How to be Eco
HomeHome > Blog > How to be Eco

How to be Eco

Jul 14, 2023

In 2023, the concepts of eco-friendliness, sustainability and green living are more important than ever. Yet they’ve also been over-used, under-explained, turned into corporate and political buzzwords and cheapened by rhetoric.

So what do sustainability and eco-friendliness really mean? And, more importantly, how can they have a positive impact on you – and how you and your family live, travel, work, eat and purchase products?

Below, we’ll explain not only what it means to be eco-friendly, but how you can put its planet-positive principles into practice. We’ll provide simple, actionable tips for living an environmentally conscious lifestyle – at home, at work, and on holiday – and explain how to make more mindful decisions around what you wear and consume.

Being environmentally friendly – also known as practising sustainability, or simply being “green” – refers to the act of making conscious choices about the world around us.

It’s taking certain actions (and avoiding others) to minimise harm to the environment and to promote our planet’s wellbeing and long-term prospects. These can include:

It’s making decisions and prioritising behaviours that reduce the impact of how we live, work, and travel on our irreplaceable ecosystems. It’s managing the earth’s natural resources so they’re accessible for now, for tomorrow – and for many generations to come.

The overall goal? Stopping the gradual rise of the sea and its encroachment on low-lying coastal communities; reduce the degradation and bleaching of our coral reefs; reduce the now-commonplace flooding and heat waves that ravage countries and cities.; prevent the melting of our glaciers; and put a stop to the erosion of the natural habitats that support our planet’s wonderful wealth of wildlife.

Many companies are quick to align themselves with environmental movements as it becomes a more mainstream concern and stress their ‘green’ credentials. However, it is important to distinguish the truly climate-conscious companies from the pretenders and ‘greenwashers’.

Greenwashing happens when companies claim they’re eco-friendly when, in reality, they’re not: publicly expressing concern for the environment, while privately doing little, nothing, or the opposite, about it. So, when consuming content from supposedly ‘green’ companies, dig a little deeper to explore what they’re actually doing to support our ecology and earth. Question them, call them out – and avoid falling into the pitfalls and traps they lay. Pay attention to false labelling (green and white colours in particular), marketing and wording, look for certifications and be wary of claims that distract from the issue at hand.

Environmental friendliness doesn’t require any grand, sweeping gestures. It’s simply a series of small strategies you can start today – and from the comfort of your own home.

According to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), 40 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from its households. So, when it comes to improving the eco-friendliness of your life, your own home is the best place to start.

Small changes made during routine home maintenance could include:

Investing in an energy-efficient heating system is a must – and here, heat pumps excel.

Heat pumps draw heat from the external environment to keep a home’s internal environment toasty in winter. They can also be used to heat water and, specifically, only when it’s needed – minimising heat loss from storage tanks. Despite the name, though, heat pumps don’t just heat – they can also be reappropriated, at the height of summer, to cool your home’s interior spaces, too.

The best part? Heat pumps are around three times more efficient than gas boilers. They’re more futureproof, too – especially considering the UK’s incoming gas boiler ban.

The ban, effective from 2025, will apply to new-build homes only. However, the government is encouraging – and incentivising – properties in the UK and Wales to switch to heat pumps via the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS). The grants it’s offering can take around £5,000 off the total cost of an air-source heat pump, or up to £6,000 off one of the ground-source variety.

Another strategy worth considering? Underfloor heating. These systems tend to use less energy to heat a home. They’re more environmentally friendly than radiators, and can reduce the embedded carbon in a home by up to 93 per cent. The same data suggests that, while radiators have a lifespan of around 25 years, underfloor heating lasts up to 75 years – three times that.

If you’re stuck with radiators, however, ensure to use a zoning system to distribute heat. Zoned heating systems allow you to heat different areas of your home independently, based on which rooms you and your family are spending the most time in. This prevents wastage, and the overheating of unoccupied rooms.

