How to be more eco-friendly in the home


Telegraph, January 1, 2009
By Sarah Lonsdale


1 Any old bikes, parts and tools can be donated to bike recycling schemes. These operate throughout the country and employ young people and provide apprenticeships in bike repairs. The reconditioned bikes are donated to African communities or used in "bike libraries" closer to home. See for your nearest scheme.

2 Rubber bands, particularly those large red ones from the postman, can mount up quickly if you don't reuse them. Collect them (in a jar with a little talcum powder to help prolong their life) and when you have a sufficient quantity, send them back to your post office.

3 Children's Scrap Stores collect all sorts of unwanted household items for use by schools, nurseries and craft groups for art projects. Find your local scheme on They take an astonishing amount of unwanted material, including old curtains, wrapping paper, buttons, beads, ice cream tubs, lace, fake fur, CD cases and wine bottle corks.

4 Householders have a duty of care not to send old TVs, computer monitors or other hazardous waste to landfill. Restructa ( ) will take your old electrical equipment away (for a small carriage fee) and salvage up to 98 per cent of components for reuse.

5 There is an increasing number of ways to reduce packaging, that bane of the rubbish bin. Take your old washing-up liquid and household cleaner containers to health food shops which sell Ecover products ( ) and you can refill them as many times as you like. Many local greengrocers or farm shops will also sell groceries items to you in containers you bring yourself. Some, like the Canterbury Goods Shed, even sell wine in bring-your-
own bottles.

6 Used batteries are almost impossible to recycle. Make a resolution only to use rechargeable batteries that can be recharged either via the mains or small solar panels like the Battech i-power SX (39.99 from ) It will save you money, too.

7 Fat from sausages, beef and lamb, which is solid at room temperature, should not be thrown away. Collect it in the fridge and when you have a sufficient amount, mix it with muesli, roll into golf-ball size and use as bird feed: place on bird tables or in net fruit bags and hang in trees.

8 Ordinary compost only takes raw greenery, but you can significantly increase the amount you compost by using bokashi. This is a bran and bacteria mix which ferments meat scraps and dairy in fact, anything we scrape off our plates and turns it into a fine soil improver. Bokashi starter packs cost 34.50 from


9 Train yourself and your children to switch off lights and equipment with a smart meter. This attaches to your incoming mains cable and the remote monitor will identify excess electricity usage. Monitors range from the simple Owl (32.45) to the beautiful Wattson (99.95). Available from

10 Resolve to make at least one household item your radio off grid. You can now get a variety of wind-up and solar-powered radios, including the beautiful new Roberts Solar Digital radio (80 from ) It will help you understand how much energy goes into powering even a small machine. Solar-powered radios work well between April and October, but only for a few minutes during the winter, so you'll need a wind-up one as back-up (Rhino wind-up radio is 24.99 from ) .

11 If your kids are regular iPod users, the amount of electricity they use to charge them over a year will be considerable. Help them appreciate energy use and prepare for a low-carbon future with a wind-up iPod charger 8.95 from

12 The draught excluder, consigned to the category of distinctly uncool household goods in the era of cheap oil and minimalist furnishings, is back. Cath Kidston is currently selling a rather lovely sausage dog one in rose fabric, 24.47 from; alternatively Refab ( ) make snake ones out of recycled vintage fabrics from curtains and clothes.

13 If you have an open fire or redundant chimney, install a super-efficient wood-burning stove. Choose one licensed for use in smokeless zones and it will be up to 10 times more efficient than an open fire and reduce your reliance on central heating and coal. Traditional: Morso Owl; Contemporary: Westfire 15; both 1,100 from

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