15 ways to save the earth and your money

Published by on 06 May 2010.
Last updated on 24 August 2011

earth in your hands

1 Make your own cleaning products

The cost of keeping your house clean can easily add up if you stock your cupboard with cleaning products. For example, Cif Oven Power Fume-Free 500ml Spray from Sainsbury's costs £4.

So instead of wasting your money on shop-bought products, use store cupboard essentials. Vinegar, diluted with an equal amount of water, is a great all-purpose cleaner. Put it in a spray bottle and use 
on kitchen and bathroom surfaces.

You can also use lemon for cleaning and shining taps and bicarbonate of soda as a deodoriser for your bin and refrigerator.

2 Turn appliances off standby

The average household wastes 8% of their electricity, or £37 a year, just paying for items left on standby.

An intelligent mains controller allows users to turn off all appliances in one go, which is great if you have a multitude of appliances and wires to deal with.

Packs start from £14.99 and go up to £30 for a three-socket set from sustainable shop ShopEco.

3 Reduce waste

If we all stop wasting food that could have been eaten, the CO2 impact would be the equivalent of taking one-in-four cars off the road. And in terms of cost to our pockets, the average family spends £680 a year on discarded food.

Being creative with leftovers, getting portion sizes right and writing shopping lists, so that you buy what you need instead of what you fancy, should all help curb wasteful habits. Lovefoodhatewaste.com has some helpful online tools.

4 Insulate your home

Around half of our home's heat is lost through the walls and loft so proper insulation should ensure you don't need to keep the heating on full whack.

Initial costs mean you’ll have to wait a couple of years to save money but the green benefits are immediate, lowering CO2 emissions.

In total, you could shave up to £600 a year from your heating bills. Cavity wall and loft insulation each cost approximately £250, while solid wall insulation is considerably pricier – between £5,500 and £14,500 for external walls.

5 Think twice before you turn the heating up

If you can't afford to insulate your home there are other ways you can save energy and money.

For example, fit draught excluders, radiator panels, loft insulation and chimney balloons to stop all that warmth vacating your home at the first opportunity.

And if you are one of those people who puts the heating on before a jumper – stop: you're wasting tons of energy.

6 Hold a clothes-swapping party

Spruce up your wardrobe by getting a group of friends over to swap clothes. Stick to friends who are a similar size and have similar tastes, and don't forget kids' clothes too if you have children of a similar age.

Anything you can't swap you could always try selling either online (try eBay or gumtree or at a car-boot sale.

7 Make do and mend

It's easy to hit the shops when  your TV breaks down or you find a hole in one of your favourite shoes, but before you buy a replacement for an item, find out if you can repair it first. If you can't do it yourself, find someone who can – a handy friend or a professional.

Even if you have to pay for a repair, the chances are it'll be cheaper than a replacement – and you might be surprised at what you can salvage.

8 Cycle or walk to work

With the cost of petrol and fares for trains and buses on the rise, it could be worth turning to other alternatives such as walking or cycling. If you decide to cycle to work, try asking your employer to help you by signing up to Cyclescheme.

This is a salary-sacrifice scheme whereby your employer buys the bike for you and takes the repayments out of your pre-tax monthly salary. By cycling or walking you will not only save money and the environment, but you'll get much fitter too.

9 Car share

If you still need a car to get to work you could always consider car sharing. You could set up informal arrangements with family, friends and colleagues, or join a scheme via the internet. Two useful sites are liftshare.com and nationalcarshare.co.uk.

According to the government's Act on CO2 website, an average car commuter drives 12 miles a day.

Cutting that by half through car sharing saves around 400kg of CO2 over one year, or about 170 litres of petrol – with the current price of unleaded at 112p per litre, you could save nearly £200.

10 Wash your clothes in cool water

You can also cut your carbon footprint by washing your clothes in cool water. By turning the temperature down to 30 degrees instead of using higher temperatures you will use 40% less electricity.

Always try to fill up your washing machine, as one full load uses less energy than two half loads.

11 Make your own compost

Don't bother buying expensive fertiliser – save money and the environment by making your own. If your local authority doesn't provide compost bins, pick one up cheaply from your local garden centre.

You should aim for a 50-50 mix of 'green' waste (such as tea bags, grass cuttings and vegetable peelings) and 'brown' waste (such as fallen leaves, twigs and paper).

Meat, cooked vegetables, dairy products and weeds should never be added to your compost. For more ways to make the perfect compost go to recylenow.com.

12 Buy second-hand

Junk and charity shops are great places to track down bargains such as furniture, books and houseware, as well as clothes.

But don't limit your search to the high street – Auctionfile.com allows you to search for items across different auction and classified websites such as eBay.com, gumtree.com and craigslist.org.

Recycling and swapping websites are also great places to pick up other people's unwanted items. Sign up to your local Freecycle or Freegle network, and search or browse items on Snaffleup and Swapz.

13 Drive efficiently

One of the easiest ways to reduce your motoring costs is to change the way you drive: reducing the weight of your car by ditching roof racks and emptying the boot of any unnecessary items, ensuring your tires are properly inflated, and sticking to the speed limit at all times will all lower your fuel consumption.

Other simple steps include planning your route before you leave, accelerating gradually without over-revving, and ensuring you’re in the correct gear.

14 Holiday at home

A quarter of the UK's CO2 emissions come from transport, according to DirectGov. A high proportion of this relates to leisure travel – five out of six flights from the UK are holiday flights.

Choosing a destination closer to home will reduce the climate-change impact of your holidays, and will often work out cheaper too.

The best way to save money is to avoid booking your holiday during school holidays and booking as early as possible. 

15 Use a rain barrel for watering your garden

If you're a keen gardener you will know that in the summer months you'll often have to give your plants some extra water.

But instead of relying solely on the mains supply, which will add to your water bill if you have a meter, use a water butt to collect rainwater from the roof.

This will give you an ample supply without costing a penny. Other ways to save the amount of water you use is by taking showers instead of baths. Be careful if you own a power shower though, as they use more water than a regular shower.

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