Making a home airtight and insulated involves sealing gaps and cracks in your home’s walls, windows, and doors to prevent heat loss in the winter – and keep your place cool in summer. It’ll also make your home more energy-efficient, and help you save on your energy bills.

Insulating your external walls is vital – be it using internal external or cavity insulation. A report by the UK government’s Department for Energy Security & Net Zero revealed that 29 per cent of homes with a cavity wall – and 9 per cent of properties with solid walls – were lacking insulation. Without insulation in your external walls, you’re heating your home inefficiently – which, given the energy price cap increases of the last two years, isn’t something many families can afford to do.

Similarly, if you don’t have underfloor insulation, you could be losing 20 per cent of your heating and cooling capacity. So, insulate these areas with polyester insulation batts – chemical-free and non-flammable, they’re the most sustainable, eco-friendly choice for your home.

The aforementioned Home Office report also suggested that only 17 million homes had loft insulation at the end of 2022 – just two thirds (67 per cent) of the total properties with a loft.

So, when insulating your home’s floors and walls, don’t forget its upper reaches – and explore the Energy Saving Trust’s roof and loft insulation guide for actionable and affordable tips for how to set your loft up for energy efficiency.

Weatherproofing and draughtproofing is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to save both money and energy, says Dr Sarah Price, Head of Building Physics at low-energy design company, Enhabit. So, once you’ve insulated your home, target all the places cold air could enter it – windows, loft hatches, and letterboxes – and fill around them them with sealant. You can also get this done, professionally, for around £250.

As for your windows, consider replacing single-glazed ones with their double- or triple-glazed counterparts. These types of windows have inert gas fills between the panes, as well as low-emissivity (low-E) coatings. Together, these combine to improve insulation and reduce heat transfer – keeping your home warmer in the colder seasons.

Renewable sources of energy generate clean, green power that’ll heat your home – without growing your carbon footprint. They’ll also save you money: helping you not only fulfil your obligations to your wallet, but to the environment, too.

Sources of renewable energy include:

Being more eco-friendly can be as simple as adapting those daily, seemingly trivial behaviours that – though they appear small – can actually compound to make a big difference on our planet and prospects.

From how you wash the dishes to how you heat up Tuesday’s leftovers, here’s how energy-efficient appliances can make a difference:

The range of energy-efficient appliances doesn’t end here, either. From pool pumps and ventilation systems to a wealth of smart devices (light bulbs, garage door openers, plugs, doorbells), there’s no limit to how environmentally friendly you can set your place up to be.

You can also make greener choices not only around how you use your electricity – but where you buy it, too. Researching the best renewable energy suppliers and opting to buy electricity from them, is an excellent place to start.

Water won’t run out. But cleaning and filtering dirty water for reuse for drinking and showers requires resources. Every litre of water your home wastes is one that takes energy to process and prepare before it can flow back through our taps again. So what some of the things you can do around the house to conserve our H2O – and lower your water bills?

Using technology – such as energy-efficient washing machines and the water-saving fixtures we mentioned above – is an excellent way to conserve water. But in many cases, being responsible with water is as simple as using a broom (instead of a hose) to clean your driveway, or turning off the tap while you’re brushing your teeth.

Recycling is vital to an environmentally friendly household. But it’s not simply how you deal with your home’s refuse that’s important – but reducing the amount you produce in the first place. To boost your home’s waste reduction efforts, try:

As for recycling, some useful strategies include:

Sustainability starts at home – but it continues in the workplace. So what can you do, while you earn, to make the planet a better place for your grandchildren’s grandchildren?

Do you know where your pension is invested? Many of us don’t. Yet 2023 research from Make My Money Matter (MMMM) has found that the average holder of a UK pension invests a staggering £3,096 in fossil fuels. Shell and BP are among the top holdings, with renewable energy sources completely unrepresented.

Overall, this pension-driven investment in fossil fuels is equivalent to ten times the value of clean energy investments in the FTSE 350. Research has shown that making your pension ‘green’ is 21 times more effective than giving up flying. Investing in these companies isn’t just terrible for the environment’s long-term future, but for yours, as a pension holder, too – particularly because these companies tend to be ones at greater risk from customer backlash and climate litigation.

