Archive for the ‘Top tips’ Category

I Count books available

February 22, 2008

I Count

I Count – together we can stop climate change!

All staff are invited to borrow one of these books (they’re on my desk). Although they’re written in an incredibly nauseating way, the advice is none the less quite useful even though it repeats what is already available in the public domain.

Check out the official I Count website here.

Fitting Megaman bulbs – first hand experience

December 6, 2007

Megaman 9W GU10 replacement

We had 6 x 50W halogen bulbs in our kitchen (so using 300W of electricity) and I felt it was about time to try and save some money and energy by replacing them with energy-saving equivalents.

So on a personal recommendation, I purchased 7 x Megaman 9w CFL reflector bulbs (halogen-replacement). This would mean I was only using 54W and I’d have a spare bulb for use elsewhere.

I worked out I should recoup the initial outlay within the first year and never have to buy replacements bulbs for the kitchen ever again (15,000 hrs of use). Some would say a better investment than putting your money in the bank.

Like some other energy-saving GU10 replacement bulbs which I bought a while back, these ones also don’t really fit into the holes as well as they should. It’s not the height that’s the problem (as my fitments are free-floating inside), but more the width of the bulb as it goes up into the recess. The bulb gets caught on the fitting which grips onto the inside of the ceiling.

So anyway, I eventually had to bend the light fitting back. Undeterred and having done this 6 times, I switch the kitchen lights on. I’m then confronted this horrible gloomy white light, just like you would get from a single fluorescent strip light. Leaving it for a minute to allow the bulbs to warm up improves it slightly, but its still horrible.

So I take the bulbs out in disgust, feeling that I’ve been done out of £60. The next day I write an email to Megaman stating my frustration – I’ve yet to receive a response!

Thinking laterally!
However, after a few days, I start to think laterally. My final solution is as follows:

1) In the kitchen I’ve totally removed two of the halogen lights (immediately saving 100W) and am now using 1 x Megaman and 3 Halogens. 159W in total as opposed to 300W – not a bad start!

2) Strangely enough, the main bathroom is acceptable with 3 x Megaman bulbs totalling 27W (I previously had 4 x 50W Halogen bulbs = 200W). My only thought as to why they work fine in the bathroom is that there are lots of reflective surfaces (bath, shower, mirror etc) – more so than in the kitchen.

3) Small boys bedroom now has 2 Megaman bulbs (rather than 2 x 50W bulbs) and he already has a different energy saving one already in there. So his room is also down to 27W – and considering he often plays in his bedroom and forgets to switch off the light, this is worthwhile.

Until energy-saving replacements can be directly compared to what they are replacing (in terms of quality of light as well as size), then they will never appeal to the less-initiated.

There seems to be a green premium on all environmental products and until prices drop significantly then this will be yet another barrier to take-up. Some would say that its not that energy-efficient products are too expensive, but that everything else is disproportionately cheap.

I don’t believe this response, especially when the Government should be actively encouraging the use of energy-saving products (which they’re doing in other areas).

If products don’t immediately work as you had expected, think laterally. Having removed some bulbs out of my kitchen, I’ve now also reduced the energy consumption of my lounge down to 4 x 50W and 1 x 9W. It had originally been 10 x 50W halogens. Thinking laterally has saved me almost 300W in this room too!!

The end result is still nowhere near perfect but my energy consumption is much better than it was. Unfortunately until manufacturers can actually come up with decent replacements, I’m not inclined to go too overboard.

There also should’ve been someone to stop me from encouraging our electrician to fit so many halogen spots in my house when it was first built (where was the building inspector or environmental angel when I needed him)!

As a layman, it had never occured to me how wasteful Halogen spots are. I’m trying to think different now!

Fake or real?

December 6, 2007

Do you prefer them fake or real – Christmas trees, that is.

It would appear that contrary to popular belief, real Christmas trees are actually more environmentally friendly than artificial ones.

Consider that artificial ones are generally made in the Far East (think of the air miles) and that they will have been made with a whole load of nasty chemicals.

Then, although they will be used for many years, when you eventually get fed up with it, it’ll take several hundred years to decompose in landfill.

Compare that to buying a proper tree:

  • Over 400 Christmas tree farms in the UK alone – so you should be able to buy one very local
  • A Christmas tree farm stabilises soil, protects water supplies and provides refuge for wildlife.
  • Supporting local farmers in planting trees for subsequent years – with all the benefits of having trees absorb CO2 etc
  • After Christmas, the tree can be mulched and put onto your garden, in your compost heap or given to the local council to turn into chippings etc. Even if disposed of in landfill, it takes a fraction of the time to decompose than an artifical tree does.

Then you just need to consider using LED Christmas lights which use a fraction of the electricity of normal lights and you’re a small way there to being slightly more environmentally conscious.

Company Secretary runs on vegetable oil

July 12, 2007

David Head, Company secretary, ruralnet|uk is now running his secondhand Peugeot 405 on a mixture of diesel and vegetable oil.

