Category Archives: Energy saving

Huge fuel bills will send a cold chill through UK homes

 We’re all bracing ourselves for massive fuel bills this winter following this week’s grim warning that gas and electricity costs will soon be turned up.

It’s anticipated that energy prices will jump by a whopping 25 per cent in the coming months, which could see average bills rise by as much as £200 to almost £1,500.

Although consumer groups have urged energy companies to hold back on price hikes to see if the recent fallback in the oil price is sustained, that’s unlikely to be the case due to the increase in the wholesale price of gas and power says Centrica, owner of British Gas.

Here are 10 ways to take the sting out of the rises:

  • Householders should look at switching to a cheaper energy supplier and consider fixing their bills, as six of the lowest tariffs have been pulled in anticipation of higher costs.
  • Take advantage of the feed-in tariffs (FITs) and start producing your own electricity. In the last year 28,000 solar PV installations have been installed. The scheme guarantees a minimum payment for all electricity generated, as well as a separate payment for the electricity exported to the grid plus savings to your bill, giving a total average saving of around £1,170 per year.
  • Remembering to switch off lights, wash clothes at lower temperatures and turn the thermostat down by just one degree will save you money.
  • Simple D-I-Y improvements such as draught proofing letterboxes and keyholes, thermally lining curtains, installing low energy bulbs, fixing foil panels behind radiators to reflect the heat back into the room and putting a jacket on your hot water tank will help cut bills.
  • Take advantage of some of the grants being offered by utility providers and local authorities, for free or subsidised loft and cavity wall insulation. Visit the Energy Savings Trust grant finder
  • If you have solid walls and a healthy budget insulate them,  as this is where a third of your heat is lost.
  • Replace old energy hungry appliances, like fridge/freezers and washing machines with the best energy saving models.
  • When cooking use microwaves, steamers and pressure cookers rather than conventional ovens, which use lots of energy.
  • Use an energy monitor to keep track of where your energy is going and which appliances are the most expensive to run.
  • Apply for the Government’s ‘Green Deal’ and reduce bills by making energy saving improvements in the home. Under the scheme around 14 million households will receive up to £10,000 to spend on things like installing loft and wall insulation, energy efficient boilers, under floor heating and double glazing. The customer will repay the fee in small instalments levied on their electricity and heating bills over 25 years.

Recycling symbols explained

Recycle Week is coming up next month, so now is a good time to get to grips with all those recycling labels that appear on our packaging.

The good news is that we’re recycling more than ever before and nine out of ten households now have a kerbside recycling collection.  The down side is that although two thirds of packaging can be recycled in England,  we only recycle one third.

Numerous symbols appear on packaging to advise consumers and promote environmental claims. To ensure these claims are accurate, a set of international standards have been developed known as the Green Claims Code, and is issued by the British Standards Institute.

To help you understand all the symbols and recycle more, The Recycle Now campaign has compiled the guide below.

The Recycle Mark

The Recycle Mark is a call for action. Please try and recycle whenever possible. 

The new packaging symbols

New packaging symbols are now starting to appear on some packaging. They help to identify how different parts of packaging can be recycled.

“Widely Recycled” means 65% of people have access to recycling facilities for these items.
“Check locally” means 15% – 65% of people have access to recycling facilities for these items.
“Not recycled” means less than 15% of people have access to recycling facilities for these items.

These symbols are a guide to how widely different packaging items are recycled, however you should always follow the advice of your local authority. 

The Green Dot

The Green Dot does NOT necessarily mean that the packaging can be recycled. It is a symbol used on packaging in many European countries and signifies that the producer has made a contribution towards the recycling of packaging.


Identifies the type of plastic: PET and HDPE bottles are recycled by the majority of local authorities.



 Dispose of glass bottles and jars in a bottle bank (but remember to separate colours) or use your glass kerbside collection if you have one.

Recyclable Aluminium

Can be placed in an aluminium recycling facility.


Recyclable Steel

Can be placed in a steel recycling facility.


Mobius Loop

Indicates that an object is capable of being recycled – not that the object has been recycled.


Mobius Loop with percentage

Shows the percentage of recycled material contained in the product.



To be given the National Association of Paper Merchants mark, paper or board must be made from a minimum of 75% genuine waste paper and / or board fibre, no part of which should contain mill produced waste fibre.


The Forest Stewardship Council logo identifies products which contain wood from well managed forests independently certified in accordance with the rules of the FSC A.C.