What can you do here? Well, groups are already lobbying pension providers to divest, and for more consistency between their public policies around sustainability – and their practices. As for you, you can begin by getting in touch with your provider to find out how much of your pension is invested in fossil fuel companies – and, if possible, switching to a more ethical, climate-conscious pension provider.

When we talk about conserving energy at work, we’re not recommending you take an extra-long coffee break to conserve your energy – but cutting down on the energy you consume. You can achieve this through:

Just as it is in the home, waste reduction is vital for staying sustainable in the office.

To do this, try:

In 2022, transport-related carbon dioxide emissions accounted for 34 per cent of the UK’s overall total. Much of this, of course, is down to commuting – particularly when it’s done in unsustainable ways.

To planet-proof your commute, consider:

COVID-19 has already helped the world cotton onto this one, but remote working, when possible, can help cut commute-related emissions. While more flexible schedules can help reduce peak-hour traffic congestion and lead to more effective, energy-efficient commutes.

When you’re on holiday – sand between your toes, cocktail in hand – sustainability is often the last thing on your mind. But eco-friendliness shouldn’t stop when you pack your book, your sunglasses, and your passport – so how can you stay sustainable while abroad?

Sometimes, flying is the only way to get to your dream destination (there’s no train from Henley to Honolulu, of course). But, where possible, consider how you could make sustainable transportation work for you. This could include:

When researching where to stay, prioritise hotels, lodges and resorts with a focus on sustainability. These accommodations support their local communities and the environment: whether through carbon offsetting, energy conservation, waste reduction, or by promoting responsible tourism.

To do this, look for stays approved by international sustainable tourism accreditors, such as EarthCheck, Green Key, and LEED.

Of course, it’s not just how you get to your holiday destination or where you stay that matters. It’s what you do when you get there – and, more importantly, how sustainably you do it.

Responsible sightseeing, then – also known as ethical tourism – involves experiencing attractions and destinations in a way that minimises their potentially damaging impacts on the local environment, culture, and community. It’s mindful, respectful travel that puts the wellbeing of the place – and its people – before the priorities of the tourist.

Our top tips for travelling responsibly include:

The clothes we choose to buy and wear – as well as what we do with those clothes once we no longer want them – impact our environmental efforts.

According to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, clothing production is the third-largest manufacturing industry – smaller than only the automotive and technology sectors. Its report also stated “textile production contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined.”

Another report – this time from the UN Environment – stated that the fashion industry accounts for between 8 and 10 per cent of all carbon emissions.

They’re damning statistics – so how can you ensure your sartorial selections are sustainable?

Sustainable (or ‘slow’) fashion brands – such as Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, Allbirds, Reformation, Veja, and Stella McCartney – prioritise ethical and environmentally responsible practices.

Slow fashion companies advocate for fair wages and treatment of workers, use eco-friendly materials, offset their carbon footprints, and offer transparency around their supply chain, production methods, and material sourcing. These practices show the world how their goods originate, how they’re made and each step they take before arriving on the customers’ doorstep.

A couple of slow fashion examples?

What can you do to support brands like Patagonia and Allbirds? Buy from them! By supporting these brands with your hard-earned cash, you won’t only be looking great – you’ll be voting with your wallet for a brighter, better, and more fashionable future.

Slow fashion isn’t just about buying from sustainable brands – but prioritising sustainable products, too. This could be through buying garments made of organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, linen, or wool. Or those made from sustainable, semi-synthetic fibres such as Tencel.

Many forward-thinking fashion brands are utilising recycled fabrics, such as:

Other garments rely not on recycling the item, but simply ‘upcycling’ it. This involves taking parts of the original piece of clothing (a collar here; a sleeve there), then reconstituting and reappropriating it as part of an all new – extremely trendy – outfit. This not only reduces waste, but encourages creativity; engendering energetic re-imaginings of old clothes and styles.

