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How to live a climate-friendly lifestyle

29 November 2021


We recently conducted research which revealed that despite a high awareness and concern about climate change and it being important to us to be seen as environmentally friendly, the link between how we want to be seen and the actions we are prepared to take is tenuous. Our research identifies that there is a significant Intention – Action Gap when it comes to being more sustainable in our everyday lives, and you can check out more about our Reflecting Ireland research here. We’ve teamed up with Behavioural Scientist Claire Cogan of BehaviourWise to support our customers in living a more climate-friendly lifestyle with tips from behavioural science, supported by permanent tsb.

The way we live today contributes to rising levels greenhouse gases that are causing climate change. Two in particular stem from human activity: carbon dioxide and methane. According to a recent report, behaviour change plays a role in almost two thirds of greenhouse gas emission reductions (1). Ireland is unusual among EU countries in that households emit more CO2 than industry (2). Each one of us can help reduce levels of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere by making choices about how we live.

When asked what are the most pressing issues facing Ireland today, 53% of Irish people say the cost of living. The good news is that living a climate-friendly lifestyle can save us money. It also means less waste, and it’s good for our health. Creating your own climate-friendly footprint is easy to do - just follow these steps. Small changes can make a real difference.

CREATE YOUR OWN CLIMATE-FRIENDLY FOOTPRINT –

AT HOME, WHEN SHOPPING, WHILE TRAVELLING

  1. AT HOME:

BE HEAT-SAVVY:

Approximately 60% of the energy used in our homes goes towards heating (2), so there are real benefits in being as heat-efficient as possible, both for our pockets and the climate. The best way to improve your energy efficiency is to upgrade your heating system. There are also small steps you can take that will make a real difference.

Tips:

  1. DIY DRAUGHT-PROOF: the best way to keep the heat in and the cold out is to insulate or retro-fit your home. Specialists will be able to detect the source of draughts and how best to deal with them. There are also small steps you can take yourself that will make a difference. For example sealing windows or placing a draught excluder at the bottom doors. This also helps keep out the noise!
  2. TURN DOWN THE THERMOSTAT: turning down the thermostat by as little as 1 degree can make a difference to your heating bills. Try turning the thermostat down by a degree at a time to find the sweet spot where you can feel comfortable and save money.
  3. USE CLIMATE-FRIENDLY SOLID FUEL: choose carbon-neutral smokeless solid fuel for your fire or stove. Climate friendly solid fuel burns more efficiently than smoky solid fuel, saving you money. It generates less smoke which is better for your health and the climate.
  4. FOR THE ULTIMATE UPGRADE, RETROFIT: grants of up to 40% are available to ease the financial burden of getting your home retrofitted. It is estimated that an Irish 3-bed semi-detached home could save approximate €1,200 a year on heating bills by upgrading from a D2 to a B2 rating (2).

BE ENERGY-SAVVY:

Tips:

  1. WASH CLOTHES AT 30 DEGREES OR LESS: modern detergents are designed to clean clothes at lower temperatures. Every degree makes a difference. Turning the temperature down to 30 degrees can save around 40% of the energy used in a year (3).
  2. SWITCH OFF APPLICANCES & DEVICES WHEN NOT IN USE: chargers still use energy when plugged in but not charging, appliances still use power when on stand-by mode. Getting into the habit of switching off equipment when you’re not using it saves money, is safer and better for the environment.

MINIMISE FOOD WASTE:

Did you know that we waste an estimated 1 million tonnes of food annually in Ireland (5), and that food waste generates methane and is responsible for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions globally (6)? We know that 6 out of 10 of us (57%) have made a conscious effort to minimise food waste over the past 3 months. By reducing food waste we save ourselves money, and we reduce levels of methane in the atmosphere. The average Irish household could save €700 a year on food bills by minimising food waste (7).

Tips:

  1. PLAN: allocate time once a week to plan meals for the household, use this to plan your shopping list.
  2. STORE: store food to keep it fresh for longer. There are lots of tips online on the best way to store different types of food. For example, salad leaves or herbs last longer if you remove them from their packaging and store them in a box in the fridge. Celery keeps longer wrapped in tinfoil and broccoli if kept in a brown paper bag in the fridge. Putting a sugar cube in the cheese box will help prevent mould.
  3. USE: eat or cook fresh food as soon as possible. Batch cooking is a great way to save time and avoid waste. Extra portions can be frozen for later use. Designate a shelf in the fridge the ‘eat me first’ shelf and encourage the family to pick from there first. Choose one day a week to use up leftovers. With a bit of imagination, leftovers can make interesting meals! Did you know that foods that are past their ‘best before’ are often safe to eat? The ‘use by’ date is the one to watch - once that date has passed, the food should not be eaten (8).
  4. COMPOST: composting leftover food saves money on waste collection bills and reduces pressure on landfill. Food leftovers suitable for composting can either be put in the brown bin or used to make home-made compost which is great for feeding the garden and plants. Compostable food leftovers include cooked or uncooked vegetables, vegetable trimmings, fruit peels, cores and rinds, teabags, coffee grounds and filters, bread or baked goods, rice and other grains, pasta and cereals.