“Interestingly, it’s only older engines that will do this without modification, newer engines are too finely tuned and more modern fuel pumps have difficulty with vegetable oil’s viscosity”, says David.

He’s currently trying a mixture of 80% diesel 20% Sainsbury’s vegetable oil, but hopes to increase the mixture over time.

“First impressions are that the engine seems to run more smoothly than when on fossil diesel alone”, says David.

SavaPlug – make your fridge run more efficiently

November 22, 2006

Freezers and fridge/freezers are probably the single most expensive electrical appliance to run in the house. Fridge/Freezers cost on average between £55-£65 per year (*E.E.O. Data).

The SavaPlug was developed in conjunction with the Department of Energy and will make typical savings in electricity running costs of 20% when fitted to your domestic refrigeration.

The SavaPlug simply replaces the existing plug on the appliance.

When the thermostat on the appliance switches on the motor to pump the refrigerant around the system full power is required to start the motor. However, once the motor is running full power is no longer needed.

The SavaPlug senses this and reduces the flow of electricity to match the actual requirements. When the red light glows savings are being made.

Drink cartons can be recycled too

November 20, 2006

Tetra Pak is the major supplier of drinks cartons in the UK (used for milk, fruit juices etc). They are actively talking to all councils about providing recycling facilities for the cartons. Most councils have expressed an interest in this.

In the meantime, consumers can send back their rinsed-out cartons to Tetra Pak who will recycle them on their behalf. The returned-cartons can be any brand including Elopak and SLG Combiblok.

The only cost is a little bit of postage – a small price to pay!

Low energy lightbulbs – a bright idea!

November 20, 2006

Investing in low energy light bulbs will give a far better return than putting money in the bank. But get good quality, long life ones. Megaman do a good range:

A low energy spotlight from them (R63) will cost about £12 but will last 15 longer that a standard bulb costing about £1. In addition, it will only use 1/5th of the electricity.

Send a text: offset your carbon!

November 15, 2006

Strange but true. Every time you text ‘WLT CARBON’ to 87050 you will offset 140kgs of CO2 with the World Land Trust’s Carbon Balanced Programme.

Texts cost £1.50 + standard network operator charge.

Whilst maybe not the most effective way of giving, it certainly would help to ease those immediate pangs of guilt.

Ecoinsurance: offset car emissions

November 15, 2006

ecoinsurance is the UK’s first car insurance policy to help offset some of the damage your car’s CO2 emissions cause to the environment – at no extra cost to you!

Think green: easy things to try…

November 10, 2006

Summarised version below of the full extract. See Friends of the Earth for the full PDF.

• Cut down on the number of journeys, or share where possible. Make a journey on foot, bike or using public transport. Also see Carplus.

• Share school runs with other parents or find a safe route for children to cycle or walk.

• Drive a smaller car which will also be cheaper to run as well. Diesel cars tend to produce less CO2, but produce more of other pollutants, which aggravate asthma and other health problems. Compare models and their CO2 emissions at VCA.

• Change the fuel you use. Many cars can use biofuels with little or no modification to the engine.

• Keep your car tyres properly inflated. Improves fuel consumption by up to 80%.

• Rent a car on a pay-as-you-drive scheme, rather than buying one.

• Drive with the windows up and remove heavy items and roof racks from the vehicle when not required.

• Switch off the engine if you think you will be stationary for more than two

• Change your driving style. Changing gear at a more modest engine speed can reduce fuel consumption by up to 15 per cent. Smooth braking and acceleration and braking can save up to 30% more fuel as well as reducing wear and tear on the vehicle. Plus, pulling away too fast uses up to 60 per cent more fuel.

• Avoid short car journeys. A cold engine uses almost twice as much fuel as a
warmer one.


“Aviation is the fastest-growing contributor to climate change. Passenger numbers could more than double by 2030, and emissions from aviation could account for more than a tenth of UK totals by 2020. Cutting down on the amount you and your family fly will make a huge difference to your carbon ‘footprint’.”

• Consider a holiday in the UK or, if you are going abroad, consider using a train and making the most of public transport whilst you’re there.

• Hire bicycles instead of a car if you are exploring locally.

• Cut down on business trips. And if you really do need to travel, go by train rather than car or plane – as well as often being quicker, you’ll be able to get some work done.

• If you are staying in a hotel on holiday, ask for your towels to be washed every other day instead of every day.


“In the UK we spend £500 million every year on organic food but many of the environmental benefits of organic farming are quickly cancelled out if the produce is flown around the world. When organic produce is imported by plane from New Zealand, the transport energy used is 235 times greater than the energy savings of organic production”

• Buy local and seasonal food. Avoid ALL air-freighted foods.

• Cook from fresh avoiding processed and packaged foods which have travelled miles, used multiple ingredients from different locations and uses unnecessary, excessive packaging.

• Use a toaster rather than the grill to make toast.

• Buy organic milk. It takes over three times as much energy to produce a litre of non-organic milk than a litre of organic milk.

• Recycle aluminium. The energy saved by recycling one aluminium drinks can is enough to run a TV for three hours.