Second-hand clothing stores are eco-friendly because they decrease the demand for new products – which, in turn, reduces the raw materials, energy, and resources the world’s manufacturing processes rely on.

Plus, second-hand shops have multiple benefits for you, as a consumer.

What’s more, most secondhand shops are run by non-profits – so the funds generated by selling your old clothes go to supporting charities, community initiatives, and social programs.

But let’s not pretend that thrift shopping is good for the environment alone. Secondhand shops also serve up some of the rarest, most unique finds around, and at the lowest prices – so as a consumer, there’s plenty to appreciate!

Whether it’s what you eat, where you buy it, or who you’re buying it from, eco-friendly food has the power to not only sustain us – but the planet, too.

One study estimates the farm animal sector to be responsible for almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of all human-made nitrous oxide emissions – and over a third (37 per cent) of all human-made methane emissions.

So how can your food and dietary choices make a difference?

The climate impact of plant-based foods is estimated to be anywhere from 10 to 50 times less than that of animal products.

So try basing your diet on whole, unprocessed foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Sample various plant-based protein sources: such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, and seitan. According to Carbon Thrust, seitan production creates 130 times less carbon than beef. While, gram for gram, producing tempeh emits 94 per cent less carbon dioxide than beef and 62 per cent less than chicken.

And get acquainted with your nearby farmers’ market (and the farmers themselves!) for the best deals. (Just remember to buy in bulk, with reusable packaging, to keep your shopping eco-friendly.)

You could also try growing your own produce, or – failing that – joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Through signing up, you can receive a regular share of fresh, locally-grown, and seasonal produce directly from a local farmer – every week, month, or quarter on a subscription basis.

Locally-sourced food feeds you – all while feeding into local economies and supporting small businesses. Relying on locally-sourced ingredients also reduces the environmental impact of imported goods having to be transported long distances – and incurring plenty of carbon emissions along the way.

According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), one third of all the food the world produces is wasted or lost. That equates to around 1.3 billion tonnes of food gone, each year – costing the global economy almost a trillion ($940 billion) US dollars per annum.

Cutting back on food waste, then, is a must. So to do your bit, try:

Where we buy our meat and fish – and the seemingly innocuous decision about which brands to pluck off the supermarket shelves – has a huge impact on our environment.

Supporting sustainable fishing and farming helps preserve biodiversity, promote conservation efforts, and ensure a secure, healthy food supply for future generations.

Some of the eco-conscious choices you can make when purchasing meat and fish include:

Earlier, we discussed walking, cycling, and public transport as climate-conscious choices for getting around. But we understand that, especially for longer, more complex journeys, these don’t always fit the bill.

Fortunately, though, there’s a middle ground – a compromise between giving up your petrol car completely and seeing it belch an average of 164 grams of carbon dioxide, per kilometre (km), into the atmosphere.

We’re talking about electric vehicles (EVs). The average BEV (battery electric vehicle) produces just 54.8 grams of CO2 per km – around one third the amount of a petrol car, and one quarter of what the average regular taxi (208.1 g/km) produces. Domestic flights, for comparison, produce a whopping 272.6 g/km – over 90 per cent more than the 27.2 g/km a coach emits (Statista).

EVs are powered by electricity stored in the form of rechargeable batteries. This eliminates tailpipe emissions – and reduces the transport industry’s dependence on harmful fossil fuels. Because electricity tends to be cheaper than petrol, EVs also cost less to maintain than their internal combustion engine-equipped counterparts. They’re also quieter – contributing not only to less air pollution, but less noise pollution, too. For top eco-points, you can also power your EV with energy generated using solar panels.

Another option? Hybrid vehicles. These combine internal combustion engines with electric propulsion systems, meaning that – while they still rely on petrol – they’re more fuel-efficient, and produce fewer emissions than conventional vehicles.

Other electric-propelled alternatives include e-bikes and e-scooters. However, while it’s legal to buy and own an e-scooters in the UK, using them on public roads, footpaths, and cycle lanes is forbidden. In 2023, they can only be used on private land (with the permission of the landowner).

