Thursday, 28 February 2019

My Sustainability Audit

This is not going to be scientifically done - I'm not clever enough, or well enough informed for that! I just wish to enter the conversation, to try and state where I am now, hoping that future posts will allow me to show improvement. By reading posts and discussions on-line I have become aware of issues which had not occurred to me, things which I can do better, points which I need to research further - I want to participate in a small way. This blog focusses on my craft activities, but set in the context of my family life, other activities and inspirations. Sustainability has become a major influence in all aspects of my life, but I am keenly aware that I have much progress to make. I want to encourage myself to do better without becoming dispairing and so need to allow myself to recognise that I have already made some progress.

So - to make a start! I am going to attempt to consider the sustainability of my life in four 'aspects' -

Textile and other purchases
Recycling and Waste Management.

I feel that I have made more progress in some areas than others. I'll deal with one 'aspect' at a time, so, for this post, I shall consider 'Fuel'.

My use of Fuel

I am sure my views will change as information changes and new products become available. We have many improvements to make. I warned you that this will not be scientific - I think a list of bullet points, as they occur to me, is the best I can do:

-  Transport. We have two vehicles - one petrol fuelled, one diesel. We are not in a position to change them at present and I'm not sure that the solutions, currently available, would suit us. So, to do the best we can in the meantime, we are using them as little and as efficiently as possible. The combined annual mileage is about 10,000 miles. Both vehicles are well maintained, we have tried to reduce both total miles and, particularly 'urban miles'. The petrol car goes to work (a few urban miles away) with my husband. He tries to shop whilst already in town. If I need a few items, or the Post Office, I walk - a 3 mile round trip. I work from home. I have the car one day each week and organise any miles I drive into one efficient trip - including the most accessible recycling centre. Week end leisure trips and holidays are spent on campsites, travelling in our diesel vehicle. Once arrived, we try to use public transport or walk - having chosen sites with this in mind. Unfortunately, our bus service at home has been drastically reduced and we have to walk about 2 miles to pick up more frequent services. Holidays are taken in the UK or by a ferry journey. We do not fly.
We try to make food purchases with airmiles in mind - buying seasonal UK produce when possible.

-  Domestic Heating. We live in a typical late 1920's semi. Not a brilliant starting point! We have good loft insulation but do not have cavity wall insulation - we prefer to maintain the cavity as it was designed to be. We have an elderly gas boiler and a hot water cylinder - so we need to make improvements. We do not want to change to a newer combi boiler since we feel this would be an interim measure - we need to get way from the use of gas, and we couldn't afford a short term change then a more permanent one. I am not sure what our options are. I know that a recent report has urged the government to insist on a ban on fossil fuel heating for new homes from about 2025. I hope that new options will become viable for us. We had an audit for solar panels but our house roof was unsuitable and our garage would not have been financially viable. We may revisit this. In the meantime, we use the boiler for heating from beginning of December until the end of March at the latest. Except for Christmas week, when our kids are at home, it is only on for one hour in the morning and one hour in the late afternoon. Thermostats are turned down, particularly in the bedrooms. We wear warm clothing and don't like to be too hot. It is rare for us to use the boiler for more hours a day. We use a fan heater with a thermostat in the sitting room, if necessary, usually only in December and January. I work from home and confess to sometimes feeling a little chilly but we survive. We expect to live in this house in our retirement, when we may need to be a little warmer, and may need more heating in the bedrooms, so we need a better solution.
Domestic water heating is on for one hour in the morning and half an hour in the late afternoon throughout the year. Always turned off when we are away. It is used for one of our two shower units - we should aim to replace this, hand washing, washing up and very occasional baths. I prefer to wash my hands in warm water. We remove any food waste from breakfast and lunch crockery into the food waste caddy, rinse in cold water and keep until the evening to be washed up with items from our evening meal ( also scraped and rinsed) - we only use one washing up bowl of hot water this way. I occasionally hand wash textiles for my work. I shall try to reduce the water heating time further, but we need better solutions. Could I still find 'individual local' water heaters, for each sink and basin, heating by electricity? If so, forgo the bath, replace the shower and the problem of domestic hot water would be solved.

-  Domestic Appliances and Lighting Our washing machine, tumble dryer, ovens (electric) and vacuum cleaner are all only a few years old and chosen with efficiency in mind - our dehumidifier, fridges and freezers are older. I am sure more efficient models will become available, however, the wider issues of sustainability suggest to me that we should maintain and repair the ones we have and use them sparingly. The tumble dryer is for occasional use only - we line dry when possible or air indoors but then use a dehumidifier. I have returned to an old fashioned wash day now there is only laundry for two. I find I can organise loads into fewer washes and we reduce the use of the dehumidifier to one day. We wash at 30 degrees. When we use an oven we try to be efficient - main savoury and pudding and/or cakes at same time. We have a fridge and fridge/freezer in the house and another freezer in the garage. We batch-cook and feeze and we also store produce from our garden. I need to give more thought to the use of these. We have replaced our downstairs carpets with hard flooring and rugs. I brush at least daily and vacuum once a week. 

All suitable light fittings now have LED lamps - turned off when not in use. We need to replace the fittings in the kitchen and utility room.

Our hob is gas. We should be aiming to replace this - I think the current advice is electric induction. Our old one is built in and we might need to replace the work surface and, consequently, re-tile. I'd like to investigate the water heating issue before changing the hob and try to just have one disruption. 

In addition, we use electricity for garden and, occasionally, DIY appliances, for ironing, TV and music, phones, computers, tablets, sewing machines but have worked hard to reduce our overall consumption.


To return to my craft theme, a collage of a few items from upcycled textiles, available from my Folksy shop Lynwoodcrafts Recycled.

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