• Buy in bulk for everyday items. As well as saving money, this will avoid the emissions created when packaging individual items. If you don’t use large quantities but still want to take advantage of the savings, share an order with a friend, colleague or neighbour.


“Simple measures could substantially reduce the emissions from your home, and save you money as well – you could currently be paying £200 a year more than you need to in gas and electricity bills.”

• Turning the thermostat down by just one degree can save you up to £30 a year on your heating bill

• Avoid wasted heat energy by timing your heating to go off 30 minutes before you leave the house, and come on again 30 minutes before you are due to get back.

• Consider underfloor heating in a new house or when building an extension. The boiler operates at a much lower temperature and due to the lower ambient temperature in each room, much less heat is lost through walls and windows

• Insulate your loft. You can cut up to 20 per cent from your energy bill by installing good quality loft insulation.

Reduce draughts: double glazing, cavity wall insulation. Make sure that you specify ‘Low-e’ glazing, which has a special heat-reflective coating that reduces heat loss through the window by nearly half.

• Insulate underneath the floorboards on the ground floor

• Lag your hot-water tank correctly.

• Fit reflective radiator panels behind radiators or make your own by wrapping tinfoil around cardboard.

• Draw your curtains at dusk to stop a huge amount of heat from escaping through your windows.

• Saucepans with lids on heat much quicker, using less energy.

• Use your oven sensibly. Don’t keen opening it to check whether your food is
ready and by switching it off just a few minutes before your food is ready you’ll find that it’ll stay hot enough to finish cooking the food.

• Don’t buy cut flowers. Because of their short shelf life, the flowers are usually flown in – which gives them a massive climate change footprint because of the aviation emissions.

• Buy potted UK-grown plants – or if you’re still going to buy flowers, choose those that are UK-grown and in season.
Charity Flowers Direct – an organisation run by Age Concern for the benefit of 170 charities
The Postcode Plants Database to find your local plants

• Turn lights off! Lighting an empty office overnight can waste the energy required to heat water for 1,000 cups of coffee.

• Buy energy-saving light bulbs. Just one energy efficient light bulb can save you £10 a year on your electricity bill.

• Light-coloured walls, ceilings and floors, as well as mirrors, reflect daylight, making maximum use of natural light and reducing the need to use artificial lighting

• Fit infrared sensors to external lights so that they only come on when you pass in front of them.

• Don’t leave any item on standby (TV’s, videos, freeview boxes, PC screens).

“If all UK households turned off their TVs at night instead of
leaving them on standby, we would avoid emitting enough CO2 to fill the Millennium Dome 38 times each year15. Stand-by is expensive too – British people pay £163 million every year paying for the electricity used in keeping their appliances on stand-by.”

“a PC monitor switched off overnight saves enough energy to microwave six dinners” – Carbon Trust.

• Unplug equipment once fully charged. Mobile phones, shavers and electric
toothbrushes keep drawing electricity even when the battery is full.

• Keep fridge and freezer doors closed.

• Fit a SavaPlug which regulates the fridge motor dependent on the temperature of the fridge. Just snip off the existing plug and wire this one up instead.

• Install the fridge or freezer away from hot appliances and direct sunlight.

• Keep your freezer full. It takes less energy to keep a full freezer cool than it does an empty one.

• Pressure cookers and steamers both save energy; steamers are particularly easy to use and very healthy.

• Chop vegetables finely and boil with just enough water. The smaller you make your vegetables, the less time they’ll take to cook.

• Only use a washing machine on full-load. Ninety percent of the energy that
washing machines use goes toward heating the water, so switch to a cooler
wash temperature: using 40°C for all clothes can use a third less electricity per wash. Today’s washing powders are just as effective on low temperature
programmes, saving both energy and money.

• Carry out a Home Energy Check to find out how to save energy and save cash.

• Turn lights off! Lighting an empty office overnight can waste the energy required to heat water for 1,000 cups of coffee.

• Reduce office paper consumption.

• Switch office equipment off at night.

“A photocopier left on overnight uses enough energy to make 1,500 photocopies” – Carbon Trust.

• Join a co-operative which invests in wind energy projects that promote emission-free technology. Or you could ‘adopt’ a local renewables project.
Yes2Wind provides information and resources on wind farms
British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) also provides a database on wind
energy projects

• Install your own renewable energy system. Grants are currently available for up to 50 per cent of the capital costs of installing renewable energy. You might even make a profit: if you produce more than you need, you could sell the excess back to your energy supplier.
Energy Saving Trust for info on grants for solar photovoltaic panels
The Centre for Alternative Technology for good advice and how-to-do guides for those wishing to generate their own electricity:

Call the Energy Efficiency Helpline on 0845 727 7200 for free, impartial advice on how to make your home more energy efficient. A trained advisor will also be able to inform you of the grants available in your area to help you save energy and money.

The Carbon Trust
National Energy Foundation
Energy Savings Trust
Clear Skies grants
CTC – the UK’s national cyclist network
Kent Energy Centre – free and impartial advice to Kent residents (but applicable to everyone!)