Visit www.stopfoodwaste.ie for information about how to reduce food waste.

GO MEAT-FREE MORE OFTEN:

You don’t have to eliminate meat from your diet altogether, simply opt for plant-based or meat-free main meals a little more often. This adds variety to your diet and helps reduce methane in the atmosphere.

Visit www.bordbia.ie for vegetarian and vegan recipe ideas.

  1. SHOPPING:

Tips:

  1. SHOP LOCAL: Shopping local reduces carbon emissions by reducing transport, both the transport of products to us or our travel to distant shops.
  2. SUPPORT LOCAL PRODUCERS: When shopping for food and drink, look for products that have been produced locally. By choosing local produce over food that has travelled long distances, you automatically reduce your carbon footprint. Support your local farmers market – there are over 130 across the country where you can buy locally produced food that is top quality, tastes great, lasts longer and has a low carbon-footprint. Enjoy meeting the producers, and the community atmosphere!
  3. BUY ONLY WHAT YOU NEED: especially when it comes to food and drink, to avoid waste.
  4. REDUCE, REUSE OR RECYCLE PACKAGING

 

  1. TRAVELLING:

Tips:

  1. GO PUBLIC: where possible, choose public transport over private. Every time you choose public transport over a private car journey - particularly if fuelled by petrol or diesel - you reduce your carbon footprint.
  2. WALK OR CYCLE: where possible, walk or cycle instead of driving. Enjoy the health benefits of fresh air and exercise while saving yourself money and doing your bit for the environment.
  3. IF BUYING A NEW CAR, THINK CLIMATE: there are grants and incentives to ease the initial financial outlay of buying an electric vehicle – find out what’s available. Think beyond the initial cost to the long-term financial savings. You can save approximately 75% on annual fuel costs by going electric.

TIPS TO HELP YOU MAKE THE CHANGE –

BASED ON BEHAVIOURAL SCIENCE

  1. ‘NUDGE’ YOURSELF CLIMATE-FRIENDLY:

We know from behavioural science that people generally want to do the right thing, but often life just gets in the way. We may have every intention of living a more climate-friendly lifestyle, but our habits are hard to break. In behavioural science we design 'nudges' to help people change their behaviour. You can design your own ‘nudges’ to remind you to make the changes you want to make. They should be noticeable, and timely, to act as a trigger.

If you have children in your household, get them involved in designing ‘nudges’ to encourage the family to make these lifestyle changes. Children are great ‘nudgers’! Ask them to leave notes or drawings where they think people will see them, for example an ‘eat me up’ note in the fridge reminding everyone to eat up food that’s nearing its ‘use by’ date. Children are learning about climate change at school and through social media, and some may feel anxious about it. Getting the whole family to work together to live a more climate-friendly lifestyle will encourage children, and ease anxious feelings that they or the adults around them may have about climate change.

  1. MAKE USE OF SMART TECH:

In behavioural science, we use defaults to make decision-making easier. Smart technology such as smart meters or thermostats allow us to set our own defaults. Smart gas and electricity meters are currently being rolled out across Ireland. They help us manage our use of gas or electricity by providing accurate information on our usage levels, making us aware of how much energy we’re using, and removing the need for us to submit manual readings (4). In trials, Irish consumers reduced usage levels of electricity by up to 3% and peak demand by 8% (10) saving money, time and energy.

  1. LOOK AFTER YOUR MENTAL HEALTH:

How we feel is both a cause and a consequence of our behaviour. Living a climate-friendly lifestyle is good for our mental health. We feel better when we waste less, spend more time in nature and eat well. We may not be able to control how the world reacts to climate change, but we can control how we react to it. Taking proactive steps to play our part in addressing it gives us a sense of control which helps alleviate anxiety and is good for our mental health.

REAP THE REWARDS!

Living a climate friendly lifestyle is rewarding in lots of ways. We save money, waste less, are healthier, and benefit from the ‘feel good factor’ of knowing that we are doing the right thing for the future of our planet. Small changes can make a real difference.

Find out more about permanent tsb’s sustainability strategy which outlines our commitments to addressing the global climate crisis, while supporting our customers, colleagues and communities through the green transition.

REFERENCES

  1. UK Climate Change Committee, June 2021. Progress in reducing emissions: 2021 Report to Parliament.
  2. seai.ie
  3. www.energysavingtrust.org.uk 
  4. Behavioural Architects, September 2021: Tackling Climate Change from Home: How to Turn Good Intentions into Positive Actions. A research report by The Behavioural Architects Commissioned by Smart Energy GB
  5. epa.ie
  6. fao.org
  7. stopfoodwaste.ie
  8. fsai.ie
  9. https://www.bordbia.ie/recipes/vegetarian-and-vegan/
  10. esbnetworks.ie

The content of this blog does not constitute advice and is for general information purposes only. Readers should always seek professional advice before relying on anything stated in the blog. Some of the links above bring you to external websites. Your use of an external website is subject to the terms of that site.


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