on my blog a month ago as a way to try and kickstart some conversations about how we can all work towards reducing our environmental impact.

As a landscape photographer I have a deep love of the land, and with every passing year the bond I have with nature grows stronger. It's for that reason that I'm working towards making my own photography business zero waste, but I'm not stopping there. In every aspect of life, I'm trying to reduce the burden I place on the Earth. Of course, it's a process, and I'm not 100% there yet.

That said, this year I've made more changes than ever before and I truly feel momentum building, not just for me, but for so many others taking responsibility for their environmental impact. This collective awakening is truly inspiring, and it shows that we individuals really can have a meaningful impact.

I decided to run a giveaway alongside this series in a bid to spread the word as far and wide in my little corner of the internet and social media. I've been delighted by the feedback I've received so far, and it's confirmed to me that there's a lot of energy out there to make positive, eco conscious changes.

I wrote more in depth about my reasons for starting this series in week one, followed by changes you can make in your consumer choices in week two and lifestyle changes for a sustainable life in week three. This week I'm focusing on six changes you can make in your home to reduce your house's environmental impact.

Bring the outside in

Of course, it all starts with nature. At this time of year we're naturally thinking about bringing more green into our home in the form of a Christmas tree, but extend that thinking to the whole year. Bringing nature into your home not only cleans the air, but it can also serve as a daily reminder to live mindfully and eco-consciously. If you're lucky enough to have any outdoor space of your own, then plant some bee friendly plants in the garden or in containers on a patio or balcony.

Switch to a renewable energy provider

One of the biggest changes you can make is switching to a green energy provider. We recently switched to Engie, but there are more companies bringing green tariffs to market. I personally chose Engie because not only are their tariffs all 100% renewable energy, but their company ethos is pretty solid too. Other 100% green energy providers in the UK are Good Energy, Ecotricity and Bulb.

From the research I did before switching to Engie, many of these renewable energy companies are also pushing the envelope when it comes to ethical practices by investing in carbon neutral infrastructure and community outreach (although you should definitely do a little digging if ethical practices are important to you). You can feel pretty good about your home's energy if you know the profits are going towards expanding the renewables sector and investing ethically, rather than simply lining the pockets of executives.

Batten down the hatches for Winter

It's still vital to use energy saving appliances and be sensible about heating and lighting your home, even if you use a green energy provider. I live in an Edwardian terrace, and boy can it get cold in the winter. When we moved in during the February of 2017 we really felt the brunt of how poorly equipped the house was when it came to keeping warm. Before winter arrived we took care of some of the big jobs, like reroofing the single storey extension that had a couple of missing tiles and very poor insulation, and reglazing a bathroom window that had been inexplicably fitted with a large (and broken) in-window vent that was allowing warm air to pour out of the house.

Before this winter arrived, I set about further battening down the hatches by upgrading the curtains to have thermal lining, adding thermally insulating roller blinds to the kitchen window and French door, insulating the attic space, and excluding drafts under the front door. I'm about to install radiator reflectors to bounce warmth back into the rooms, which will recover 95% of heat that would otherwise be lost through the walls.

In future years we'll be changing the front door to something more substantial and better sealed, but large ticket items like that require a bit more time to save up!

Reduce your home's energy consumption

Even when you've switched to a green energy provider, you'll still want to take a look at your home energy use. We're still on gas for heating, so we're mindful of restricting our central heating use. Make your first thought "jumper" when you're feeling nippy. My husband would say I'm conservative to a fault on this matter, sometimes refusing to turn on the heating even when my fingers are going blue, and I've been known to wear seven layers in the house on the coldest days. You don't need to go to quite this extreme (I'll admit, I can be a bit fanatic about energy consumption) but you equally shouldn't expect to walk around in shorts and a tshirt in your home in the winter months. Take the opportunity to layer up and hunker down for these lovely darker months, and save some energy while you're at it!

