Ten Top Energy Saving Tips


Ten top energy saving tips from the book from the book Energy: Use Less – Save More: 100 Energy saving-tips for the home by Jon Clift & Amanda Cuthbert (only GBP 4.95 from my store by the way.)

  • Take control of your heating. Consider turning down the thermostat controlling the temperature of your room or house by 10C. You will have either a single control at a central position such as in the hall, or thermostats attached to the individual heaters or radiators.
  • Fitted carpets with underlay will give you much more insulation than bare boards, and will stop draughts.
  • You can use less energy by taking a quick shower rather than a bath. If you use a power shower, remember that in five minutes it can use as much energy as a bath.
  • Beware of ‘uplighters': many consume a lot of electricity, using high-wattage bulbs of 300w or greater – that’s the equivalent of over 30 low-energy light bulbs! Use energy-efficient spotlights instead.
  • Don’t over-fill an electric kettle: just put in the amount of water you want, but make sure you cover the element. You’ll use less energy, it will cost less, and will come to the boil more quickly.
  • If your freezer isn’t full, fill empty spaces with scrunched-up paper or bubble wrap to stop warm air circulating when it is opened.
  • Use a lower temperature wash for clothes which aren’t very dirty: for most washes, 40C is just as good as 60C.
  • Air-dry your clothes on clothes racks or lines if possible – tumble dryers are very energy-hungry appliances.
  • Switch your dishwasher off completely when it has finished; it is still consuming electricity on stand-by.
  • If you are replacing your computer, consider a laptop – they are more energy efficient.
  • for more energy saving tips, get the book!

    On anxiety, global warming, and a pop star’s use of toilet paper


    I have a new bike, to replace the one that was stolen. A Specialised Rockhopper. It’s really nice.

    Of course now I’m worried that that it’s going to get stolen too.

    Did you miss this? I did. Rocketboom on Earthday.

    But then I missed this Sheryl Crow news too, until a friend pointed it out.

    “I have spent the better part of this tour trying to come up with easy ways for us all to become a part of the solution to global warming,” Crow wrote.

    “Although my ideas are in the earliest stages of development, they are, in my mind, worth investigating.

    “I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting.”

    Uh-huh. OK.

    How green is green?

    Wind Power

    Sigh. If only being green was simple.

    Here????‚¬??„?s a story. An old and valued customer emailed me recently. She????‚¬??„?d read a note on my newsletter in which I recommended people check out the green energy companies Ecotricity and Good Energy ????‚¬??€? both of which Nigel????‚¬??„?s Eco Store has a good relationship with.

    She????‚¬??„?d also come across a website called WhichGreen ????‚¬??€? tagline Which Energy Suppliers Really Are Green? – whose front page has a rating table of 10 British energy companies. Ecotricity comes top; the shocker is Good Energy comes equal bottom – next to Powergen.

    Which doesn????‚¬??„?t look good, does it? Understandably, this customer was concerned that I was promoting something which wasn????‚¬??„?t as green as it claimed.

    There’s more to it, of course. What the front page of WhichGreen doesn????‚¬??„?t really say is that it is a site run by Ecotricity. In the smaller print, they explain they????‚¬??„?ve rated the companies by

    the pound per customer expenditure on building new energy capacity

    Which yardstick puts Ecotricity firmly at the top of the chart, because ????‚¬??€? laudiby ????‚¬??€? they invest in new wind farms and other renewable sources.

    Ecotricity????‚¬??„?s green mission is to increase the supply of renewable energy and they????‚¬??„?re using their customer base to help them do that.

    But to take this as a chart of “which green energy suppliers are really green” as Which Green claims, is stretching a point a little. But that????‚¬??„?s the problem with so many green products. What, exactly, is green?

    According to a report on green energy tariffs published by the National Consumer Council, Ecotricity source roughly 25% of their power from renewable sources ????‚¬??€? the rest is made up of energy from coal, nuclear and gas. In contrast, Good Energy source 100% of their energy from renewables.

    As the NCC report makes clear,

    For those customers who want a green electricity supply, pure and simple, [Good Energy] is probably the closest they can get to it.

    See? Change the meaning of what you call green and you get the total opposite of WhichGreen’s conclusion. To be fair, Ecotricity think the priority is to tip the balance of energy supply towards renewables ????‚¬??€? that????‚¬??„?s why they????‚¬??„?re so keen on investing in new windfarms. But that’s the category on which they base their eco beauty contest.

    I get this all the time. We????‚¬??„?re all judging each other????‚¬??„?s green-ness by our own standards, our own set of objectives. The bad thing about this is it makes for a gigantic, off-putting muddle for consumers.

    And Ecotricity????‚¬??„?s WhichGreen website – which appears at first sight to be a straightforward consumer site – doesn????‚¬??„?t really help much.