Dispose of this carefully and thoughtfully. Do not litter. This doesn’t relate to recycling, but is a reminder to be a good citizen, disposing of the item in the most

Matt Damon is one of the world’s most influential people

In a new series taking a look at some of the world’s greenest celebrities, this week the spotlight is on Matt Damon.

Actor Matt Damon has been named as one of the world’s most influential people for lending his star power to highlight the global scarcity of clean water.

Both Matt and Gary White, the co-founders of now feature in TIME 100, the magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people on the globe.

Their mantra  is that water and sanitation are the most basic building blocks of human life and dignity and without them, people will forever struggle to move forward with their lives.

They want us to know that every 15 minutes a child under the age of 5 dies because of a lack of clean water and sanitation but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Indeed, their, an action focused movement, digs wells, safeguards supplies and is an advocate for justice around the world, especially in distressed regions like Haiti.

Matt founded H20 Africa to promote health, human rights, political stability, sustainable development and environmental protection through clean water projects in 2006. In 2009, he teamed up with Gary White, a long-time expert in water-supply systems and created

Their message is one of hope; their solutions for providing access to clean water are simple and cost effective. Their work provides an opportunity to change lives forever.

Matt is also one of the founders of Not On Our Watch, along with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle and Jerry Weintraub. He also supports the ONE Campaign, which is aimed at fighting AIDS and poverty in Third World countries. Matt is an ambassador for ONEXONE, a non-profit foundation committed to supporting, preserving and improving the lives of children  around the world.  As a campaigner, he has backed many protests against the wars in Darfur and worked to find a resolution to the crisis.

The TIME 100 is a list of the most influential people in the world, who are using their ideas, their visions, their actions to transform the world and have an effect on a multitude of people.

10 Easy Bank Holiday Energy Saving Improvements

With another long weekend on the horizon, many of us will be attempting to spruce up our homes inside and out.

Instead of spending hours  fixing wonky shelving or knocking down walls, why not save yourself time and money by making the following simple energy saving improvements:

  • Draught proof letterboxes and keyholes
  • Use chimney balloons to prevent draughts and dust coming down flues
  • Install tap and shower aerators as these use 60 per cent less water without you even realising it
  • Place water saving devices in loos, as they can save 1 litre per flush
  • Collect rainwater in a water butt for the garden
  • Top up your hot water cylinder jacket to 70mm. Fitting one to an uninsulated cylinder can save £35 each year
  • Install low energy bulbs and LEDs as these can use up to ten times less energy
  • Fix foil panels behind radiators on external walls to help reflect up to 13 per cent of your heat back into the room
  • Use energy savers to switch off appliances
  • Thermally line heavy curtains and close them at dusk

Organic, free range, farm fresh…do you know the difference?

Food labels are designed to help shoppers buy, store and eat products but at the best of times most of us find them a little confusing.

Packaging is littered with an assortment of logos and advice but what do they really mean? Here I explain some of the most commonly used labels.


All food sold as ‘organic’ must be produced according to European laws on organic production. These laws require food sold as ‘organic’ to come from organisations that are registered and approved by organic certification bodies. These bodies must appoint inspectors to visit farms and check that no fertilisers or pesticides have been used that are not approved for organic production, and that land has been farmed organically before food is sold as ‘organic’. Labels on food sold as ‘organic’ must indicate the organic certification body.

Free range chickens

Free range hens live in buildings similar to barns and have access to a field through access holes. Legislation states that there must be no more than 2,500 birds per hectare at any one time and they must be allowed continuous daytime access to open-air runs with adequate vegetation and shelter. From 1 January 2012 all free range producers who are currently stocking at 12 birds per sq metre must reduce to 9 birds per sq metre.

“Outdoor bred” and “Outdoor reared” pig

Although here are no legal descriptions covering these terms ‘Outdoor bred’ should mean that pigs are born outside before being brought indoors after a few weeks. They are usually kept in a system with plenty of bedding material such as straw. Sows should not be confined in sow stalls and be kept free-range.

‘Outdoor reared’ should mean the pigs were reared outside for around half their lives. They may not necessarily have access to pasture but kept in an outside pen. They should also have access to plenty of bedding such as straw and sows are not kept in sow stalls and are kept free-range.

Organic pigs are reared outdoors for at least 80 per cent of their lives and are often kept free range.

Assured Food Standards – Red Tractor

The Red Tractor logo means the food’s been made by a member of a food assurance scheme overseen by Assured Food Standards. The organisation that runs an assurance scheme carries out independent inspections to check whether businesses are meeting certain standards. If they are, they become accredited. The standards vary depending on the scheme. They cover mostly food safety, animal welfare and the environment. Many schemes that use the Red Tractor logo are voluntary and not regulated by law. To check whether the food you’re buying has been grown, processed and packed in the UK you need to look for a Union flag.