Other ideas to reduce energy consumption include:

  • Turn off appliances (especially ones that aren't every day use) off at the wall

  • Only boil the water you need in the kettle

  • Switch to reusable batteries

  • Use wool dryer balls in your tumble dryer to reduce tumbling time if you need to tumble (otherwise line-dry your clothes, they'll last longer!)

  • Wash at 30C and make sure you're only laundering full loads

  • Challenge yourself to reduce your showering time by 25% to save water, and the energy used to heat that water

  • Turn off the lights when you leave the room

Update your home with all natural paints

When you're decorating, opt for environmentally friendly paints. In the last decade the UK government has legislated for the levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) allowed in paints, so most paints out there aren't as harmful as they used to be, but you can go one step better and paint your home using natural paints.

These eco paints, such as clay-based earthborn (naturally good at preventing mould and mildew) and Edward Bulmer Paints, are not just beneficial to the human health inside your home, but they're often compostable (check with the manufacturer before composting!), so any leftovers can be disposed of in a safe, natural way. Some companies producing eco paints are also carbon neutral in their manufacturing processes, making them even better for those looking to reduce their indirect carbon footprint. Edward Bulmer is a market leader in this respect. Any paint company worth their salt will be open and transparent about their practices, so have a Google!

Reduce the amount of stuff in your home

This one applies in general, but in particular to new items. Every time you bring a new item of furniture or new appliance into your home, you're bring more of those pesky VOCs in too, which increases the pollutants you're breathing in. Then there's the fact that it is incredibly energy and resource intensive to produce new things.

Always ask yourself why you're replacing something. Can it be fixed or upcycled instead of being replaced? Not only will you save money and reduce the harmful pollutants making the air in your home toxic, you'll also keep something from landfill and prevent a new thing needing to be produced in the first place.

Sometimes it's unavoidable that we need to buy new, but you can do some damage limitation by buying the highest quality item that your budget allows. That old adage springs to mind: Buy cheap, buy twice. Purchasing items that are built to last means you'll not need to replace it for years to come, rather than the false economy of buying inexpensive items. If you can, always try and see something in person before committing to it - is it robust? Does it feel high quality?

Bring new things into your home mindfully and your home will be healthier and greener for it.

However you choose to reduce your footprint on the planet, you should be proud that you've made a start. Every single change is progress, and it all adds up to something profoundly meaningful: a sustainable culture that reduces the burden on the planet we call home.

If you've gained anything at all from the four posts in this series, please consider sharing them via social media. The more we share these ideas and engage in conversations around these subjects, the quicker we can turn the tide on climate change. Government legislation will hopefully come in due course, but until then we can all step up our eco-game and make simple changes to our homes, lifestyles and consumer choices.

And now to the giveaway!

The Gathering

Enchanted Forest

To enter via Instagram, make sure you're following me on Instagram, then like the post announcing the fourth post of the giveaway, and tag two people who are embarking on their own eco-conscious journey. That’s it! Remember you can enter via Instagram once per blog post, so you can enter four times total on Instagram!

To enter via Facebook, follow my Facebook page, like this post and share it to your own Facebook page. Also make sure you let me know in the comments that you've shared the post - due to privacy settings it tells me that somebody shared the post, but not always who shared my post! You can also enter once per blog post for Facebook!

The two images you can choose between are 'The Gathering' (above) and 'Enchanted Forest' (left), which are my best-selling prints and each worth £65.

The giveaway ends tonight (10/12/18) at 23:59 GMT, and the winner will be announced tomorrow morning! I'll get in touch with the winner to find out which is their preferred print, and it'll be sent out shortly after that.

And finally... Newletter launch!

I've recently launched my newsletter, where I'll be announcing new giveaways, offers, news and updates, as well as workshops and markets. If you're interested in joining the list to be the first to hear about all that, head to the homepage and sign up! I'll be keeping the newsletters to roughly every quarter, so I promise you won't find I'm clogging up your inbox!

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