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Sunday 3 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
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Opinion How to make your home (or business!) more efficient and green

Top tips for changes that can dramatically reduce the financial, and environmental, costs of running a home or business.

I THINK MOST homeowners these days, given these times of austerity, are actively looking for ways to reduce the costs of running our homes. After all, haven’t most to us switched to a cheaper electricity supplier, gotten a better deal on our phone charges, and become more inclined to shop around for value when buying food?

Apart from seeking better value by shopping around, most of us have also probably cut back on consumption, which is an obvious way to cut costs. We are considering ways of reducing the amount of oil or gas we use, by planning how we can use the car less, and how we can reuse left-overs from dinner rather than chucking them in the bin, by being more conscious of leaving the water running and by reducing the time our heating is left on (in the chillier seasons).

It goes without saying that reduced consumption also reduces the pressure we put on the environment to provide us all the materials which we demand on daily basis. There are over seven billion of us living on the planet today, with a forecasted nine billion humans by 2050. If every human in the world today used the same resources as we do here in Ireland, we would need the resources of two planet earths. So we all, at home and in business, have no choice but to be more thoughtful about the way we use the limited resources of our planet earth by becoming more efficient.

‘No cost’ and ‘low cost’ actions

I am currently based at the Clean Technology Centre, Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) as Programme Manager of an EPA-funded programme called ‘Green Business’. This programme is a free advisory service for Irish businesses and has helped many companies save thousands of euro by becoming more resource efficient. Typically we have saved businesses €20,000 per annum through ‘no cost’ and ‘low cost’ actions, which include actions such as increasing employee awareness to turn off lights and equipment that is not required, getting rid of old inefficient technology, and minimising waste.

Almost every corporate business today relies on a green plan to manage their resources, to ensure the business will sustain itself into the future. Without caring about the planet, businesses are doomed to failure. Do an internet search to see what businesses like IKEA, M&S and Croke Park are doing to reduce their environmental impact and sustain their business.

So what can you do to make your business or home more efficient and green? The very same principals apply. However, I find that many of us are resource efficient at home because it will hurt our pocket but we lose this mind-frame in the workplace where energy and materials are seen as ‘free’ – unless you happen to be the owner or shareholder in that business. I have seen many hotel owners getting irate with their employees when they find half their kitchen appliances on, when the kitchen is closed.

Here are ten top tips towards resource efficiency in your business and/or home.

1. Reduce consumption of energy by turning off or controlling better energy consuming appliances (Boilers, TVs, PCs, electric water heaters, pumps). Install thermostats to control heating in each room.

2. Install more efficient technology, for example LED lights which consume 80% less electricity than tungsten lights, low-flow showers and taps, efficient condensing boilers.

3. Install technologies which provide sustainable, less polluting energy (such as solar, wind, geothermal).

4. Source materials for your home/ business which come from sustainable sources: timber from the Forestry Stewardship Council, locally grown food, fair trade products.

5. Ensure you don’t have water leaks. Leaks can be expensive. Some businesses have discovered that half of the water, which they purchased, was wasted through leaky pipes and valves. One business I spoke to, discovered they were loosing €60,000 /annum on leaks.

6. Conserve water. Use low-flush toilets, low-flow showers and taps, use rainwater for gardens, washing cars and toilets.

7. Any waste generated in your home or business is an unnecessary cost. Waste is simply inefficient. Every kilogram of food waste thrown in the bin costs you about €3. Examine all waste types generated and look for ways to reduce, reuse or recycle this waste.

8. Reduce travel, use public transportation, car share, purchase the most efficient vehicles such as hybrids. Go easy on the gas!

9. Support local initiatives to protect the environment. Plant trees, clean up a local stream, get involved in the tidy towns committee. This will make your environment a better place to live in.

10. Engage family/staff. Set aside time to raise awareness of employees and family on what is required of them to make your business or home more efficient. This could mean training your young children about how and why it’s important to put plastic bottles in the recycling bin or advising your staff, or older children, to turn off their computers when they are finished using them.

James Hogan is programme manager with Green Business

Read: Apple will now recycle your old iPods and iPhones for free

Read: Irish homes have an average of 110 batteries lying around

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