Soil Association symbol

The Soil Association inspects and awards organic certification to more than 80 per cent of all organic products sold in the country that meet their organic standards. The symbol is a guarantee that the produce meets the highest standards of sustainability and quality

RSPCA Freedom Foods

This UK farm assurance scheme is dedicated to farm animal welfare, and approves well-managed indoor/barn, free-range and organic methods. The scheme regulates the supply chain, including feed and water provision, the environment the animals live in, how they are managed, health care, transport, and humane slaughter. For example, there cannot be more than 19 chickens per square metre. The standards are designed to ensure that all animals reared according to the requirements have everything they need for a good quality of life, whether they are kept on large or small farms, indoor or outdoor.

Farm Fresh or Barn Fresh Eggs

Terms like “farm, barn, or country fresh” give visual depictions of typical rural scenes which should reflect the bird’s surroundings. They do not mean free range or organic.

Line caught fish

This method has minimal environmental impact and as all fish are caught live it ensures the fish are in top condition before being stored in ice. Small fish are rarely caught, but if they are they are returned alive immediately.

Understand your food labels

Food labels are designed to help shoppers buy, store and eat products but at the best of times most of us find them a little confusing.

Packaging is littered with an assortment of logos and advice but what do they really mean? Today I’ll explain some of the most commonly used labels and tomorrow we’ll look at ‘organic’, ‘free-range’, ‘outdoor bred’ and other labels.

‘Use by’

You shouldn’t use any food or drink after the end of the ‘use by’ date shown on the label. Even if it looks and smells fine, using it after this date could put your health at risk and cause food poisoning. ‘Use by’ dates are for foods that goes off quickly, like milk, soft cheese, ready-prepared salads and smoked fish. ‘Use by’ does not always mean ‘eat by’. If food can be frozen, its life can be extended beyond the ‘use by’ date.

‘Best before’

These dates are used on foods that last longer, such as frozen, dried or canned foods. It should be safe to eat food after the ‘best before’ date (apart from eggs), but the food will no longer be at its best and might begin to lose its flavour and texture.

‘Eat within’

Some food labels give instructions to ‘eat within a week of opening’ and it’s important to follow these instructions. But remember, if the ‘use by’ date is tomorrow, then you must use the food by the end of tomorrow, even if the label says ‘eat within a week of opening’ and you have only opened the food today.

‘Display until’ and ‘sell by’

These dates are instructions for shop staff to tell them when they should take a product off the shelves. They are to help with stock control and are not meant for shoppers.

Households need to stop wasting water

Guess where this picture was taken. The drought stricken plains of Africa perhaps? No. This is an image of parched British soil taken last year.

Although it seems to rain all the time in the UK, we have less available water per person than most other European countries. Surprisingly, the South East of England has less water available per person than the Sudan and Syria.

The problem is we’re using more water each year and that makes our consumption levels unsustainable. Worse still, about one third of the water each person uses on a daily basis is wasted, going straight down the plughole.

Yesterday we looked at simple ways of saving water indoors, so today we’re going to see how we can be more careful in the garden too.

  • Sprinklers can use as much as 1,000 litres of water per hour – that’s more than a family of four can use in a whole day in the home. Using your sprinkler early in the morning or late in the evening will mean less water will evaporate from your garden and more will get to the roots, where you actually want it to go.
  • Your hosepipe can use up to 18 litres of water a minute. By using a watering can you can significantly reduce the amount of water wasted, or consider fitting it with a trigger gun to control the flow (although during a hosepipe ban you will need to use a watering can).
  • Your roof collects about 85,000 litres of rain each year which runs straight into the sewers. This could fill 450 water butts with free water: you could water your garden, your houseplants, or wash your car for free! To get a butt, call your local water company.
  • Rather than washing your car with a running hosepipe, try using a bucket and sponge instead. Just 30 minutes with a hosepipe will use more water than the average family uses in a day. Better still, use a waterless spray for washing your car – this uses no water at all.
  • Mulches such as pebbles, gravel, cocoa shell, chipped bark, and grass clippings will not only keep away water-loving weeds, but will also keep the soil cool, decrease evaporation, and reduce soil compaction.
  • Giving your plants’ roots a good soaking once or twice a week in dry weather is much better than lightly watering them every day because most of that water just evaporates away, (although new plantlings need regular watering until they are established.)