It’s getting vital to reduce our energy use – because of rising global temperatures, of course, but also rising energy costs. We also need to become less dependent on fossil fuel imports, especially following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But how can we do that when we all need to keep the lights on, heat our homes, cook and chill our food, and power our devices?
The good news is that there are concrete steps we can take – starting right now. Why not set yourself a challenge and see if you can achieve a few of these over the coming month?
Greening your energy
In the EU, you are free to choose your energy supplier – so you can pick the greenest one available. Most energy suppliers provide detailed information about how and where they source their energy, so you can see for yourself how committed they are to sustainability.
Making the assessment yourself seems too complicated? No problem - there are consumer watchdog websites that compare green commitments of energy suppliers, so look for one in your country. Switching suppliers is simple – like switching your internet provider – and under EU law, you will not be charged for this change.
So if your supplier is not as green as the competition, make a change! You can make this move official with a Climate Pact pledge.
Quick hacks for saving energy
There are also simple things you can do in your home to reduce your energy use and become greener as a result.
Aim for A
When buying electronics such as refrigerators and televisions, consider choosing the most energy-efficient models. Use the EU’s energy labelling system as a guide to help you: any products marked with an ‘A’ are deemed to be the best choice for the planet. And remember that turning your non-essential appliances off at night can further reduce their energy consumption.
Dial it down
Although many homes across Europe are heated using gas or oil, you can make a difference simply by turning the thermostat down.
Dropping by just one degree could help you make savings on your energy bills, and reduce demand for gas by an incredible 10 billion cubic metres a year. You can even make it into a Climate Pact pledge!
Run an efficient kitchen
There are plenty of easy ways to save energy in the kitchen: keep the lid on the pan when you’re boiling water, cool food to room temperature before it goes in the fridge, and defrost your freezer if there’s a build-up of ice. Only fill the kettle with as much water as you need – and descale it regularly using white vinegar. Limescale buildup prevents your kettle from working efficiently, which means that it will use more energy to boil the same amount of water. Similarly, only run your dishwasher when it’s full and keep it descaled. Nowadays, devices like dishwashers and microwave ovens often come with eco-standby modes, which means that unnecessary energy-consuming features such as digital clocks are turned off.
On laundry day
It’s a good idea to wash dirty clothes at 30°C or lower (unless stained or white) and if possible, opt for hanging your laundry up to dry, as tumble dryers consume a lot of energy. And don’t automatically throw everything in the wash – you can spot-clean small stains using a spray bottle containing water, odour-neutralising baking soda and your favourite essential oil to freshen up the aroma.
In the garden
As spring returns, so too will the sound of lawnmowers, but you could save energy by rewilding your garden and letting the grass grow or, at least, mowing it less frequently. Allowing wild plants to flourish in your garden is also great for biodiversity as it favours native plants, provides a habitat and food for many species of wildlife, and attracts bees and other pollinators. Alternatively, try a manual mower – you won’t use any energy and you’ll give yourself a free workout at the same time!
Spread the word: talk to your neighbours
Once you’ve begun your own journey towards greening your energy use, you can help spread the word. We talked to two Climate Pact Ambassadors about the best ways to get others on board.
Dutch Climate Pact Ambassador Fokke de Jong believes you need to get your local community involved: “Ask your neighbours if they are concerned about poor insulation or interested in solar panels. If you don’t see them in person, put a note through their letterbox to arrange a chat over a cup of coffee.”
Back in 2007, the authorities in Fokke’s neighbourhood in Amersfoort (the Netherlands) wanted to demolish a disused rail yard nearby, but locals insisted the site should be kept as part of their architectural heritage. The issue united the community, sparking a wave of sustainable transformation that resulted in the renovation of the site’s old warehouses. From abandoned industrial units, they became offices, restaurants, event complexes, education centres and more. This created local jobs, and for many people it reduced the commute to work. In addition, 42 entirely climate neutral homes were built on the site.
Fokke helped to form a neighbourhood association and working groups. Their collaborative projects on insulation, solar panels, double glazing, green rooftops and a car-sharing scheme covering hundreds of homes have transformed the community.
“Even people who were not that interested in climate change joined to improve the area, make their homes more comfortable and save money. We actually got to know each other better, and we had fun!”, he says.
Now Fokke wants to lead the discussion on shifting to renewable heating. “This was a difficult topic, but after a gas field caused a series of mini-earthquakes that damaged houses in the north of the Netherlands, the government decided to close it. With rising energy prices and energy poverty, people are now prepared to consider alternatives,” he tells us. Renewable heating solutions include warming water via solar radiation, biofuel and geothermal technology, among others.
You could also consider replacing your old gas boiler with a heat pump. Cheap to run and producing very little in terms of carbon emissions, heat pumps absorb heat from the air and funnel it either into your house during the winter, or out of it during the summer. As they aren’t powered by gas, installing one in your home would help us reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels.
Renewable energy solutions for homes is an issue close to the heart of Austrian Climate Pact Ambassador, Franz Fuchs, who is based in Munich. Franz is part of a local group that encourages people to consider installing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on their balconies.
Those who get involved then also act as influencers. “Human beings are social and often like to do what their neighbours do. If a lot of people join in and install just a couple of PV panels, it could have a big impact. We call this balcony power!”’, Franz says.
Want to help others reduce and green their energy use? Become a Climate Pact Ambassador and join this growing community.
- Publication date
- 29 March 2022