Six simple steps towards a greener lifestyle
You might not be ready to go all Richard Briers in The Good Life just yet, but there are some effective steps you can take towards a greener lifestyle that will cost you only a tiny amount of time, money and effort. John-Paul Holden runs down the six things everyone should attempt
1. Stop junk mail
Delivery of unwanted, unsolicited mail is illegal. For information on stopping it (and reducing the 550,000 tonnes of paper and 16.5 billion litres of water used in its production), visit www.stopjunkmail.org.uk, which offers advice on simple but effective measures such as letterbox stickers, choosing not to receive further promo information when buying products and returning unwanted mail. Registering with the Royal Mail's door-to-door opt-out (see firstname.lastname@example.org) and the Mail Preference Service (www.mpsonline.org.uk) will also help.
2. Start a composting bin
Nourish your garden, get free compost and put a dent in the volume of methane-emitting organic waste going to landfill. Starting and maintaining a compost bin is fun, it'll get you outdoors and now is the perfect time to have a go. Compost Awareness Week (May 2–8) is not far away and Waste Aware Scotland is offering bins for as little as £8 as part of its Compost at Home campaign (see www.wasteawarescotland.org.uk for more info and general composting tips).
3. Sign up to a liftshare or carpool scheme
Exhortations to walk, cycle or use public transport won't alter the fact that, for those living far from work and without access to adequate bus and train services, ditching the car just isn't an option. Happily, there are many sites that will match you with others travelling on the same route at the same time. Tripshare Edinburgh (http://edinburgh.liftshare.com) offers clear and comprehensive information for those throughout Scotland looking to share cars or taxis. Or join a car club scheme like glasgowcarclub.co.uk or www.citycarclub.co.uk in Edinburgh. Schemes like these allow you to pay-as-you-go for car hire. Just pick up your runabout from a central city location and drop it off when you're done.
4. Become an eco-driver
Making simple changes to your driving style can save money and petrol, and reduce wear and tear on your car. Some of these – driving a little slower or switching off the engine if stationary for more than a minute – are common sense. But did you know that having a window open while travelling at speeds of 50mph or higher generates aerodynamic drag and adds to fuel usage? Take an eco-driving test at the Energy Saving Trust in Scotland website (www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/scotland).
5. Monitor how much energy you're using at home
There can be few better motivations for reducing energy consumption than seeing utility bills mount before your very eyes. Happily, today's high-quality, easy-to-read energy and cost-display monitors will help you to do just that. Visit www.mygreenerhome.co.uk for a comprehensive selection of the latest gizmos, at prices to suit all budgets, from the Ecosavers Energy Monitor (costing a smidgeon over £12) to the chic and futuristic-looking Wattson Energy Meter, on offer at just under £100.
6. Avoid using plastic bags
Because they take centuries to decay, poison wildlife and look naff. Onya bags (www.onyabags.co.uk) are made from parachute material so they're extra strong and durable. You'll be able to carry them anytime, anywhere as they scrunch small enough to fit into a keyring pouch or handbag (certainly not possible with standard supermarket reusables). Even better, they're colourful and funky-looking, and can be purchased for as little as £5. Go shopping in style and with your green credentials intact.