Lifestyle,  Zero Waste

Keep your home warm without turning up the temperature

Before I begin I  want to acknowledge that this article does come from a place of privilege. I can decide to put up my thermostat if I want to or turn on a radiator as well as having money to invest in further methods to keep warm. Many this winter will have to decide between eating and heating their homes. So whilst it is still important to reduce our heating emissions for the climate, we must acknowledge those who are doing all the things below because they have no other choice.

This winter please think about donating to your local food banks to support people who are in this position.


As the temperature drops in the Northern hemisphere, most people will at least start thinking about turning on their heating. However for those of us trying to be more climate-friendly and live a zero waste life, that shouldn't be our first action point. Many people still have heating powered by fossil fuels - often out of their control. For people living in blocks of flats, council housing, student accommodation, sheltered housing, residential homes etc, the decisions regarding one's heating provider may be outside your control. For some people the decision to swap to a green energy supplier may just be financially unattainable. But even for those on "green" energy tariffs, heating is often powered by gas, and even biofuel gas (which is more sustainable than fossil fuels), still releases carbon emissions when burnt. Meaning that ideally we should be avoiding using it wherever possible to keep our carbon footprint low.

So how can we stay warm without turning on the heating?

1. Layer up
Your body produces its own heat so by wearing more layers, and warmer layers before you start to cool down, you'll be keeping all that heat in. Thick wooly jumpers, dressing gowns, fluffy socks, slippers and a wooly hat is a great way to keep warm, especially if you're not doing something particular active, like watching the next Christmas film on Netflix.
More than that, layer up your sofa and bed with fluffy blankets or throws to keep you extra toasty when sitting or lying around. If you're in even colder climates then consider adding another quilt or bedspread to your bed to keep you warm overnight.
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2. Warm yourself not your home
Often it is more economical, and quicker to warm yourself up than waiting for your house to warm up. Drink warm drinks and eat warm food to give yourself a quick boost of warmth. Home cooking not only reduces physical waste but when you cook at home the heat from cooking also warms you and your kitchen reducing the need to turn on the heating.
Once you've finished with the kettle for making yourself a nice festive hot drink, allow the water to cool slightly before filing up a hot water bottle and putting it in your bed for later. Filling a hot water bottle uses significantly less energy than turning on the heating. You can also use the cool water the next morning to water your plants with is you're concerned about water wastage.
Getting physically active will warm you up quickly although it definitely can be tricky to motivate yourself to start when its cold. If you're usually someone who goes running or to the gym, can you switch up your exercise routine to include exercises you can do at home instead of outside? You'll be nice and toasty in no time but without having to leave the house and face the winter weather.
3. Trap heat inside
The last thing you will want to do in winter is allow any heat you already have in your home to escape. So try to make sure you're keeping all that heat inside. Think about putting draft excluders next to any doors that tend to let air in. Swap your curtains to thick floor length ones to stop the heat escaping in the evening - but remember to open them in the day time if it's sunny, as the sun can warm your home passively. Pop rugs down on the floors to keep them warm under foot and to stop heat escaping from that route. If you live somewhere with single glazed windows you can also get window insulation to stop heat being lost through the glass, although often traditional bubble wrap works too. If you have radiators next to outside walls you can also get reflective material to put behind your radiator to reflect the heat back into your home.
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In the long run think about how you can upgrade the insulation of your home to keep it warmer next year. From things like cavity wall insulation, double (or even triple) glazing, to roof insulation, there are lots of ways to reduce the amount of heating you need, and maybe even save you money in the long run.
4. If your heating is on, be smart
So let's be honest, some of you will already have your heating on due to necessity, or due to the choices of other people you live with. However there are still ways to reduce the amount of heating you need and make it much more efficient.
Close off unused rooms (if your fortunate enough to have an excess of space in your house) so that you can optimise the heating in rooms you do use, also target the heating to the rooms you use most and will most benefit from.
Optimise timings of your heating so that it's not going all day, but only when you need it. For example most people can drop the temperature of their heating at night, potentially even turning it off in rooms that are not your bedroom until the morning. A smart thermostat can be a great way to automate this to get the best value and efficiency from your heating. Smart thermostats are so good that they're even mentioned in the Drawdown as a method to reduce climate change.
Make sure your heating is performing optimally by ensuring you care for your radiators by bleeding them when needed an by moving furniture away from them so it's not absorbing all the heat.
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So there we have many ways you can avoid, or at least delay, turning on your heating. Our decisions alone won't reverse climate change but if we all start making small choices like these above, we would be in a good position to dramatically reduce our impact. Despite biofuels still producing carbon emissions, green energy providers are still one of the most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint and contribute to flighting climate change so if you haven't yet swapped and are able to, please consider taking five minutes to swap today!

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