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Cutting carbon

Green Great Britain Week: five things you can do today to help the country go green

The flag of the Uk rendered in greens

Here at Bulb, we’re on a mission to help make the UK the greenest country on earth.

This week is Green Great Britain week, a week of action across the UK to get more people thinking about how we can tackle climate change, live more sustainably and join the clean growth revolution. As part of this we thought we’d take a look at the top five things we can all do to help.

1) Switch to green energy

Switching to a renewable energy supplier is the quickest, easiest way to go green. When you switch to a renewable supplier like Bulb, for every unit of electricity you use a unit is produced and put on the grid by a renewable source like Old Walls Hydro in Dartmoor. And at Bulb, 10% of our gas is green too. That's gas produced from organic matter like sewage and manure, which is then injected onto the grid (minus the smell).

Switching has a big impact on your personal carbon emissions. By choosing a renewable supplier, the average Bulb member saves 1.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere every year. That’s like planting 655 trees.

Illustration of many trees

We can’t think of another thing you can do in two minutes with such a big impact.

2) Make small changes to go green every day

Some of the things we do every day can have a big environmental impact when we all do it together. Getting a coffee in a disposable cup, or grabbing a bottle of water on the go. And they’re actually pretty easy habits to kick when you’ve got the right kit.

We recommend a KeepCup for your caffeine hit. And Chilly’s are a popular choice of water bottle for Team Bulb. More and more places will let you refill your bottle for free. Try the Refill app if you need help finding a willing store.

3) Use as much energy as you can outside of peak hours

The amount of renewable energy on the grid changes minute by minute, depending on things like the weather and demand. As it changes, so does the amount of CO2 emitted by everyone’s electricity use — this is called the carbon intensity. Peak demand on the grid happens when everyone wants electricity at the same time. In the UK, one of the highest periods of demand is from 4-7pm, when people come home from school or work, cook their dinner and settle down in front of the TV. Typically, this time is the most carbon-intensive time to use energy.

Chart showing carbon intensity changing over a 48hr period
Example of how carbon intensity varies over a 48h period, from Carbon Intensity API.

Making greener decisions about when to use energy at home can help the grid as a whole, as well as help the UK to generate less dirty energy. So, if you can, try to use energy outside of 4-7pm. For starters, why not set the dishwasher or the washing machine to run outside of peak hours?

We’re running a Smart Tariff Beta at the moment, testing a new 3-rate tariff which reflects the true cost of electricity as the demand changes throughout the day. If you’ve got a smart meter, you can use this tariff to get smart about your electricity use. Changing your habits to use less energy outside of peak times is good for your purse as well as the planet. You can find out more or sign up here.

4) Switch to LED lights

LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs use 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs for the same amount of light, and they last much longer too. Using LEDs has a big impact on your bills and your carbon footprint. In the winter when the nights draw in, there’s even more demand on the grid at peak hours. At this time, which is the most carbon-intensive for the grid, 30% of our electricity consumption is for lighting. It’s hard to make dinner in the dark. Using less energy-hungry forms of lighting at this time has a disproportionate impact on carbon reduction.

Stylish light bulbs hanging on cords

Plumen lightbulbs look good as well as do good.

5) Swap old appliances for more efficient ones

Across Europe, buildings emit 36% of total CO2 emissions. Choosing energy efficient appliances, which use less power to perform an action, can make a big difference.

Take fridges for example. Many old fridges use chemicals called HFCs to absorb and release heat. These chemicals can have up to 9,000 times greater capacity to warm the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Thankfully, there are great natural substitutes for HFCs. Most domestic fridges on sale in the UK are HFC-free (here’s a guide in Ethical Consumer). If you’re replacing your fridge, make sure to get an HFC-free one. And if you’re getting rid of an old one, take it to a recycling centre or arrange collection from a professional waste removal company or the council.

And it’s not only big ticket items that count. Eco kettles, which only boil the amount of water required, can use up to 20% less energy than a conventional electric kettle. Given the average UK home boils the kettle 1,500 times a year, it’s worth doing. The Energy Saving Trust has more useful advice in their home appliances guide.

We want to help as many people as possible to go green. The renewable revolution isn’t just about global trends and international treaties. It’s happening right now in our neighbourhoods across the country. This Green GB week, do your bit and go (even just a bit more) green.