    As the NCC report says, there are too many ways to judge what green really is, and there are plenty of other deals you can get ????‚¬??€? including Good Energy????‚¬??„?s – which have a much firmer commitment to giving customers renewable-source energy right now. Ecotricity’s meaning of “green” – not necessarily everyone’s.

    As for me, I stand by my endorsement of both companies. They????‚¬??„?re both the good guys, and I don????‚¬??„?t think we should lose sight of that. We????‚¬??„?re aiming to get to the same place ????‚¬??€? it????‚¬??„?s just about different ways of getting there. It????‚¬??„?s up to consumers to decide their priorities are and choose which one they want to light up their lives.

    Photo by JohnnyAlive

    The eco paint job

    Sundance by Benjamin Moore Paint

    In the tech world, people regularly bandy around the phrase “early adopter”. If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase, here’s a quick definition:

    If you’re the first person to buy the first ludicrously overpriced piece of electronic equipment, you justify the shocking price to your partner/housemate/mum by calling yourself “an early adopter”, thus justifying your monstrous overspend on the latest GPS-enabled wireless-ready blueray-bearing gizmotronic thingy as essential in some Darwinian sense. If I hadn’t bought it I’d have perished like the rest of you losers!!!

    Instead, I’d like to celebrate those real early adopters – the ones who experimented with green technologies early so the likes of me can then amble behind in their footsteps. In real Darwinian terms, these are the heroes…

    I remember meeting a woman who’d set up an organic farm here in Sussex in the early 70s, raising what seemed like several dozen children, and getting by by the skin of her teeth to produce food that there was barely a market for in those days. Or the people who persisted with solar and wind energy in the 60s and 70s who were pilloried as sandal-wearing eccentrics.

    What turned my thoughts this way was the topic of eco paint. For reasons which I won’t go into now, but will do soon, I am extremely excited to have some walls to paint.

    And so I’ve been taking a look round to find some good eco paint products to slap on the walls. The fact that there is now a substantial range of this stuff on the market is testimony to the early adopters. Taking on the giants of the paint world isn’t easy. OK, so their products are environmentally lethal – packed with volatile organic compounds (or VOCs) like benzene, formaldehyde, ammonia, toluene and just about anything else ugly – but look! They come in such pretty shades and they’re so easy to apply in just one non-drip coat.

    To create a new business based around paint, you’re taking on a formidable set of competitors, who hold most of the cards. And you have to spend a lot of time experimenting with brownish goos extracted from plants that don’t function very well at all.

    But that hasn’t put people off. Over the last few years there’s an increasing number of small companies who are trying to make environmentally responsible products.

    The job – as dear old Eco Worrier pointed out some time ago – is to chose which one. Each eco paint product has its own set of environmental priorities. As happens all too often, suppliers knock each others’ products. “They’re not really eco-friendly.”….”There’s no such thing as an organic paint.”

    Anyway, working my way through the maze (I’ll spare you the details) I finally chose IEKO, a company in Forest Row, not too far from here.

    Karoly, the owner, opened the shop on his day off for me. I chose biopin white emulsion for the ceiling, biopin mushroom for the walls – and I’ve already put Osmo hard floor varnish on the floorboards, and it works a treat.

    I’m hoping to be able to stock his eco paints soon… I’ll keep you posted.

    The photo by Somewhat Frank is of a pot of paint by the American eco paint manufacturer Benjamin Moore, who, as it happens, do a range of EcoSpec green paints.

    How to win eco arguments

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    Local global warming

    Actually, I hate arguments. However, if, like me, you’re totally dumbfounded when you meet someone who flatly denies that global warming is a problem, and regards it all as a giant conspiracy, Grist have a handy catechism of scientific information on the subject: every possible argument you will ever need to defeat a global warming denier. It’s here.

    A word of warning about the Grist feature. It is long. There are not many jokes.

    To be honest, some things are just as effectively communicated in a less verbal manner.

    Like this – (click on the Blue Man):

    Blue Man Group

    Photo of factories in Helsinki courtesy of sirlleszek.

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    Sagacity in the eco friendly sandwich bar


    Yesterday, I dropped by my local sandwich shop. I said to the owner, “I see you’ve gone all eco friendly.”

    I was looking at his cardboard sandwich packaging. There was a sticker on it saying the pack is fully compostable and biodegradable.

    “Yes,” he said proudly. “Even the cellophane window is.”

    He took my money and said, “It’s crazy. The Chinese have taxed the export of cardboard, ’cause they’re trying to manage their forests. But not the export of plastic. They want us to buy plastic.”

    I nodded. He held up a paper bag. “If this bag came from Sweden they would get around it by simply planting another tree.”

    Having found a willing audience, he started to mull out loud on the whole illogicality of it all. “The government announced they’re going to tax flights to reduce emissions – then, in Europe, they announce deregulation of transport, which will massively increase emissions.” They just don’t get it. He sighed. “It’s all gone crazy.”