In 2023, words like ‘sustainability’ and ‘eco-friendly’ have, in some ways, lost their meaning.

Overused and under-explained, they’ve become weapons in the arsenals of partisan politics. So help us rejuvenate them – not as vague concepts, but as advice. Principles which, distilled into actionable tips, can help us live more meaningful, responsible lives – and make the planet a better place now, and for generations to come.

Finally, remember that eco-friendliness isn’t something you need to do, or achieve, overnight. Nor is an eco-friendly existence a feat you ever ‘complete’ – merely something you can work at, mindfully, every day. By making minor lifestyle changes daily, weekly, or monthly – whatever works for you – you’ll begin to see those incremental actions compound.

And, through those small behaviours, see big results!

Start small! Reduce your reliance on single-use plastics, and either walk, cycle, or take public transport to work. Make sure you’re recycling properly, reusing or upcycling unwanted products, and – if you’re going away on holiday – don’t opt to fly short-haul journeys and take a train or ferry, instead.

You can also start cutting back on your meat intake, and educating yourself around sustainable farming and fishing practices to know which products to purchase – and which to avoid! Donate unwanted food and clothes to second-hand charity shops, and support slow fashion brands such as Allbirds, Patagonia, and Stella McCartney.

Insulating your property’s walls, floors, and loft space can help you heat your home with more efficiency – and less cost.

Replace old windows with those of the double- or triple-glazed variety, or that have low-E coatings. Fit your home solar panels to gain access to a renewable source of power. And install heat pumps, versatile systems that, by transferring heat from the outside environment to your home’s interior, keep you warm in winter – without the colossal energy bill.

To be more eco-friendly in the office, reduce the amount of paper you use – and bring a reusable, refillable bottle of water to work. Pack a healthy, packaging-free lunch, and cut down on food waste by sharing leftover food with colleagues (only if they want it, though!).

Take public transport or carpool to work, and be more energy-efficient while at your desk: unplugging chargers when not in use and powering down your equipment when taking a break.

To stay on the right side of the environment when travelling by choosing eco-friendly places to stay, pack reusable items – such as water bottles and bags – and walk, cycle, or take public transport to explore. If you have to fly, purchase carbon offsets to neutralise the impact of your air travel on the planet.

Sustainable clothing choices are ones that consciously take into account fast fashion’s erosive impact on the earth – as well as some of its most marginalised communities.

To offset unsustainable fashion, buy clothes from second-hand shops, and – if you must buy new – support slow fashion brands such as Eileen Fisher, Reformation, and Veja. Upcycle old clothes into new, creative (and unique) outfits, and wear fabrics like organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, linen, wool, and Tencel.

To eat sustainably, cut back on your red meat intake and prioritise a diet of locally-sourced, organic, and seasonal foods. Eat more plant-based food (such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, and seitan. And support your local farmers’ market – or join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program – to get the best deals on the freshest produce.

Rob Binns

Rob is an experienced writer and editor, with a wide range of experience in many topics, including renewable energy and appliances, home security, and business software. He has written for Eco Experts, Home Business, Expert Market, Payments Journal, and Yahoo! Finance.

Rob has a passion for smart home technology, online privacy, as well as the environment and renewables, which leads him to the Independent Advisor where he writes about related topics, including cyber security, VPNs, and solar power.

Eco-friendly home improvementsLow-carbon heating systemsInsulation and weatherproofingWall insulationFloor insulationLoft insulationWeatherproofing and draughtproofingRenewable energy sourcesEnergy-efficient appliancesWater conservationWaste reduction and recyclingPension managementEnergy conservationWaste reductionSustainable commutingSustainable transportationEco-friendly accommodationResponsible sightseeingSupport sustainable fashion brandsWear natural, organic, and recycled materialsShop second-handAdopting a plant-based, locally sourced dietChoosing locally sourced ingredientsReducing food wasteSupporting sustainable farming and fishing