climate change energy sustainability

Green up Luton, one month in: energy

A couple of months ago I mentioned Green Up Luton, a competition run by the council climate change team. Twelve households are competing over three months to reduce their energy and water use, reduce their waste and travel more sustainably. There’s a £500 council tax rebate for the winning household, and the council gets some energy saving case studies in return. My wife Louise and I were selected, along with some friends and fellow transitioners, and I’ve been keeping an energy diary since the beginning of March. I plan to make some short videos about our experiences so far, but for now, some observations.

When I heard that we’d been selected, my first thought was that there wasn’t much more we could do to reduce our energy use. As we’ve refitted the house, we’ve taken as many energy saving measures as we could think of and afford, sealing the drafts, choosing efficient appliances and lighting. Rather annoyingly, the double glazing was fitted just a week before the start of the challenge, so we missed the rather impressive fall in our gas usage.

However, since starting the challenge I’ve been taking weekly meter readings on a sunday evening. I’ve not taken weekly meter readings before, but it’s been very useful. I had previously assumed that we were doing plenty to reduce our energy use, but hadn’t actually attempted to quantify it. Keeping track of the gas and electricity we’re using each week puts a figure to our CO2 emissions and makes it real and understandable. You can also graph your energy use over time, and putting in the latest readings and seeing whether you’ve done better or worse becomes something of a game. If you want to take your energy use seriously, I’d really recommend it. Check out imeasure or for convenient ways to record your energy use.

As it happens, there have been plenty of things we could do around the house. I’ve taken more care over programming the central heating, watching the weather forecast and planning accordingly rather than leaving it on for the same times every day. Using an energy meter from the council, I’ve hunted down all the energy vampires, the appliances and gadgets that draw power when they’re off. I’m trying to use the electric cooker less and the microwave more. Since it uses over ten times more electricity than a CD player, I won’t be playing music on the Xbox 360 any more.

No doubt the easing of winter and the clocks going forward will have made the biggest difference, but I still feel like we’ve taken responsibility for our energy use in a new way. And perhaps it appeals to a rather geeky side of me, but I’m rather enjoying analysing our energy habits and thinking of little experiments to green our home.

Having located the water meter, the challenge for April is to add water use to the picture. Although since it involves lying on the ground in the street and peering into a deep hole in the pavement, taking weekly water readings may not be an easy habit to acquire.

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