THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY: Let’s talk about energy

washing machine climate emergency
Our use of household appliances such as washing machines can help contribute to reducing climate emissions Picture: StockSnap from Pixabay
Wokingham Borough Council Cllr Gregor Murray
Cllr Gregor Murray

By Gregor Murray

There’s no such thing as an easy answer to climate change, and anyone who tells you otherwise hasn’t understood the question.

There isn’t a practical ‘One Big Thing’ that will cut our emissions in half, or even by 25%.

The reason for this is that we don’t all generate carbon emissions in the same amount or in the same way. We each create them individually and in small increments – to tackle climate change we also have to tackle those increments individually.

The UK average household produces roughly 8.1 tonnes of carbon a year. That’s about the weight of two adult hippos.

Here in Wokingham, we’re a little higher than average, because of high car ownership, centralised public transport, and a mixture of rural and urban living with space in-between.

Our emissions come not just from what we do, but also how we do it. Moving around, heating our homes, charging our phones, watching TV, eating, drinking, going on holiday all create
carbon emissions, as do many other aspects of our lives.

Just under half of our emissions come from our homes. They come from heating and lighting, from cooking food and from taking a shower or a bath, and they come powering the numerous
TVs, fridges, washing machines, tumble dryers, mobile phones, laptops and other devices that
we all have.

As a council we help reduce domestic emissions in two main ways. Firstly, by helping make homes more energy efficient. And secondly, by generating green energy that feeds into the National Grid and is then used to power your home.

Our Help to Heat scheme has already provided efficiency upgrades to over 700 of the most energy inefficient homes across our borough, with more planned.

You may have also seen that we have submitted a planning application for our first, Council funded, solar farm in Barkham, which will look to generate green electricity to power up to 7,000 nearby homes.

Building one, or more solar farms will both help us reduce our carbon footprint, and it will create income from the sale of clean energy to the National Grid which we can then use to fund other climate change initiatives.

What we can’t do though is control the amount of energy you use in your home. There are, though, numerous things that you can do that will both cut your personal carbon footprint and help save you money on your energy bills.

Installing solar panels on your rooftop or swapping to a non-gas boiler might not be financially possible right now, so here are a few low-cost things you could do.

You can swap to energy efficient light bulbs. They use significantly less power, are just as bright, last longer, can be recycled and will save you money on your electricity bill.

You could shower for a minute less per day, turn your thermostat down a degree or two, wash your clothes at 30ºC or 40ºC, turn lights off when you aren’t in a room, switch off devices you aren’t using, or, you could listen to the advice your father gave you when you were young and put a jumper on when it gets cold rather than turning the heating up.

Energy is just one aspect of dealing with climate change.

In the next column, I’ll talk more about another – how we get about.

Next Week: Let’s Talk About Travel

Cllr Gregor Murray is executive member for resident services, communications and emissions on Wokingham Borough Council

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