It’s finally spring! Time of flowers and hotter weather, and of course of vacation rentals, an increase of the air conditioning use, and a generally higher energy consumption. This, combined with the fact that the majority of houses of traditional design in Spain are not very sustainable, means that the months of greatest energy use are not only a problem for the environment, but a considerable expense for the user.
Nowadays the CTE (Technical Building Code) forces new housing to be much more efficient and sustainable, but what happens if your home is built before 2007 and you want to live in a sustainable way? Do you have to use thousands of euros to refurbish your home? The answer, fortunately, is no. There are many things that we can change without making a huge outlay, and that can be a very pleasant change both for our pocket and the environment.
Changes in daily use.
Just by separating and recycling garbage (packaging, glass, oil, paper and cardboard, batteries) we are improving the sustainability of our house, but there’s a lot more we can do. We can reduce the use of plastics by taking our own bags to the supermarket and trying not to buy products with unnecessary packaging. This is easier in stores and local markets than in large supermarkets, so in addition to helping the environment, you will be helping out small businesses in your city.
As for cleaning products, there are many detergents and soaps that can be prepared with products such as baking soda, white vinegar or lemon juice; as effective as a detergent bought in the supermarket, and much less polluting.
It is also important to make a responsible use of clothes; buy locally, reuse before discarding, and look for quality before quantity.
Finally, you can always grow your own plants (from aromatic plants such as basil, which requires very little care, to fruits and vegetables), which in the long run is much more economical and sustainable for you, and make changes in your day to day how to take the bicycle instead of the car, if you live near work.
Small changes for your home.
One of the simplest steps for sustainable energy use is to change your lightbulbs for LEDs, which last up to 70,000 hours and do not contain toxic elements, in addition to using between 50% and 80% less energy for the same amount of light.
If you have to repaint any room, make sure that the paint is organic, plant based, that it doesn’t contain neither oil nor synthetic products and is biodegradable.
If you can afford a small refurbishing project, start with the isolation of the windows; sealing joints and installing double glazed windows can save you up to 50% in heating costs. And speaking of heating, remember: In summer, the ideal temperature is 25ºc, while in winter it is between 19ºC and 21ºC.
Appliances and electrical devices
When buying a new appliance, make sure that the energy label is class A; these reduce the energy cost up to an 80%, and can mean a saving of up to 600 euros during its useful life. If your appliance also has a home automation system and can be programmed, you can make it work at times when the price of energy is lower.
Also, make sure to keep the electrical devices turned off completely when they are not in use, since the standby function also consumes energy. Similarly, even though the consumption of a plugged charger is very small, it is always better to unplug it to save some energy.
In addition to turning off the tap when lathering dishes, shaving or brushing teeth, washing vegetables in a container instead of under the tap, or showering instead of bathing, there are many arrangements you can make at home to reduce your water use.
You can install a diffuser in the shower head, which reduces the use in half, or add a bag to collect cold water from the shower; the time we wait for the water to warm up can mean waste of up to ten litres a day, depending on the heater.
You can also add a double-flush cistern in the toilet, and a tap aerator, which mixes water with air; both can reduce water use by up to 50%.