    And the sandwich was as delicious as the conversation.

    Photo by roboppy

    The year of the Eco Challenge…


    To think. Once people used to be content with a simple entry in the Guinness Book of Records. There’s a positive stampede of good people who are trying to make a point by setting themselves unlikely attention-grabbing challenges. In recent weeks we’ve celebrated the following heroes of the modern age: Fairtrade Man who lived for a week on only Fairtrade goods, Carless In LA, the woman who vowed to go carless in Los Angeles, (and make a movie out of it), and No Impact Man , the New Yorker who’s trying to reduce his carbon footprint to zero (and make a movie out of it).

    Now I give you Stephen Gale, who along witih 40 people aged between 70 and eight months are planning to ride from Melbourne to Sydney later this month on electric bikes to promote them as a sustainable means of transport (and make a movie out of it).

    We want to show that electric bicycles might be the way to bring these great benefits to the rest of us – the non athletes, people who get hangovers, and people that just want to get to work.

    Former Mazda MX-5 driver Stephen, inspired by watching Al Gore on the telly one night, decided his car-based lifestyle no longer made sense and switched his commute to an electric bike. To demonstrate the practicality of power-assisted biking, he’s making the entire journey dressed in a suit. Among those accompanying him are Phil Ceberano – musican brother of the more famous Kate – who is going to do the ride in complete rock god costume.

    Transformer toys for the eco age


    Isn’t this genius? You thought it was one of those CD-RW containers? No, it’s tupaware for the digital age – the only thing to turn up to picnics with, these days. Ideal for bagels and ring doughnuts, obviously.

    This top recycling is brought to you by Readymade Blog, the online offshoot of of the print magazine Readymade – “For People Who Like To Make Stuff”. And what’s especially great about this particular stuff is you don’t even have to make it…

    OK. Now it’s your turn. What to do with wine corks now they’re all plastic and you can no longer make tasteful pinboards with them?



    The only dent in an otherwise beautiful Easter weekend was someone nicking my bike from outside my flat.

    Now, anyone who knows me knows I’m all in favour of recycling, but not that kind.

    But even that was unable to dent my mood. Yesterday – on a borrowed bike – I went for a beautiful ride in the Sussex countryside with my friend Marc. I needed a break. I’ve been working all hours recently.

    As well as Spring springing away giddily, exciting changes are afoot at the Eco Store. News very soon.

    Another green world

    Gorilla safari in Rwanda

    I was at a local get-together for people involved in ethical businesses the other night and I met Justin Francis there – one of the co-founders of Responsible Travel. He spent an hour telling me how they do business there, which was a) very impressive, and b) really, really useful. The Ecostore is burgeoning, but it’s a very competitive world out there.

    As for foreign parts, ethical or not, I’ve taken a pledge to avoid air travel wherever possible. But, like the thorny question of food miles, it’s not simple issue. If we cut out ethical tourism, are we wrecking a chance to create sustainable communities in vulnerable parts of the world like Rwanda where tourism is about the only thing that will safe the Virunga National Park? Justin thinks so.

    I am the low energy egg man


    It being Easter, the topic is eggs.

    This morning I boiled myself one using the low-energy technique I discovered on The Yellow House’s site.

    To whit:

    Place egg in cold water. Bring pan to the boil. The moment it boils, turn it off. Leave there for four minutes if it’s a small egg, five if it’s a big ‘un.

    Frothing with anticipation, I poured my tea into my snazzy Tom Dixon cup, lined up my soldiers, lopped the top off my egg and…

    It was perfect. Runny in the middle. Firm on the outside. Never say this blog isn’t packed with practical tips.

    Eco friendly home on view

    The Yellow House

    The Brighton Festival is coming up. One of the highlights of the fringe are the Open Houses, where people turn their houses into open galleries for three weeks in May to sell their art.

    Most visitors don’t actually go to buy art. They go to check out how they’ve done their loft conversion, or to take a look at their neighbours’ kitchen floors. Of course most exhibitors know this and spend as much time sorucing the houses as hanging the art.

    I’m not at all sure how comfortable I’d be with strangers tramping round my flat for three weeks. The Yellow House is a different kind of open house. The Marshalls have created a website exclusively to show how they’ve turned their 1930s terrace into their dream eco-home.

    “Our overall goal was to find ways to reduce the house’s consumption of electricity, gas and water by two-thirds compared with its average over the previous four years. In the first year of living in the house we have met that goal with water consumption, and have halved our energy use. We keep working at it and are confident of reaching the overall goal within a further year.”

    The site’s been around a good while now; it doesn’t seem to get updated much these days. But what appeals to my nosey instincts is that every room is on show. What it offers is a slightly eccentric wonderland, a regular Beeton’s Book of Eco Household Management, offering miscelleaneous tips on all sorts of things, from a low energy technique for boiling an egg, to a sustainable method for raising goldfish.